A couple years ago I wrote about the fact that I don’t cry much about my health situation but I wasn’t sure why. By contrast, I know exactly why I don’t cry from the pain itself, and that’s because it started when I was a kid, and I learned fast that the adults in my life thought that I was just trying to get attention. If I cried, they thought that even more. So I didn’t cry.
Fast forward to my 30s, and I still don’t usually cry from pain, frustration, or fear. I cry for other reasons – a sad book, the death of a loved one, and such and elicit tears, even though health issues rarely do.
In the last year, though, I’ve been making more of an effort to let myself cry when I want to. It’s cathartic, so why not? I do so much to try and help my health, both physical and mental, so shouldn’t I be willing to cry?
I started with simple things: I didn’t try to stop myself a few weeks ago when I was reading a sad scene in a book. Before, I would try to hold back the tears and fail; this time I didn’t try to hold them back. I let a few tears escape when I was dealing with a difficult health decision. It was a good start. And then came the real test.
When I was in the ER last week the pain was horrible, but even worse was the fear. My anxiety around doctors has been getting worse, and I was practically panicked at the idea of a doctor I didn’t know giving me stitches. What if he messed up? What if there was a broken bone they hadn’t noticed on the x-ray? What if he somehow hurt me? On top of that the pain was intense. For a while, I tried not to cry out of habit. Then, finally, I had an epiphany: it was ok to cry! This doctor didn’t know me or my history. I would never see him again. Plus, crying in this situation was not only acceptable, it was expected. I mean, I had a big cut that had been bleeding for hours and the doctor was dabbing at it to get away enough blood that he could see it clearly. Of course it hurt like hell! Why shouldn’t I cry?
So the tears came. They poured down my face and I did nothing to stop them. I didn’t make a scene. I didn’t yell or scream or sob loudly. I didn’t exaggerate but I also didn’t hold back. And you know what? It felt so much BETTER to let all of that out!
This is a long process. I need to unlearn more than 20 years of habit, but I know I can do it. I just need to make more of an effort to cry when I feel the need to cry. Wish me luck!
Does this sound familiar? Have you experienced anything similar? Please comment below – I’d love to hear your story!
I have hidden the amount of pain I’m in for years and now when I mention it the response is but you have never been in pain, your over reacting when in reality I’m finally acknowledging it. The more I try to hide my pain the lonelier I feel. Thanks for your post, maybe I just need a good cry.
Good luck, myskyelark. I hope you can get people to understand. You should probably explain it to them the way you just did to me, saying, “I’ve decided to stop lying/pretending about the pain.” I hope they can understand!
Thanks for the encouragement
“Permission to cry”, when that’s what you want to do, is closely related to permission to laugh out loud, or boogie in place (or all over the place!) when the music rocks, or yell at the computer. All good “don’t stuff your real feelings” practice!
High five right back at ya, Karen! 🙂