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In Defense of Using Crying as a Coping Mechanism

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Sometimes the pain of talking is too overwhelming and the pressure in my chest is just bursting to come forth, and I let it out.

I silently weep.

There are times when talking doesn’t help. When fear just is and finding a friend to rationalize a solution to an unsolvable problem simply generates more angst than staying silent. Talking about the impossible solution creates a sense of shame for feeling anything at all. Ignoring what cannot be solved somehow diminishes a painful experience.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating for wallowing in misery — which is one of my special superpowers. But nor do I advocate ignoring problems just because they can’t be solved. It seems to me that shoving a problem into a metaphorical filing cabinet doesn’t solve the problem — it’s simply shelved for another day. And my access to metaphorical filing cabinets is pretty spasmodic.

I confess to being cowardly in conflict. I don’t do it well. I don’t do it at all. I shroud myself in a suit of patched up armor and hope there’s enough structural integrity left to weather the rain of emotional onslaught, then I stuff that armor into its sturdy little bag and trot home. Away from the intensity of interpersonal conflict where I feel no sense of safety in myself. I need to be alone.

Then I weep.

There is nobody to judge my silent tears. There is no limit to the outpouring of grief and fear — gathering up every unbridled thought and shining a big shiny light on it. Then let it all out, as the saying goes. Ironic as it may seem to others, weeping in my wardrobe is an important coping mechanism for me. It’s the place where I validate my fears, shed my tears, then gather up the strength and determination to move on and practice acceptance.

Acceptance is — apparently — a willingness to tolerate a difficult situation. Sometimes the head is willing long before the heart. Is that biological? I have absolutely no idea. I know people who find that when life slaps them in the face with the biggest, slimiest fish, they just take a small moment to stare at the fish then move on. I envy these people. When I’m slapped in the face by a fish I spend a lot of time wondering if the fish is OK. But still — in my own steady way, I work towards accepting the lot that life has for me.

For me, acceptance comes after the tear-shedding. Not before. My speedy little brain does flips and spins and slides and turns the impossible into the implausible. A catastrophic catalogue of all the possible outcomes for all the improbable scenarios. And quite honestly — in my personal experience — nobody wants to hear that. I don’t particularly want to hear it myself, but when it’s stuffed in my head it just keeps ballooning until my brain is just oozing chaos and then it’s time to close down and close off.

It’s time to weep.

I’m very bad at letting go and very good at bottling up. Some things just are. This is one of those things.

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I’m very bad at letting go of the emotional stuff, but I’m pretty good at the practical stuff. I don’t berate the traffic lights for turning red or curse the traffic for building up. I don’t yell at the sky to wish the rain away or glare at the tide for inconveniencing me. I don’t let financial sparsity spoil the appreciation for how much I do have. There is so much in the day-to-day world that I spectacularly accept. But so much in the emotional world that takes me time and tears to come to terms with. My loss of identity. Fears for my children. The health of the people I love. Stresses in my relationships. Finding purpose in my life. The worries of complete strangers. All these things send me to my weeping wardrobe where I need to cathartically cry out every impossible scenario, beg God for forgiveness and fortitude, and slowly — over time — work towards tolerating the seemingly intolerable.

I sense that my way of coping doesn’t make sense to other people. I hear a lot of people telling me to just get over it and don’t worry about things I can’t control. Unfortunately telling someone not to worry does nothing to reduce worry. It simply pushes it down so nobody else can see it. Crying is my catharsis. Silently sobbing where nobody can see is my happy place for being sad. It’s my safe space. When the overwhelm becomes more than I can bear I find a place just for me.

I silently weep.

Getty image via HearttoHeart0225

Originally published: November 12, 2020
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