I Used to Be Someone Who Never Cried
One thing I’ve learned in my journey as a human being is we all have our own versions of “normal.” My normal and your normal, for example, might be completely different. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. It’s one thing about the human condition I myself find really fascinating, and it’s one of the few reasons why I don’t mind being a human being (as opposed to a baby animal, who seem to live much happier lives and are also much cuter).
Today, what I want to talk about is crying. For some people, crying is normal. Take my friend Jenny. (She’s not actually named Jenny. I’ve changed the names of all the people I’m going to mention.) She’s someone who cries at every sad episode of a TV show, every time she feels slightly overwhelmed and sometimes she just goes to have a cry to let off steam. This is her normal and that’s fine.
My normal, however, until recently, was completely different. I don’t cry. I’ve had depression “officially” since I was 18. Since I was probably 14, I first started thinking about suicide all the time and potentially my whole life I’ll have lower, less severe symptoms (which I thought just described my personality). Sadness is a feeling I’m very accustomed to. One might think I spent a lot of my time crying, particularly in my teenage years. However, while the feeling of, “Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry,” or that I was moments away from bursting into tears was common to me, actually crying was not.
I can count on one hand how many times I’ve cried since I was 10 years old. All of those were big moments, my grandfather’s funeral, the first time I told someone I wanted to kill myself and the first time I was dumped. That’s three times from the ages of 10 to 21. Enter my new medication. One of the side effects for me was crying. Since I started my new meds about three months ago, I have lost count of the amount of times I’ve burst into tears.
Some of them were “reasonable,” like when I broke up with Bob, but others weren’t. Others were far from what I thought was a good reason to cry. All of them, including the breakup, came saddled with an additional feeling of, “Why the f*ck am I crying?” Crying, to me, had always been a sign of weakness. Giving in to the “about to cry” feeling and actually crying made me feel like I had lost some sort of battle with myself. That I was weak, a failure. Logically, I might know crying is totally natural, but it never quite sunk in.
Even worse than the actual crying was the fear somebody might see me cry. It was one thing for me to feel completely weak and helpless, but it was another for me to share this weakness with anyone else, let alone a total stranger. No one thinks the stranger crying on the bus is weak and pathetic for crying. Yet, I couldn’t shake the idea it would be perceived weak and pathetic if it was me.
I’m not sure where my idea that crying was unacceptable came from. If I had bought into the “real men don’t cry” myth, then that would make sense, but I’m not a man. I’ve never been a man. The only friends of mine who could relate when I shared my “I don’t cry” story where all men. Why did the fact I was suddenly crying matter to me? Why did I think it made me weak? I’m a woman, and women are “allowed” to cry, aren’t they?
I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, who we’re going to call Tony. Tony mentioned, like me, he’s not someone who really cries. He felt really awkward at his grandma’s funeral, when everyone else was crying, and he just wasn’t. Crying was the appropriate emotional response. Yet, his brain said, “No, Tony, no crying for you.” I couldn’t relate, every moment I cried or almost cried my brain had said mean things instead.
There was never a moment when I felt like I should be crying. I always felt like I shouldn’t. Every time I had come close to crying before the new medication, my brain had somehow managed to say, “No, that’s not OK. we don’t do that here.”
It’s a process for me to learn crying is my new normal. Crying is not pathetic. If you’re someone who cries, then it doesn’t make you less than someone who doesn’t cry. It’s a process to learn just because I’m crying I’m not broken or I haven’t lost control of my life.
Crying is OK. It is OK for me to cry. We all express emotions in different ways. For me, that now includes crying. It doesn’t mean I’m not myself anymore just because I’ve changed. This is just one of the many changes my new medication brought me, and it’s one I have to learn to accept. I’m growing and I’m changing every single day. I’m also crying now. It’s my new normal. There is nothing wrong with that.
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