The Soul Striptease, or how much is too much

The phrase 'soul striptease' was used in one of the social groups that I'm a part of, and it really made me think quite a bit about what I share online, with my fans, and in my journals. I thought I'd share my thoughts here. Bear with me, I'm thinking out loud so I'm not real sure where this post will end up.

One of the things people say to me fairly frequently is variations on how open I am online. It ranges from being impressed, proud, surprised, grateful, all the way to disdainful, irritated, annoyed and wary that I share too much. Often people warn me about the dangers of oversharing, or thank me for sharing and showing that they're not alone. If there's one thing I've learned from the wide range of conflicting comments, it's that ... you literally can't please everyone.

We all have different comfort zones, not only of what we want to share about ourselves, but what we want to know about others. It's understandable that a single phrase can be taken a thousand different ways, because of our different personalities, backgrounds, life choices, circumstances and just general mood. For me, I've had to sit back and really think about how I communicate with others. There is the worry that I must self police so that I don't hurt or offend others, so I'm not an asshole. Then there's the concern that I need to be myself, and be true to myself and 'don't let the haters get me down'.

It's a huge mess to negotiate the complexities of socialization.

So I've been thinking. For me, I find that I often tell stories, or share experiences, in order to place myself and my conversation partner in the same headspace. It means that often if we're talking about a subject like ... say.. women in the workplace, I will use personal anecdotes in order to show my stance on the subject in a way that allows the other conversationalist to see where I'm coming from. It makes me less objective in conversations, but I'm not sure that's always a bad thing.

Another worry is sharing too much personal information. The term I've heard the most is 'you overshare'. Oh no, why are you telling people graphic details about your mental health, personal life, etc!! It can be pretty scary to read my journals and read something about vivid hallucinations, or my experiences in a mental ward. It's not something everyone WANTS to read, and I understand that. But at the same time, for me... speaking about it, being open about it makes it less of a shameful secret. I do not have to worry about someone *gasp* finding out that I'm insane! I've already shown not only that I have mental issues, but exactly what they are. It helps me because the first time I was diagnosed as a high functioning psychotic, I was TERRIFIED. Can you imagine how awful it is to be told you're psycho, and your entire experience with the word psychotic involves serial killers, horror movies, and talks about crazy ex's who slash tires? When I share what I've learned about psychotic and how ... wildly  vast the term is, and how highly misunderstood it is, I realize that for me it's something I have to stand up and talk about. I have to put out there that hey, yes I am a psychotic, I am also not a serial killer, am terrified of needles, and am more of a danger to myself than anyone else. That it's not the big scary boogie man that I grew up being told it was.

And if I speak up, then I present one more definition of psychotic, one that's less toxic and terrifying, one that people like me who get this diagnosis can look at and go 'it will be okay'. And that's important to me, because I feel that mental health is something we should all be aware of and not be ashamed to get help for. That goes for PTSD, Abuse survivors, GAD, and OCD. They are all so often characterized in one way that many people are ashamed and scared to get help. It's important to know you're not alone, and you can get help, there is a way to live a healthy life, and it's not shameful to need help getting there.

It used to scare me that someone would use this knowledge against me, in some vaguely scary way. It also used to scare me that someone would use my religious beliefs, my sexuality, anything private about myself against me. And then one day I was doxxed. My personal information was put all over a public forum that several million people visit, along with information about my family, my sexual preferences, my religious preferences, all of it. Just everywhere. The company who ran the forums was amazing about helping me get it all taken down and the persons responsible banned for it, but it was a soul shaking moment. For a horrifying moment, everyone knew everything about me and it was so frightening and so... jarring. My personal life just blazed out for the world to see.

It changed a lot of things. I own a gun now. I have taken self defense courses. I carry my keys a certain way and my dog is trained to run for help. I am cautious when someone is at the door and we went over new safety routines for my children. But it also made me realize that a lot of the things I was scared of... aren't so bad when others know.

Don't get me wrong, these are still subjects that I am not comfortable talking about much. I mention my children at times, but I tend to be very closed mouthed about them. As they get older and become adults on their own, I relax because they are now independant, but when they are little... I just can't. I can't share much about them, it's just too frightening to think I might make a wrong step and they get hurt by that sharing.

And with hot topic issues like religion and politics I try to state my position so that people aren't *surprised* when they find out I'm an atheist, or what my political leanings are, or that I am pro gay marriage, etc. These are things that I try to be open on my stance, so that those who have a personal moral opposition to it and don't want to support me as an artist because of those beliefs, don't feel betrayed when they suddenly find out my stance. But I also do not consider those beliefs open for negotiation. My being an atheist, for example, is what I am, and while I respect that someone else might be christian, I am not interested in a debate to 'change my mind'. It is my belief and I expect that belief respected just as I respect when someone tells me they believe in Allah. Bear in mind I don't consider asking questions to learn more about WHY I have that stance, or what that stance is, to be bad at all.

So that brings us back to the soul striptease. How much do you share, how much do you want the world to know about who you are. It's personal and everyone has something that is their LINE that they will not cross. There are subjects for me that are flat out taboo as social conversation, or that are reserved only for my most intimate circles. But I hope you all know that what I share here, and on my other public journals, I share because I am okay with the world knowing it. It may be HARD to share, and sometimes it might make me cry, or feel miserable. But that's okay because not everything shared has to be pleasant all the time. And it is not shared to get attention, or garner sympathy. It is shared because it is my life, my experiences and as an artist when you come to enjoy my work you are literally taking in a part of who I am, and I would like you to have the opportunity to know more about me if you wish.

And if it helps someone else, who might face the same struggles, the same joys or just the same awkwardness? That makes it all worthwhile.

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