When I was little, I was that kid that would cry over everything. Any time I fell down, I cried. If someone yelled at me, I cried. If I was being told to do something that I didn’t want to do, I cried. If someone told me not to cry (regardless of how I was feeling prior), I would start crying. I even cried if a man just talked to me (including my own father).
Over the years, I have gotten a little better, thankfully. However, I still cry when I am overly stressed out or overcome with intense emotion. People don’t really know this, though, because any time I feel it coming on, I get the hell out of there as soon as I can so that I can let it out in private. Only a few times in my adult life have I cried in front of someone, and it has always been because I just couldn’t get away.
The most recent time was a few days ago. I was in my car with my grandparents, driving them to the doctor’s for an appointment. Over the summer, they have been a huge source of stress and anxiety for me. I talked about this a little bit previously. I know they love me, and of course I love them, but I still dread seeing them because of this anxiety. I feel guilty for it, but I really can’t do much to help it. Anyway, I was driving my jeep with both of them in it. My pap started criticizing my driving like he usually does, and it gradually turned into yelling. My grandmother started yelling to, both at him and at me. It got to the point where they were yelling louder and louder in order to be heard over the other person, and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I pulled over in a parking lot, and the tears just started coming out of my face.
I’m actually glad that I cried in this moment because I’m certain that if I had tried to hold it in, I would have had a panic attack. Crying was a way to kind of relieve some of the stress before it got to that point. I just shut my eyes and focused on breathing.
My grandparents got quiet for a moment, but then they started up again.
“Iris, are you crying?”
“Why are you crying?”
“Stop crying, you don’t have to do that.”
“We weren’t doing anything.”
“Are you still crying?”
I kept my head down and told them I just needed a minute, but I could feel them staring at me, watching me. I managed to pull myself together after a few minutes, but I felt shaky for the rest of the day, and I couldn’t wait to get home and have a tall glass of wine. They apologized numerous times over the course of that day and the next. They didn’t realize what they were doing, and so I don’t blame them in the slightest for it, but it was an incredibly difficult moment for me.
Since I cried so much as a child, I usually got yelled at if I started to tear up. I can understand how annoying it must have been to deal with me constantly crying, but I honestly couldn’t help it. I didn’t cry for attention. I cried because I was scared or in order to relieve stress or heavy emotion. Being constantly scolded every time I cried in front of someone made me feel awful and guilty about crying even though I couldn’t do anything about it. Being yelled at only made me cry more, and it made me feel worse at the same time.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels guilt and anxiety about crying. We’re brought up to see crying as a sign of weakness. This is especially true of men, who are told to “man up” and “stop being a baby” when they cry growing up and as adults. Crying in front of people makes everyone uncomfortable. Crying while drunk is an embarrassment. Crying after sex is considered laughable. Crying about a bad breakup gives the other person power. There are so many negative stigmas surrounding the act, even though it is merely a physiological response to intense emotion.
However, crying is actually a good thing, and it is a sign of emotional strength. Crying is healthy for you physically because it flushes out your eyes. It keeps everything from staying bottled up inside, thereby releasing stress. It allows you to acknowledge your emotions so that you can learn more about yourself and make yourself stronger. People who cry together form a strong emotional bond that is based on pure honesty.
Personally, every time I cry in private, I feel significantly better afterward. I’m convinced that if we were all able to do this out in the open instead of in dark rooms behind locked doors, we would be able to better communicate with each other, form stronger bonds, and feel more emotionally at rest, allowing for a higher quality of life.