I have been, for lack of a better expression, an emotional wreck this week.
We’re talking spontaneous tears, permanently puffy eyes and an almost consistently streaming nose. As a family we’ve been going through a bit of a drama and as an individual I’m not sure I’ve been dealing with it that well; I’m tired, I’m stressed and I’m crying… a lot.
I’m also aware that it was a full moon last Wednesday (believe what you want folks, that fucks my moods up something rotten) and that even though I don’t have periods anymore thanks to my mirena coil – read more about my experience with that here - my hormones are creating some sort of apocalyptic storm somewhere deep inside me.
All things considered it’s hardly surprising my mascara has spent more time on my chin than my eyelashes.
My poor, patient boyfriend has spent many a night wiping away the snot and telling me that it’s okay, that it’s all going to be okay. I meanwhile have been finding the time, in-between enormous sobs, to apologise for the liquid pouring from my eyes as if my life depended on it.
Nothing new there then.
I don’t think I’ve ever completed a cry in the presence of another person that hasn’t been accompanied by a flurry of apologies.
I’m so sorry, I don’t know where this has come from, honestly I’m FINE, I’m just tired, I’m so fine, I’m so sorry. God. Right. I’m stopping. I’m sorry this is so embarrassing, you don’t want to be dealing with me, so sorry, so so sorry, what AM I like, I’m a mess, sorry, sorry, sorrysorrysorrysorry. Sorry.
The good blub that I’ve been waiting for all bloody month (because if you don’t sometimes find yourself looking forward to a really good cry, then who even are you?) is ruined by the shame that arrives just a moment after the tears begin to fall.
And what do you do when you feel ashamed? Well, you say you’re sorry.
Crying = shame. Shame = apology.
All of this = bullshit.
I don’t apologise for laughing. I don’t apologise when I get excited. So where and why did I learn that it was necessary to apologise for feeling something on the other end of the spectrum?
Well it’s not a massively difficult question to answer. Obviously I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want to take the heavy weight of emotion off my own shoulders and unfairly place it on the shoulders of some unsuspecting pal. I don’t want someone else dealing with my shit because, well, they’ve got their own shit.
There is also, sadly, another factor to consider, and that is that crying is something not widely tolerated.
As a child crying was almost always considered to be a bad thing, one that our parents would do everything they could do to silence, as fast as possible. There was an element of wanting our pain and anguish to be over, but then of course there was the fact that our crying was an annoyance, an irritation, a bad sound that was keeping them awake.
No one likes a crying baby. Why would they like a crying adult?
Crying is considered to be a sign of weakness, a suggestion that we have reverted to child like tendencies and are unable to deal with our emotions in a way that an adult should, a British adult no-less; by putting on a brave face and getting on with it.
We are told, regularly, not to cry.
Society does not let men cry and it doesn’t much like women doing it either.
Nowhere is this more obvious than with women in work. The implication that a female employee cannot handle being reprimanded ‘in case she cries’ is something male bosses have discussed for years.
As if a woman is on the verge of tears at any given moment, we are handled with care and begged of not to begin bawling every time someone so much as says our name.
So rather than sob in the office (as they all thought she would), our brave little warrior saves the histrionics that we are all capable of for a big glass of wine and a girls’ night. It feels good to let it out, until of course, she remembers that everyone’s staring at her and that by crying, she’s totally ruined girls night.
The tears, although justified, are so often bottled up for so long that when they do finally escape, they come out at the wrong time and to the wrong person. In that instance we are victims of the emotional repression put on us by society. And so are the people that we’re crying to.
We’re all victims here.
We are told so often and so resolutely that we need to hold it together, and we can’t. It’s impossible. We end up crying more than we should and feeling perpetually guilty about it.
And whilst I haven’t got THE answers (what I wouldn’t do for those), I do have a couple of suggestions for you:
2. Allow yourself to feel the emotions as and when they happen. Don’t feel like you need to bottle it up.
If you are, like me, the sort of person that takes hit after hit after hit without cracking but then explodes like a snot filled balloon at someone totally unexpectedly for ‘no reason in particular’, then you need to be adhering to the ‘little and often’ rules – feel things as and when they happen, it’s OK to be upset, don’t apologise, feel what you’ve got to feel and don’t apologise for that.
It might be worth scheduling a cry, once a week, find a sad advert or movie, pour yourself a glass of wine and let it all out. Worth a try eh???
2. Stop apologising when the tears do come calling. Easier said than done perhaps but it’s worth remembering that humans are much more empathetic than you give them credit for.
Let people be there for you, they want to be. We all do it and we are all allowed to. You can explain, briefly, if you have to that ‘you don’t know where these tears have come from!’ but don’t try and talk more than that – certainly don’t apologise. Be sad and be okay with it. People are inherently good. They want to help and they probably can… let them do it.