Let It All Out

When did all this crying start?

Was I like this in my 20s and 30s? I  don’t think so. And I definitely don’t remember it during my 40s, not like this anyway, when I was mostly happily married. Of course, being a sap, I’ve always shed a few tears over some pretty silly things, like overly sentimental or manipulative ads and movies designed to tug at the ol’ heartstrings (see this post from December 2010 on that). And there have been plenty of times when my emotional (irrational?) attachment to “my” sports teams has led me to unleash tears of joy with hard-fought (in something of a Freudian slip, I first wrote “heart-fought”) victories or wail with grief at painful losses (1986 World Series, anyone?).

Well, at least it wasn’t raining…

But the real and often unexpected crying jags started in 2010, with the news of the IMD. Jags that left me curled up on the floor, soaked and breathless, after the initial onslaught of tears and tightness in my stomach and certainty of thought that I would never overcome the emptiness that engulfed me. All compounded by the grief for my father’s death four years previously, which I had—obviously, in retrospect—never really processed.

So, all that explains the bawling bouts then. But what about since then? What has spurred those moments of late when I sit on my bed and feel a wave of sadness—and yes, often self-pity—rise unexpectedly from somewhere deep within? Within my brain, of course, because thoughts of some kind are usually a trigger; thoughts of loneliness, of unworthiness, of feeling like a fumbling, bumbling fool as I try to navigate what’s left of my life. But at some point, the thoughts touch something outside my head, something in my heart or soul or call it what you will. And the tears come.

Like they did about ten minutes before I sat down to write this.

The pause came as I sought to discover, what positive comes out of all this wet wailing? And I quickly found several answers in an old Psychology Today article.

(An aside: I love PT. I discovered it in 8th grade or so, and used to read it in the public library before briefly having my own subscription. I’m not a regular reader today, but often when I have questions about emotional or relationship issues, my Google searches seem to take me to the PT site. It even helped me find a therapist when I tried to navigate, unsuccessfully as it turned out, my last relationship.)

So what I found, courtesy of Dr. Judith Orloff, is that we cry for different reasons. My suddenly arising bouts are, not surprisingly, called emotional tears. As with the other two forms of tears, letting out emotional ones has some physical benefits: “Typically after crying, our breathing, and heart rate decrease, and we enter into a calmer biological and emotional state.”

But emotional tears can do so much more. When we cry these tears, we purge stress hormones and toxins from our body. At the same time, we are ramping up the production of endorphins. Orloff says, “Crying makes us feel better, even when a problem persists. In addition to physical detoxification, emotional tears heal the heart.”

Yes, I have felt the benefits of a “good cry.” And maybe when they come unexpectedly, I should truly welcome them, since they indicate that whatever emotional distress I might be feeling on the surface has entrenched itself even deeper within me than I realized. It’s a signal to take stock and take action—and hopefully something more productive than drowning the tears in drink or seeking some other addictive outlet. I guess it’s good that I’ve never been hung up on the idea that “real” men don’t cry. Or not been too concerned about whether people think I fit their or society’s image of masculinity (hey, when you’ve had one of your nuts yanked out of its sack, you don’t get so wrapped up in the external things).

So, my advice to myself and others: cry away, baby. And if you’re with me and you start to cry, I will hold you and comfort you and wipe away the tears. And be happy, too, since you’re doing something so healthy. Do the same for me sometime, OK?

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~ by mburgan on August 2, 2017.

2 Responses to “Let It All Out”

  1. I call it an ugly cry. It takes me a while to get over the physical effects – puffy swollen eyes, red face and lots of snot, but once that passes, I do feel better. Lots better.

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