Cry Me a Fucking River

7 days sober. I’m fine. I’m totally fine and I don’t mean fine as in Ross Geller two batches of Margaritas down ‘fine’.

I’m. Just. Fine. If I think about my lack of swinging emotions so much then anxiety does start to bubble up. Fine, for me, is neutral. It’s just ‘it was it is’ – not that I know what that ‘it’ is. 

When I feel okay, or even good, I have this rising concern that I’m just ignoring what’s going on. I’m so conditioned to believe that my default is a panic, or low mood, that to feel generally okay for a period of time makes me think I’m just living in denial. 

It’s kinda sad to realise that. I’m having such an internalised battle to not permit myself to be happy that I’m beating myself up about feeling calm. Do you ever get that?

Thing is, I’m putting in the work with my therapist and (shock horror) it’s working. Yesterday, for the first time since Nan died, I actually talked about her to a human being. I talked of happy memories, how much I miss her, I sobbed – full on ugly cried – and it was such a release. I’ve been holding on for so long to not acknowledge the grief yet. I haven’t seen my family to talk about her, I’ve only watched a funeral through a screen. It’s easier to pretend it’s not real yet. That’s not helping me. 

The release I felt just in my jaw muscles was mammoth. It was like someone had injected a muscle relaxant directly into my masseter. Cue splitting headache. 

I’m not very good at crying. As in, I find it difficult. Unless I’m sloshed. As soon as I feel the tears rising I crush it down. It’s as automatic as breathing. I can sit there ‘please cry please cry please cry’ and I just can’t no matter how much I will it. I experienced some trauma as a child that involved people I trusted mocking me every time I cried (or showed any emotion for that matter), and this has hard-wired me to mismanage my emotions, including crying. I remember being less than 10 years old and fighting so hard to press down any rising emotion to not instigate the mocking or abuse. 

Crying is wonderful. It releases so many chemicals. Crying benefits mind and body, it begins when we are born crying. Here I’m talking about emotional crying, as opposed to reflex or continuous crying. Reflex crying is when our tear-ducts clear out things like dust, or smoke. Continuous tears keep our peepers lubricated day in and day out. 

Emotional crying (psychoemotional tears)(source) is the one we experience when, well, we’re feeling emotions. Whilst they are primarily made up of water they also include toxins, such as stress hormones. 

This release of stress hormones, and other toxins contributes to emotional crying being a great form of self-soothing. (source) Emotional crying is something unique to being human. The ugly-cry, guttural heaving chest, streaming eyes, is only observed in the human race. (source) We engage in it for positive or negative emotions, we cry for ourselves but we also cry to gain the attention of our care-giver. It’s a wonderful thing, to feel that self-soothing release after a good sobbing sesh. 

Crying for extended periods of time also releases that lovely endorphin, oxytocin. (source) Oxytocin dulls pain, whether that be physical or emotional. In a healthy way. We are releasing that pain to soothe it, instead of pushing it down. 

Emotional crying also brings back balance to the body. Our bodies are constantly working incredibly hard for homeostasis (the tendency towards a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes (source)). So when our emotions are extreme in either direction the act of emotional crying, dispelling the stress hormones and releasing endorphins, brings ourselves back to a sense of calm.

Do you ever notice that after a big sob? It reminds me of the quiet after using a hairdryer. It’s consuming, it’s all you can experience then… quiet. 

I felt that last night for the first time in so long. A sober, core-shaking, emotional cry to my therapist. I have so much to unpack, and this is only level 1. However I trust my therapist unconditionally. I’m ready, and willing. It’s going to take a very long time to unpick the grief and trauma I’ve buried for all these years. Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all. 

How do you feel about crying? Has anyone ever called you a ‘cry baby’? Have you ever felt shame over showing emotion? There is absolutely no shame in it whatsoever. In fact it should be applauded. When we need support, using our words is also important to communicate our emotions. However, to self-soothe and bring back that balance and calm a good old cry is a top tier release. So I say, let it flow. Cry me that river, I welcome it. 

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