Elisa A. Escalante/ LMSW/ 06-04-2020
“You can look at all external factors of a person’s life, and believe that you understand them, or know their pain. But you won’t. Suffering is an internal, emotional bleeding. By the time it is truly seen, it may be too late.”
I used to hate myself for being the “cry baby” of my family. The cry baby anytime someone said anything remotely hurtful to where I had to suck in tears all day and let it out at the end of a school or work shift. I hated how quickly the tears surfaced behind my eyeballs the moment any external trigger, whether it be an individual person or unfortunate life event, happened to hit me the wrong way. As a matter of fact, one of the major reasons I enlisted in the military was to “deal” with this issue. If I cannot toughen up on my own, perhaps the military can do it for me. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect and it took me a long time to realize why. Despite what our societal and military teachings tell us, we do not actually “toughen up” when horrific events and extreme discipline happen to us. Rather, we learn to suppress pain even more. The accumulated build up of anger may cause rage, the accumulated buildup of anxiety may cause agoraphobia. Then, the accumulated buildup of depression may cause… crying spells.
If we cannot process, address, and heal our mental pain, we will bleed it instead. Emotions are never wrong, but they can often get misplaced due to the demanding nature of life. Accompany that with a deep-seated fear/ stigma of emotional expression, people often have a hard time placing where their triggers are coming from. Most people have admitted to having anger, anxiety and crying outbursts that appear to have “come out of nowhere”. However, if we think deep and hard about our personal histories, we may realize that there were life events that justified our sadness and grief. Can we give ourselves permission to cry and to grieve? Can we give our loved ones that permission and validation? Our coworkers, our peers?
I can honestly say that I have been torn through life. I am a crier and I have had so much to cry about, but I also had this military and martial arts background. I, like many, have been torn between facing trauma and pain, but requiring a presence of apathy, or courage and strength. Crying was a luxury, reserved for the bedroom when no one was watching. Even if I secretly wanted the outlet in public, it would have been a direct insult to the people of my helping profession, military work unit and anyone that is threatened by the reminder that yes, sadness does exist in this world. I had absolutely put this theory to the test in the past many times, and my grievances were often met with deflective and invalidating statements, even from other mental health professionals sadly. My clients have put it to the test as well with their friends and loved ones, to be met with similar responses.
Scientifically speaking, crying is an outlet/ release that can help humans feel better, but societally speaking it seems to be viewed as a “negative emotion”. No one wants sadness, but it exists. No one wants to deal with trauma, grief and depression and everything that comes with it, but it is an inevitable part of our suffering. If we train ourselves to block off these crucial emotional outlets such as crying or ‘venting’, we lose touch with ourselves. If we are not aware of how sad something can make us, we lose sight of when/ where to implement healthy boundaries. It is very possible that a human being may continuously expose themselves to high amounts of suffering but have no clue the amount of damage it may be causing.
As stressful as our occupations may be (work, parenting, school), they do serve as a form of avoidance. Meaning, if we are engaged with a busy activity for long periods of time and at a high pace, we are not feeling. Humans tend to want to gear more toward productivity and false positivity, they believe it is the way to happiness. Then they cry and/ or drug the pain away later when no one is watching. A part of what makes mental illness so hard is the unbearable feeling of loneliness people experience when there is no one in their world talking to them about it. It can feel extremely scary when people start to believe that “they are the only one” that is engaging in crying spells, mental breakdowns, fleeting suicidal thoughts and an overall hardship with living daily life. We should remember that in most cases, people deflect and invalidate our pain not because they are ‘stronger’ than us, but because they are terrified of being vulnerable. Vulnerability shows strength, a strength many of us cannot seem to muster.
Overall, the world needs more answers, we need to talk about this. The cry babies need to know they are not actually ‘babies.’ Since I could not cry at the appropriate and opportune times to do so, my crying came out in loneliness, during binge cycles, during sappy Romcoms and sad movies, during a strenuous workout or competition. My cry outs come in the form of my journaling, blogging, social media posts as well as my nightmares. Some may read this and think ‘wow that sounds like a sensitive and weak person that cannot handle life’. However, anyone that knew me through my teens and twenties would have never guessed that this is who I was behind closed doors. The perception was that “I always had my shit together and everything seemed to come so easy”. Unfortunately, from a young age, I hated waking up and facing the day ahead of me, and still do. I saw the world in a negative light, and still do. I saw in the flesh, the tragedy of what war can bring, and I still see it. I fight it on the daily, I help my clients fight their battles on the daily. Self-healing and self-care are beautiful processes if we are ever fortunate enough to learn them.
This applies to every human in the world, we absolutely do not know what our coworkers, friends and family members are suffering through unless we open the dialogue. It is terrifying but we do need to ask the real questions sometimes. Do not hide behind conversations about candles and towels, dig deep. Do not change the subject the moment someone introduces the topic of mental pain, it exists. For the sake of ourselves and others we must dig deeper if we want to support each other through mental battles. Do not believe that perception is reality. Do not believe that difficult and complex emotions have easy solutions and answers. A person that smiles everyday could be the next suicide victim.
2 thoughts on “Cry Baby”
Everyone needs to read this, then just sit and let yourself take a breath and absorb it all. EXCELLENT blog!
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Well said, well written
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