Monday, October 07, 2013

I try to be nice

I guess I do have a "misery magnet." I try to be nice but keep people at arm's length a bit, because frankly, I don't NEED to know everyone's full life story.

But I get some people who just buttonhole me. I've learned that lots of people, especially young women, seem to want to share the details of their mental-health treatment with me. Now, I know next to nothing about the state of the art of "brain drugs," I have never studied anything in that field (there's a reason I became an ecologist and not a medical doctor). And I don't want to know the details as they're often sadmaking and uncomfortably personal.

I know why some people do this: the more people who know about mental health treatment going on, they figure, the less stigma. Yes, I suppose that's true. In a lot of cases mental health issues are biochemical in nature, kind of like type II diabetes has a biochemical component, and there is not much stigma tied to that. (Still, there is some: I have had students claim "If you're fat, you're going to get diabetes, and it's your own fault." Not true- there's a large genetic component, and some have even proposed that in some cases, a virus may be partly to blame)

Other people, I suppose, it's an attention thing. That always makes me uncomfortable, when it is. For two reasons: first, I don't like sharing lots of details of my own personal life with comparative strangers (she says as she writes on the blog...) but also because there have been a lot of times in my life when I might have liked a little attention, to be listened to a little, and there was NO ONE THERE. And it frustrates me to play the role of "comforter" to another when I feel like I may be using up all my emotional reserves and not have any left for myself when I need it.

And frankly, sometimes I'm busy, and getting buttonholed in the hall without any gracious way to say "I really need to scram now" isn't good.

I don't know if this is a small-town thing, or a Southern thing, or what, but I don't remember other places - like when I lived in Michigan - lots of people wanting to share the very personal details of their life with me, and I confess, knowing some of that stuff, hearing some of that stuff, makes me uncomfortable. 

I don't know. I want to be compassionate to people, I want to help people. I just wish I had less of a misery  magnet. Or a crazy magnet. Or whatever.

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