Note No. 48

January 27, 2010

In my previous Note, I talked about how I had just started taking some new medication but I would not say which one, because it was a boundary that I said I did not want to cross.

Looking back now, I realize how much I compromised by not revealing that detail. If I am even going to say that I am taking prescription drugs to start with, I should just go all the way and say why. Otherwise, I am weakening my credibility: you’re getting just half the truth and probably feeling kind of alienated by it, too.

And then, after all that, who knows what kind of gelatinous-abdominal-mass-third-arm-fourth-eye theories you came up with as to why I might be medicated in the first place.

I’ll say it now then: I am taking something that inhibits production of prolactin, a hormone regulated by your pituitary gland. Sometimes a body can make too much, which was my case before I went on this drug, which is supposed to be stopping all of that nonsense. We’ll see in a few months.

In the meantime, the entire episode brought up an important question for me in the field of blog-style writing: what exactly do I reveal about myself and how? A favorite author of mine (I know. I link to her about as much as I do Stephen R. Covey) has discussed this on her blog and she says you have to have to decide where your limits are before you start writing. In her case, almost nothing is taboo for discussion: her struggles with Asperger syndrome; being sexually abused by her father; break-ups, bulimia; depression. It’s incredible; she’s so honest.

And as a reader, I eat it up like chocolate covered coffee beans. Part of it is that it goes beyond just being sensational for the sake of getting hits on her page, because I don’t think she is doing that. At the end of the day, aside from her claim that she cannot lie, her best judge for whether or not to talk about something is whether or not it will be useful to her audience. Thus, by talking about things that most people would not have the courage to say, she is bringing closeted topics into the open, which is always good for making changes in the world. For those who have experienced anything she talks about, it creates camraderie and maybe helps them deal with unresolved issues. For those who have not experienced what she talks about, it should at least breed empathy, especially in their interpersonal relationships.

I also want to present an open book when I write but it’s not as easy as saying: I am going to tell you everything, because there will always be The Sacred, The Gross and The Mundane, and I don’t ever want to get to the point that I am openly exhibiting them, because I have forgotten what their significance is.

In this recent case, I just wasn’t sure whether or not it fell into one of these three categories. More than anything, I was thinking of the guys out there, because, well, hormones are not really the It topic to discuss across the sexes. But then reading the forum of comments by people using the drug, I actually noticed that about a third of them were men, which was surprising. I didn’t even know men had to deal with prolactin. I guess the name deceived me.

I am reminded of a magazine article the other day about status bars on Facebook and how some of us have gone too far in what we reveal: what we are eating (Who me? I wouldn’t do that); what we are depositing into the toilet; who we are in bed with; why we’re so awesome— basically things that even our moms don’t want to know. It was a good reminder that just because you are behind a computer screen and cannot see it happen, that does not mean your audience is not shrinking in horror or rolling its eyes.

My challenge then is striking a balance— finding something between two extremes: neither safe, nor let-me-out-of-the-car-this-minute; neither dull, nor your-spittle-just-landed-on-my-face; neither unforthcoming, nor look-what-I-just-blew-into-my-Kleenex. I think the balance this time comes from identifying the issue without going into further detail. That is: if you want to know more about it, you can certainly do your own research but I’m not even giving you a link to start.

The thing is: I may have created my boundaries on this issue but it’s not over yet and it never will be. We can think we have defined a subject and created boundaries surrounding it but ideas are as dynamic as fashion: you never know when you’ll be tightrolling your pants again, just like you never imagined you’d be tucking them into cowboy boots. So while I never thought I’d be talking about my hormones to a potential audience of a few hundred people, here I am doing it but on what I hope is a socially acceptable basis.

Meanwhile, I have to remember that even if I do continue to challenge and update my own definitions of what constitutes a post, I still won’t always get it how I want it the first time around. I’ll still have to back up and reevaluate something every once in awhile. That’s just life.

Furthermore, even if I think I have gotten it right, I will inevitably lose readership and that is just something I have to be okay with in this field, because as a friend of mine says: the day you start trying to please everyone is the day you stop living.

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