“Cry baby, cry!” I can still hear my brother and sister’s taunts echo in my head, as the tears stream down my face. What am I upset about? Who knows this time.
I guess you could say I’ve always been a crier. From a very young age, I’ve been sensitive to how people look at me, speak to me, or criticize me. You’re probably thinking, so what, everyone is, but I’m sensitive to an extent that can make me feel weak and can even hinder my day-to-day activities. I’m waiting at the doctor’s office for a long time and they tell me it’s my fault I don’t have a certain prescription with me, and I choke back tears. A teacher corrects me in dance class, and I bite my lip to not overreact to this same correction that she is giving everyone. Or my mom will ask why I haven’t done something she’s asked of me, and a lump starts forming in my throat as I try to stop my voice from quivering out a meek response. It’s like the emotions that should channel themselves individually as fear or anger or humiliation all converge and route to the same place: my tear ducts. I’ve tried to stop and think about why I cry so much, and I think it is my way of expressing any kind of emotion that makes me uncomfortable. Of course, being a grown woman, this is not a quality I am proud of.
Crying used to work in my favor. As a young kid, I could “turn the faucet on” as my dad said, whenever I wanted to. This served useful in getting my siblings in trouble if they hurt me (or barely touched me, but I still wanted them to suffer). They used to say I should act; I was so good at crying. But it wasn’t that I was good at controlling my emotions like actors do, and that I was able to turn them on or off, rather it was that in my head, the slightest bit of discomfort threw the needle off balance and forced the pressure cooker to explode. So much of the time, I wasn’t even trying to cry. It was just lucky if it was a product of an unfortunate situation at the time so that I wouldn’t seem like such a big baby.
As I got older, I suppose I cried more, as most teenage girls do. I would usually blame these emotions on “hormones” or “PMS,” just like everyone did to explain their wildly irrational teenage years. It was great, I finally had something to justify the buckets of tears I seemed to have accumulated over the course of my life. I would argue with a friend (and end up crying, inevitably, since I’m bad at confronting people without fighting tears) and then I’d be able to say “sorry, I’m on my period.” Or I would be pissed off at my family for no reason at all and have PMS to blame! What a wonderful thing—an excuse to be perpetually insane and have no one think of it being more than “girl problems.” (Luckily, I don’t do this anymore, nor do I think PMS should be “dumbed down” by those who don’t actually experience it to justify acting crazy).
But as I’ve grown older (and as the tears have kept a’coming, most times unrelated to my cycle) I’ve learned that maybe this isn’t PMS, maybe I’m just forever super sensitive and highly emotional. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. My sensitivity allows me to feel hurt when those I love are hurting, and be perceptive to how others feel even if they seem or say they’re “fine” on the outside. I suppose I’m good at reading people like that because I have so much experience concealing my own emotions for fear of crying at inappropriate times. But being emotional obviously has its costs. When faced with opposition, my voice shakes and even if I feel confident inside, somehow that confidence fails to translate, which is why I’m bad at arguing. I usually end up “losing” since I break and start crying halfway through before I’ve said everything. Cue: “cry, baby, cry!”
Fast forward to summer 2014. I’m about to enter my senior year of college and I’m explaining to the psychologist those very same words: “cry, baby, cry!” and having flashbacks of countless times I cried over tiny things growing up. I’m explaining to her how as the middle child, I was always the mediator, the peacemaker, the calm and collected one. How anytime I felt any strong wave of emotion, I bit my tongue to stop the tears because I was so embarrassed that I was about to start crying, and normal people were tougher than that. But she taught me two things: first, to get over my notion of “normal people” and two, that the way I am makes total sense, and that while it is frustrating to be so emotional in certain situations, it should never be something I am ashamed of. I look back at that summer, when I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder, and realize that just like my anxiety doesn’t define me as a person, neither do my tears. Rather, my tears are my reactions to everything around me. To this huge, confusing, nasty and beautiful world around me. If anything, my tears show that I care, perhaps too much, about too much. And that might not be the worst thing, right?
I write this post not to just call upon those of us who tend to be criers like me, but to talk about my journey (still taking place) towards self-improvement and self-acceptance. Whether you are highly emotional or not, we all have ways to be more self-aware, and we all have quirks or flaws that might also be our most hidden strengths. If you get caught up constantly focusing on what’s wrong with you, TALK TO SOMEONE about it! And I don’t mean go to therapy if you don’t want to. But talking or reflecting about how you feel is so human and so essential and something we so don’t do enough. Talk to a friend, or if you don’t feel comfortable with that, start at least by being in touch with yourself.
It’s okay to not be okay sometimes. It’s not okay to hate yourself for it.
I am so excited to contribute to this blog I’ve put together while working for Pasand! I’m 22 years old and graduated from Dartmouth College. I love dancing, arts & crafts, being with my friends and family, and spending time outside in nature. I also love traveling around the world and hope to hit every country someday! Thanks for reading!