I once got“the look.”
You know… the look you get when you may have over shared. I’m at a place in life where I can be open about my OCD, my faith and the history that created their journey together. It’s my hope by doing so I can help someone else overcome the stigma of saying they are afraid to be vulnerable and authentic and overcome the fear of having a silent illness, whatever theirs may be.
I’m versed in emotional intelligence. I take a lot of training on it for the work I do; however, not enough to make me any sort of expert but enough that I can use it daily. After being in a training for awhile, I shared a thought with my workshop partner, a total stranger until this class. We were speaking on how personalities can get in the way of critical conversations and brainstorming strategies to overcome that roadblock. I shared that I’ve been told that when people first meet me I seemed cold. Once they came to know me though, they shared they were happy to find I was the complete opposite.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.~Psalm 34:4-5
What they didn’t know upon their first introduction to me is that I have a mental illness. My silence is nothing more than finding a safe place for my mind to be. I have to study people and new situations to make sure I’m comfortable with all of it. Last thing I want is to be triggered into a state that has me in tears and a cycle of obsession. My workshop partner looked at me as if to say, “you’re mentally ill?” I could tell by his expression and body language that he was trying to figure out how he didn’t know that from day one.
It doesn’t work that way with the silent diseases. I lay odds that society has no idea how many people suffer with mental illness because it is not always obvious, especially with Pure O. Frankly, it’s not always comfortable to be candid and admit my OCD diagnosis. But I think it’s vital.
Later my partner asked if I thought the seating assignments would be rearranged for the next class. I said I hoped not because I’m not a huge fan of change once I get things organized in my mind. I’d have to get used to the differences and spend time getting comfortable all over again.
He laughed and said, “I hate it too. Things like that are what really stirs up my–”
…. and it’s that pause that is so essential. The odds are he was going to say “his OCD” for it looked like he had it perched on his lips and the tell tale emphasis he placed on “my” is usually a dead giveaway. If I had a dime for every time someone used OCD as a designer term for a quirk or a preference, I’d be a millionaire. Only on a rare few occasions have I met someone who legitimately shared my struggle. Instead, he stopped, regrouped, and said it “bugs” him.
I’m left to wonder…. was he one of the millions out there suffering and unable to trust vulnerability enough to share it? Or was he one of the few to learn that this is a serious illness and deserves respect? If it’s the former, I hope my vulnerability helps him find courage to speak his story. If the latter, kudos and thanks for rephrasing.
I show my vulnerability to helps others. I’ve seen the power speaking out can have in finding a path to healing. I show my soul to prove what abilities hide in the weaknesses we THINK we have. Shame can be turned to a strength if all trust and faith is placed in God. I’m vulnerable here on my blog, using a platform that is for my career as a writer to speak about OCD and my faith. There are some out there that would say I am wrong to do that here and I’d alienate readers by not being “PC” and mum on such topics.
I’ve my corner of the web and I intend to use it.
Let’s speak honestly and say that all struggles come with a healthy dose of shame. Stepping outside of that prison and sharing a story can open doors. Just… share it truthfully. Don’t hide behind false social media profiles, phony pictures of yourself or bogus stories about your life. Leave your story to be yours sans embellishments to hide your shame or fear. I believe we need to be in authentic relationships with our neighbors in the hope that ignorance ends and awareness begins.
Turkle is on to something and I slowly realize I am making a conscious choice to strive, whenever possible, to make sure all my friendships involve eye-to-eye conversation. Words have far more meaning and connection when there are the feelings of attachment and empathy that can only be achieved by the power of eye contact. Even if it is only via Skpe, the “mirroring” pathways in our brain are engaged and a deeper connection occurs.
Turkle reveals shocking studies. More and more youth in this day and age are accustomed to constant interruptions in conversation due to social media. So much so, the interruptions are not viewed as a bad thing but rather as another form of human connection. These interruptions provide an “out” for things folks want to avoid, and the overwhelming thing people want to avoid is boredom. Boredom is basically a warning sign when you come down to it. It’s the mind is telling us we have to pay closer attention to something… anything. At its core, that’s a good thing as it teaches us to take note to what makes us tick and pushes us to make new connections or learn new things. But if boredom is constantly swatted away by the allure of the phone and the online world, how are we to come to know ourselves? And in that, how are we to come to make meaningful conversations with one another?
This world is too fast paced if you ask me. People want instant gratification. I’ve said that numerous times at work. The “meat” of a story has to be within the first paragraph, or three sentences, lest you risk losing a reader. More often than not, people want to be told what to do, not how to do for themselves. Focus is lacking and lulls in conversation are a bad thing. During the point in my life when I was online all the time, I learned that any “lull” in a conversation committed by me that was longer than 3 seconds would spark questions. It led to more anxiety for me, which wasn’t good when you have an anxiety disorder. I’d worry for a split second that I wasn’t fast enough to reply. Many times I’d have to think before I would type or respond to a question. 99% of the time all I was doing was processing what I just read and was forming my thoughts. It takes me longer than most sometimes due to my Pure O. I think in pictures and metaphors. I absorb things slower. My “lulls” would spark questions of if I was multitasking. Who else was I talking to? What else was I doing? What was going on? Well…. nothing. I was thinking. Plain and simple. If you speak to me and it seems like I am not replying fast enough, give me a second. I am just flipping through mind mind and rotating my thoughts into words. But this digital age has programmed a world where faster is better, and, when people lack the empathy found in face to face conversations, silence can be misread. Turkle mentions this. She writes:
“...people who chronically multitask train their brains to crave multitasking. Those who multitask most frequently don’t get better at it; they just want more of it. This means that conversation, the kind that demands focus, becomes more and more difficult.” I can’t help but think that those who are constantly on the go, and especially our youth today with their crazy schedules, might expect others to be on the go too. That if they multitask, they expect, or assume, others are as well and are capable of functioning in that environment. Where I respond slower, an expert multitasker may be quicker to a reply. How does the movement from texting, to instant messages, to Facebook, to Twitter feeds, etc., affect people’s ability to slow down, form thoughts, and carry on conversations, and can it be done without the interruptions? Youth today are experts in juggling multiple forms of social media. Turkle discovered that, for people in their teens and twenties, the most commonly heard phrase at dinner with friends was “Wait, what?” Everyone is always missing something because they are not slowing down enough to pause, process, think and then respond.
I suppose that is why I love small groups at church. They are highly focused. It’s why I love dinners at the dining room table with my daughter. Togetherness breeds connection. A slower pace creates time to think before you speak.
It’s not easy to unplug from it all though. Just last night I was having a hard time with my necessity to say good night to my best friend so to have my dinner and walk the dog. I kept wanting to flip my computer back open so to be in constant connection. I felt selfish for leaving. Backing away from the world I was so involved in when I am home is strange for me, especially when it’s part of my job, but it’s giving me a lot more power to be a better person and friend. I’m less stressed now that I am offline more than I am online. I feel like I have privacy.
Always being connected in the digital world leaves you never alone and, in order to know yourself the best, you have to be alone sometimes.
It’s rare that a book makes me leap out of the tub to post a blog, but just a few pages into this one and I knew I had to. It’s called “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age” by Sherry Turkle.
The art of conversation has died around us. I was never a big conversationalist to begin with but I sure did listen..a lot. I don’t hear many real honest to goodness conversations where people are talking with each other and not at or through each other. In this day and age human empathy and connection has suffered by placing windows and screens in place of eye-to-eye, face-to-face contact.
I spend most of my time in an online world. It’s a part of my job. I interact with countless people on social media that I will never see face to face. For many years I came home and social media was my world too, so much so, the first thing I did when I walked in my door was to make sure the computer was on and the alerts were turned up. But the online world is no substitute for being present before another person, and yet, we all succumb to it. We love the idea of being able to edit a thought before we say it and be as flawless as we can possibly be.
Things have changed for me over years. I started to get involved in small groups with my church. I am less interested in social media and growing more addicted to God and small groups. I get a high from making connections and hearing the flawed stories of people face-to-face.
It’s 2017 and it took some time and a lot of prayer but I can say I social media is not running my life as it has for the last 9 years. My phone is used to make calls or send a text to one of a handful of people. When in a waiting room full of people looking at their phones, I’m the one looking at them.
I’m “reclaiming” my own art of conversation. That’s why I am going to read this book and post a blog when a thought strikes me. I sure hope this helps me learn a lot more about the conversation before my daughter gets to be the age where she wants/needs a phone. I don’t want her to be one of those tweens who never looks where she is going when she walks or who’s idea of hanging out with friends is sitting around looking at their phones.
Turkle writes: “The very sight of a phone on the landscape leaves us feeling less connected to each other, less invested in each other….Once aware we can begin to rethink our practices. When we do, conversation is there to reclaim. For the failing connections of our digital world, it is the talking cure.”
Granted, it’s the digital age, but God made people so people can be known to one another. He did not make us to live alone. He did not create us to love in secret. He did not design us to hide from one another. He gave us empathy for a reason.
I know mine needs polish.