Friday, June 1, 2007

Privacy with Friends

Someone suggested the other night that in my group of friends, we really don't have any boundaries set.

At least in terms of medical tests/diagnoses.

To give an example, my husband told a mutual friend that we were expecting - about 6-8 weeks before I wanted to tell anyone. I think that was after he found out we were having twins. I just knew all the risks. Someone said they felt I was being morbid for not wanting to tell anyone. But the statistics show that 1 out of 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage before eight weeks. And with twins, there are lots of risks, including the vanishing twin syndrome.

The friend my husband told worriedly confided in another mutual friend, who was offended that I hadn't told her first. hadn't told any friends at that point. I hadn't told anyone I worked with - especially since my pregnancy would impact everyone on my team at work (since I would probably take maternity leave, be gone for three months and they would have to pick up the slack). But it was still a messy situation.

On the other hand, I don't think it's reasonable to never talk about medical stuff with your friends.

There are a lot of good reasons to talk.

I am pretty open about being tested for cholesterol, and my high cholesterol diagnosis when I was in my late 20s. The way I see it, I would rather talk about it so that other people could get their cholesterol checked. Yes, the research on cholesterol is mixed, and high cholesterol by itself doesn't mean heart disease, but I would rather find out now and make changes in my diet/lifestyle sooner than later.

I heard of another good example of this on npr a few weeks ago. A young woman (featured in the "Nordie's at Noon" book) had started doing her monthly breast exams because of her friend's diagnosis. She found a lump and credits the fact that she's here today to her friend.

So, in a group of friends, it's nice to know about some things - to be supportive. I would hate to think of my good friends going through breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc. alone.

On the other hand, there are some things that are really no one else's business. It's hard to know though. Whether or not someone is going to therapy, for example. Whether or not someone is taking medication for depression. Sometimes, this kind of information can be helpful, and might encourage a friend to seek treatment where they hadn't before.

On the other hand, there is still a stigma attached to going to therapy and taking medication (see my related post here). I wish I could say that most of our friends didn't judge people on medical conditions,but unfortunately there is some judgement there. One person still reacts whenever I talk about my cholesterol that I shouldn't have been tested, shouldn't worry about it because I'm too young.

And while some of our friends don't care, I think there are some that do. It's just a fine line. And it gets even more complicated if job/hiring/firing type decisions come into play. Who knows whether or not one could experience discrimination about a potential job if they know that a potential candidate has gone to outpatient/inpatient therapy and have taken or are taking anti-depressants? Whether or not this attitude is right, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist and doesn't happen.

Just wanted to find out if anyone has set these types of boundaries with friends and how you might handle these types of things.

Mormons (and my family in particular) famously have little to no boundaries about anything, so learning more about what to share and what not to share could be a good thing.


Freckle Face Girl said...

It mainly depends on my friends, but the ones I truly like are the ones with few boundaries. I am quite open about most things in general. My friends tell me a lot too. I know which ones are on "happy pills" and struggle with various issues. I figure we are all humans dealing with a lot of the same issues and it is nice to know you're not alone.

I have actually found that my non-Mormon friends are more open because they weren't as afraid of being judged. They talk about everything from therapy and depression to sex. Some of my friends have impressed me to the point where I am quite comfortable sharing most things.

laura said...

I tell anyone I can get to listen that I have depression, that I take medication for it, and that I have seen a therapist. Well, that's not quite true--I tell anyone I can get to listen when I'm in a relatively safe position. I didn't bring it up at my job interview, but I talk about it with abandon now.

I see it as part of my duty to the world--my hope is that by being one more person who talks about mental illness, I can help to make it seem more normal and to remove the stigma from it. I don't know how well that works, but I feel obliged to try, in the same way that I try to call out racism and sexism and homophobia when I see them, because I am in a position of privilege, and I can talk about those things.

As for cholesterol testing, I thought that was pretty standard for everyone these days--but perhaps that's not true everywhere.

wry catcher said...

I agree about being open with friends, and I think it's SO important to have a group of friends where you can be open like that. I miss it. Great post.

aerin said...

FFG - I agree - it's always nice to know you're not alone. What's difficult is when someone is not able (for whatever reason) to be supportive of someone else.

The thing I have to watch (and I'm not very good at) is to not necessarily reveal other's diagnoses/struggles. Because it's their information to reveal. I guess I'm still a little naive thinking "we can all be a great big happy family" when in reality, that's not always the case. (And why I should be more respectful). In other words, not everyone is worthy of trust. But I'm glad to hear you have good friends you feel comfortable with. From everything you've mentioned here, they are very supportive.

Laura - thanks for your comments and welcome! Like the aerin pseudonym ;)?? I hear what you're saying about duty, and as you know, for the most part I feel that way to. But just as I mentioned to FFG - I need to be more careful about revealing information that others' might not want revealed.

Wry - I have to say, good friends are hard to find!!! I've lived in my current location for 8 or so years now, and I'm finally feeling like I have some sort of network. It takes a long time, especially after college.