Healing Is Wet! On Learning to Cry.


I spent most of my life NOT crying, because I so badly did not to be the sad kid. After having a sister born with Down Syndrome who was diagnosed early in life with leukemia and then passed away when I was in middle school, I determined did not want to be the sad bastard who was always in tears. Plus, I didn't want to put my sadness on my parents, or anyone else, so I buttoned that shit down. I witness people crying a lot; I was a social worker in free clinics and in hospitals, working with people who were dealing with life-altering illnesses and injures, financial ruin, and life and death decisions, and then I was a Physician Assistant in surgery and Women's Health. I held a lot of hands and poke-faced my way through.


I myself cried exactly twice at work, in the almost twenty years I worked in hospitals. Once when a patient who I'd been working with her for a long time died suddenly- she had such sparkle and humor despite the tracheotomy, quadriplegia and worst possible prognosis. I was really close to her family, too, and we were within a day of getting her discharged so she could finish her life at home when she coded, and never made it there. I cried that day, briefly, to a colleague, on the elevator, then we both drank our coffee and went back to work. Years later, when I worked in surgery as a Physician Assistant, I'd become especially skilled at not crying when I witnessed or experienced tragic, terrible things, but one day my hormones and grief colluded and I sobbed silently while charting at a desk in a shared office. I'd just had my second miscarriage and everyone I know seemed to be having successful pregnancies, and I was convinced that day that I would never have my own. My colleagues noticed my shaking shoulders, but most left me alone to figure it out, because there is no crying in surgery. Postpartum hormones, after I did end up having babies, left me a soggy mess for a while, but then the tears dried up and at some point, I couldn't even shake them loose when I wanted to. I pushed the pain back from the edge and breathed through it and if I knew I had to purge I'd watch sad movies to make myself cry- sitting in a dramatic scene between fictional characters, I could let myself relax enough to feel. My therapists asked about it and I just shrugged it off as another way I was controlled and neurotic. Now, this fucking year, I'm letting go, and it means tears. So many tears. I fight it every time; it feels actually physically uncomfortable to crack the vault and let everything out. The other day a massage therapist friend of mine did a breath work session on me over Zoom and MY GOTTTT did I sob throughout the whole thing. It's breathing in a rhythmic, deliberate way in a near-hyperventilation, so it puts you in kind of a dreamy, meditative state, and then there's great music, PLUS she's telling you all these things about how great and worthwhile and safe you are- and I just exploded. It's always that way- when someone tink-tink-tink hammers in the idea that I'm loved, worthy, seen, and held, that's when I fall apart- it's like self-loathing holds me together and kind words melt the glue. At first in the session, I was gripping so hard to the sheet on my bed, my hand cramped, then, in time, after I released tears, I released all my muscles, too, including some that in my neck and shoulders that I don't think I ever set down. It was scary as shit, and overwhelming, and so cleansing. Check it out- it really was a powerful thing. She's offering deals as she gets this particular practice under way. I'm practicing letting my feelings just be what they are, and honoring them, also not holding my emotions on my body to twist my gut and ache my head. I don't want to avoid crying because I'm worried that it will worry other people, or upset them, or make things worse for them. I need to take care of me. Tears are a healthy form of expressing big feelings, and I'm working not to fear either. I deserve to feel, to vent, and to rest, so I am.

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