‘Am I Too Much?’ Daisy Buchanan On How Her Oversharing Masked Deeper Problems

When Does Sharing Become Oversharing? Daisy Buchanan Explores the Issue

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by Contributor |
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There is a story about myself that I like to tell at parties – to friends, family, strangers and anyone who I think might validate me with attention and laughter. It concerns severe gastroenteritis, the Eurostar passport control queue at St Pancras, an ill-timed cough and a situation that made me very glad to be in possession of a suitcase full of clean underwear.

I am a writer and a journalist and, more often than not, I make myself the subject of my work. After all, if I’m telling my story, no one can question my research or accuse me of getting it wrong. Especially when I’m humiliating myself. If I’m writing about my achievements, my strengths, and what I’m proud of, I might get shot down and told to shut up. Nobody likes a show-off, and although we’re always being told to be better at loving ourselves, it’s frowned upon when we do so out loud. So I throw myself under the bus, showing my blood and bruises to anyone who wants to look. Hear about my disastrous one-night stand! Let me tell you about my inability to manage my finances! See my brain spilling out of my head! Sharing is cathartic, but it’s taken me a long time to learn that I owe it to myself to stop giving everything away. I’m allowed to have secrets and hold back. As a writer, editing myself does not come naturally to me, but I’m trying to become better at it.

When I started working as a journalist, writing for a teenage girls’ magazine, I was good at it because my own teen horrors were all too recent and vivid. There was a tissue-thin membrane separating Adult Me from the girl who was so self-conscious that she used to put up her coat hood on the beach. I’d seen my little sisters struggle, constructing a veneer of strength and security to conceal the fact that they were inwardly crumbling. So I wrote for bookish, scared girls, who thought they’d never have a boyfriend, who felt frightened of their bodies and believed their outsides would never match the way they felt inside. I shared my experiences with nervous interviewees, sympathising and empathising. Telling them it gets better.

I discovered that people outside their teens found my honesty compelling, and I became addicted to oversharing, blindly, blithely sure that my disasters were the emollient that could heal everyone else’s. Hungover? Don’t worry, I’ve been drunker than you. Can’t cook? I’ve burned ice cream. You had unprotected sex? Did I tell you about the time I got lost in a hospital and had to ask for directions to the STI clinic when I was in the paediatric ward?

Oversharing was a great short-term fix for social anxiety, too. It took me a long time to recognise that I suffered from an anxiety disorder and to seek help. I thought it was just part of my personality to be secretly scared of parties, new peopleand any social situation where I might be slightly out of my depth. So I overcompensated by bombarding everyone I met with embarrassing personal information, I thought that I was making myself warm, relatable and likeable. I was scared of strangers, so I developed a strategy – if I was immediately overfamiliar, they’d stop being strangers and become brand-new friends, charmed by my excessive honesty.

Of course, this wasn’t sustainable. It is thought that you can protect yourself from a predatory animal in the wild if you change your posture and make your body appear bigger than it is. I was constantly stretching my personality into a confident, defensive shape to ward off attack. However, the bigger I appeared, the smaller I felt inside. I started to burn out.

At the end of 2013 I’d had a stressful December, going out to parties, telling jokes, shaming myself with my own embarrassing stories – sometimes crying and hyperventilating between one event and the next. I remember standing on the street in Hackney, London, holding on to a lamp post as I dealt with what felt like anendless panic attack. Half an hour ago I’d made myself the centre of attention, but suddenly just hailing a taxi and telling the driver where I lived felt like too much.

I went home to Dorset and struggled to match the energy of my boisterous family, who wanted to revisit embarrassing stories and get me to match them joke for joke.

At the start of January 2014, I wept all over my GP, telling her I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but if I carried on feeling like this, I couldn’t go on. She prescribed medication and referred me to a therapist. I wasn’t cured – there is no cure – but for the first time I had proper tools to manage the panic. Smarter, more effective tools than endlessly humiliating myself.

Ironically, the ultimate overshare is possibly what saved me. I wrote about my anxiety, and was utterly overwhelmed by the volume of people who got in touch to say ‘me too’. Something clicked. I realised we’re all scared, small people trying to make ourselves look big. I didn’t need to put myself down to make people like me, and I didn’t owe anyone any part of my personal history. It hit me when I was about to respond to a hurtful comment on my blog with a post about the origin of my mental-health issues. A stranger had gone out of their way to be unkind – I didn’t have to explain or justify myself to them. I hit delete and moved on.

I still can’t resist telling a humiliating story if I think it might make someone laugh, or feel less alone. But I’m learning that sometimes confidence is quiet. I can have big days and small days, but I’d rather celebrate my best bits than try to win people over with the most embarrassing ones.

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