I listen to my iPod playlist in the car, and since I spend a lot of time in car driving to many things, I listen a lot. I have some Dane Cook albums along with some other comedians on my playlist, to mix it up a little and get a laugh in here and there . I heard his skit about crying, how you sometimes you just know you are going to cry but you try to hide it or hold it back until you are alone. He makes it funny, talking about how you get those pre-cry breaths where you almost stutter because you are trying to hold it in, or how other people around you will notice that you are blinking back tears but you make up an excuse about allergies or sticking a pencil in your eye accidentally (who does that?). But everyone has those moments, those times where you know you are going to cry and you know you need to, for whatever reason. I’ve had that going for the last few days and even let a few tears slide by one day.
I have been really lonely as of late – okay, I’ve been lonely since January but more so recently. I have some friends here, but we are all busy and have our own lives going on. I have my kids, and they definitely keep me busy, entertained, frustrated, and often confused. I have support from therapists, teachers, and other personnel for our family. But at the end of the day, I am just lonely. I hate going to bed alone, I hate not having anyone to hang out with on a Friday night, I hate being the only grown-up in this house, and I hate doing all of the normal things and family things by myself. None of this is new to me, and our life is always like this. At the same time, the loneliness doesn’t go away, and I think I would be more worried if I wasn’t lonely and longing for my husband when he was gone.
At this point, you’re probably wondering how this connects to my crying, right? Well sometimes, the weight of everything – all the things for the kids, doing it alone, the confusion and frustrations of living here, the loneliness – they all hit me at once. It feels like a punch in the gut, and those are the times where I just want to sob or break down. I cannot though, at least not in front of my kids or in public. So I try to hold it all in, to breathe and remember to take each thing one at a time. Something small will always set it off though. I was with Addie at her playgroup on Thursday, and once again she would not follow directions to either sit still or to do her crafts. This is not uncommon, and we usually end up with a small struggle during this time. On this day though, I just started crying. She was on a timeout, where she would wait until she made the choice to sit with the others, and the therapists were being very supportive. However, I just felt the tears slide down my cheeks, and all I could mutter was how tired I was (which I always am). One of them hugged me, reassuring me that she was fine, that I was fine, and that it was all okay. I was more embarrassed that I had let that happen. You never feel more vulnerable and a little inadequate when you can not keep it together in front of people. I’ve spent the past few days just trying to keep it together. Little things start to trigger the tears – dealing with a defiant 2 year old, again, or trying to argue in broken Italian and English with a phone company – but I’ve been holding up pretty well.
I’m not depressed (before you ask) and I was curious to know how and why we need to cry. Crying is a basic instinct. Babies do it to communicate their needs since they cannot form words. Children do it to communicate emotions like pain, fear, and anger. Adults cry for these reasons as well. But what drives the need to cry, especially for the little things that should not matter so much? I found an excellent article from The Independent titled “How Crying Can Make You Healthier” that gives a few insights into why crying is healthy and therapeutic. It notes that the exact cause or reasons for crying are still concrete. However, it notes that crying must have a practical purpose and a reason for it to survive evolution and remain a common emotional expression. There is one theory that crying is a form of emotional recovery and that tears are a way of releasing chemicals and hormones that are built up during emotional stress. There is evidence that tears released during emotional stress have higher levels of proteins, potassium, manganese, and prolactin. Too much or too little of these can be detrimental to your health, and some theorize that the release of these in tears helps to slightly bring the body back in balance. Another indirect theory is that crying can help reduce pain by inducing contact and support from another human, and physical contact with others can improve well-being.
The majority of research shows that many people feel better after crying, a whopping 88% as compared to 8.4% of people who felt worse afterwards. A study at the University of South Florida showed this, but the researchers also expressed a desire to do more intensive study of the brain and its participants to develop a better understanding of why crying occurs. More work needs to be done, but it seems that most experts agree that crying can be therapeutic and healthy. It is even becoming more acceptable in society, although I still don’t like the idea of crying in front of others. Crying releases stress and emotions that are built up, sometimes without even being aware of this. Sometimes, it just feels good to literally cry it out and start again, right?
Regardless of the reasons or the circumstances, we’re all going to cry at some point. I would say this is better than drowning our sorrows in a bottle or turning to any other destructive behaviors. Crying is free, it does make me feel a little better afterwards, and the worst side effects I have are damp sleeve from wiping my tears and some smeared mascara. I like to act like I can handle everything, but sometimes, I just need to cry out the loneliness, the frustration, and the anger. When I’m done, the circumstances probably haven’t changed, but I might feel a little lighter and a little more capable of taking it all on again.
***Thanks to The Independent for the great article and information! http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/how-crying-can-make-you-healthier-1009169.html ***