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It's My Diagnosis and I'll Cry If I Want To

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I don’t cry. I’m capable of crying, but it’s just not something I do. Or rather, it takes a lot to bring tears out of me. Sometimes I’ll get emotional and feel tight in my throat, my eyes may even start to well, but crying? I just don’t do that.

• What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?
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My inability to cry is rooted in my difficulties being vulnerable. It’s not because I’m a hard-hearted person or don’t want to be vulnerable, it’s that my environment is not a safe place in which to be vulnerable. I live in an unsafe, toxic home full of unsafe, toxic people. Being vulnerable there is about as safe as sulfuric acid baths and probably just as terrifying. I know all of this to be true and not the result of some psychological pathology because there are certain people and environments that do make me feel safe, and with them, in them, I can cry. I can ugly cry big, snotty tears.

My boyfriend makes me feel safer than anyone in the world, and with him, I can cry. My cousin makes me feel safe beyond all measure, and with her, I can cry. I can even cry in my therapist’s office. These people give me an emotionally safe place that my home does not, and with them, I am able to release so much of what is pent up from weeks and months of not being able to wail my woes. I appreciate them all for this and many more things.

I think too often we assess our own emotional well-being by how frequently or infrequently we cry. Some might call you a crybaby and say you need to “toughen up” if crying frequently is one of the ways you process the world. But I think it’s the other way around. Maybe we need to soften up. Soften ourselves to the concept that said crybaby is a person courageous enough to put their emotions on display, bare their soul for the world to see, and be vulnerable in a way so many of us either can’t be or choose not to be.

One thing I can say for the crybabies of this world, at least they’re processing their feelings. I’m not saying all you need to do to process your feelings is cry, but you can’t cry if you’re never processing your feelings. So my crybabies out here are already ahead of the curve on that one.

So how do I process my feelings if I can’t cry? I’m glad you asked. Honestly, I do my best to talk them out with those I love and who will hold space for me, think them through, ask myself questions about why I’m feeling the way I’m feeling, and writing helps me process my feelings because I have to be exact and concise about which words hit paper. But sometimes, even all of those things combined just don’t cut it.

A couple days ago I wrote about how scared I was about moving into my future with my recent hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome diagnosis, and up to that point I had been saying to everyone who asked about it, “I’m still processing” and “I haven’t had much time to process it all.” Both of which were true. But what I hadn’t told anybody was that I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere, or I was coming to worse terms with this disease, not better ones.

But after crossposting my writing to Facebook, my dearest cousin sent me a private message in which she said something I didn’t even realize I was doing; she said I was grieving. I was grieving for the future I thought I would have that now has been permanently changed by this diagnosis, and I was grieving for the possibilities of a bad outcome associated with my hEDS. Without even me knowing what I was feeling, she somehow knew, and she named it for me. The second I read the word “grieving” I knew that’s what I had been doing all along without realizing it.

And then without warning or pretense, as sudden as a lighting strike and as overpowering as a rip current, I was crying. Not just crying, but it was as though my soul came pouring out in lamentation screaming, “You’re free! You’re free to truly feel this now!” Oh, how I howled and sobbed. My throat ached, my eyes grew puffy. I called my cousin and wept more as she comforted me in my grief.

I cried for what felt like forever, but eventually the tears dried up, I was able to coherently speak again, and then? We talked and I processed. It was like shining a brand new light on an old problem, like I was seeing it all anew. And I think after all the processing, all the thinking and writing, I finally came to a place of something like acceptance with my diagnosis.

And all it took was a good, old-fashioned cry.

Getty image by Photodjo.

Originally published: May 29, 2019
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