Friday, November 06, 2015

Why People with Lived Experience Overshare

I overshare.  I admit it, I can be in a professional meeting about a specific, non-political task, and yet I see no problem with telling people my real background to give context to my position.  I have noticed this quality in others with lived experience as well- we are not afraid to tell our story.

While there are pros and cons to self-disclosure of any sort, the person who has experienced homelessness, trauma, addiction, mental health issues, or similar issues within their family has I believe a specific reason for being willing to disclose:

We survive by ending the silence.

This means that we survive by admitting that we were abused, and making peace with our abusers.  We survive by drawing attention to the hell we go through and have gone through, rather than perishing in noble silence.  Being reserved about your personal matters is a privilege afforded to those who are simply accepted for who they are- I don't have such a privilege.  I am not the same as all the other reindeer, I have this stupid glaring red nose, and I am forced to explain why I do the things I do all the time.

We survive by ending the silence.

We are also forced to reveal personal information in order to receive help, thanks to the merit-based systems we currently have in place.  When we want to leave our dysfunctional families and try to improve our lot, we are bombarded with application forms, and prodding questions.  Some of us have to testify, confront abusers, and blow whistles to make changes.  Some of us are forced to take on oppressive structures, and fight battles we don't intend, because we cannot improve our lives while we remain invisible.

Those who have been through hell also come with a gift for sharing, and we like others to share as well.  The street culture is decidedly collectivist, and the spirit of sharing with each other is a community strength, not a deficit.

So please, stop thinking that I'm "oversharing."  Stop rolling your eyes and thinking it's unprofessional, or cringing when you hear me wax personal.  I am gaining strength, not losing it, by relating what I have experienced.  It is a gift for you, it is a gift for me.

Sorry I called my nose stupid.

Enough about me.

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