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Last night I posted a picture that contained a quote from Mark Twain… “Always tell the truth, then you don’t have to remember anything.” It speaks to something I’ve said many times in the past, ‘I tell the truth so I don’t have to remember who I said what to.’ That picture set into motion an exchange between a friend and myself that had the same effect as Marty McFly’s DeLorean trip back in time.

I saw in the words on the screen a reflection of myself from my late teens, early twenties. I think perhaps because I had not been permitted to have an opinion, to voice my feelings or to advocate for myself throughout my childhood, once I was out on my own I took the position that complete honesty was the only way to go. I thought anyone who asked me anything expected to get my full-frontal opinion, hard core and honest. I didn’t use any tact or think of anyone else’s feelings at all. When people would get hurt by my opinions or blunt honesty I would spank them verbally, telling them, ‘I give you nothing less than I expect. Don’t blow sunshine and lollipops up my skirt… if you don’t want to know what I think, why do you ask me?’ I was really very arrogant.

Sometimes I handled such blunt honesty reciprocated and other times I felt abused by people giving me back what I was dishing out.

I really thought I had every right to treat people as I did and if they had a hard time with it, it was their problem.

It soon became my problem when my friends started to put distance between us, when I started having problems at work. I found myself constantly embroiled in disagreements with people, people misinterpreted things I said, thought I was being arrogant, thought I was attacking them. It didn’t take me long to begin to feel very lonely and isolated.

I felt attacked, all the time.

It was at this time that my depression was first diagnosed. I needed to have folks in my life, friends, people to communicate with, the loneliness wasn’t healthy for me, the feeling of being misunderstood and attacked wasn’t healthy for me.

In therapy, after deep reflection, I realized that people were reacting to me and my blunt, “honesty”. I was using ‘honesty’ as an excuse for being ‘mean’. I was going through an angry time, having been pushed out of the house by my mother, being left to ‘sink or swim’ with no support system, I felt pulled in 100 directions, I didn’t know how to take care of myself emotionally and so I was unleashing all the pent up feelings inside me on everyone around me.

I defended myself by saying I was being ‘honest’, but I was just being hurtful. It was such a small thing to do, to express my honest feelings and opinions with a little tact and thought about the feelings of the people around me. I realized it wasn’t a ‘trade off’, I could be honest AND think about the feelings of others.

I made a lot of changes, started thinking about others.

I had a chance to email back and forth with a friend from years earlier. After chatting back and forth she commented, ‘You’ve really changed. You seem to be a much more mellow person than you were before.’ I realized I had hurt her before, when I just wasn’t thinking about anyone else but me. I explained to her that I hadn’t meant to be so cruel and abusive, because that’s exactly what I was being, that I was just being careless and insensitive.

I felt ashamed, as I took that trip back in time. I sat and cried. Then I realized that though I had been so cruel, been so selfish in the way I had expressed my opinions and feelings, I recognized it and I made changes to my behavior. I had to admit that it was indeed my problem and the responsibility rested solely on my shoulders to make a change in myself.

I made that change… I understand that I actually went a little too far in the opposite direction, the pendulum swung heavily to the other extreme, thinking too much about others, putting them and their feelings ahead of myself and my own, but I’m working on that now, as I know that I’m always a work in progress. I’m constantly growing and changing and learning.

I feel a sense of accomplishment, just in the fact that I’m aware of where I am in my growth and learning process, that I recognize it and keep trying to make improvements.

I’m working on reading another book, just started it yesterday, “Where to Draw the Line: How to Set Healthy Boundaries Every Day by Anne Katherine, M.A. and I think that’s appropriate right now, having revisited these feelings. The beginning of the book explains that ‘boundaries’ aren’t just put into place to keep others from abusing you, but they are there to keep you from compromising yourself and others. Boundaries are something I never quite became accomplished at.

 

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