I’ve never been good at showing emotion. Especially not at crying. I’ve always used humour to deflect the situation. (The really smart ones amongst you may have noticed that already.) My parents always told me to be brave and strong and never let people know that they’d hurt me. Perhaps that’s good advice – I just took it much too far.
Throughout my teens and my twenties I took a quiet pride in the fact that I was ‘hardcore’. I was infamous amongst my friends for the fact that I never cried at anything. I said ‘hardcore’, they said ‘heart of stone’. Mostly in jest. The problem with all this restraint was that it looked like I didn’t care. After a while I was mostly just scared that if I ever started crying, I’d never stop.
Realistically, I can’t function like that. At my core, I am actually over-sensitive. I need a good cry every so often. Sometimes very often. When I met Wes I let my guard down, and started to learn that it’s ok to have emotions. He was determined that he wanted to know the real me – despite the fact that even I didn’t know what that was. There’s a reason so many people have told him he’s a ‘brave brave man.’
Slowly, slowly, I’m learning to be more honest emotionally. Depression doesn’t help – but the hormones of pregnancy and motherhood certainly do. When I was pregnant with Elvie I cried watching the X Factor Final, before the opening credits had finished, because somebody’s life was about to change forever. Now I cry at home improvement shows, John Lewis christmas adverts and, more importantly, real life events. Tears of both sadness and joy come a lot more naturally now. I’ve discovered that I physically need to cry – that it’s the best way to get rid of frustration and anger and sadness. Otherwise everything goes round and round in my head, and my stomach.
I’ve definitely not cracked it. My depression makes stress worse. Maybe it doesn’t make any difference to the stress, but it affects the way I deal with it. The last few days have been busy. I’ve done a lot, probably too much. And I’m worn out. My brain is tired too. And it’s whirling around in circles. Running over all the stresses that would otherwise be sitting at the back of my mind. Money, work, planning for our weekend away, Wes’ impending week-long work trip, how I’ll manage the toddler-group-free summer holidays. All those stresses, going round and round and round. This morning we had an argument about disciplining the children. And it all builds up in my head until it gets unbearable. All I want to do is curl up in a dark room and sleep. Preferably for a while, until it all goes away.
I’ve needed to cry for the last three days. But I’ve tried to be brave. To be strong. To hold it all together. Determined not to ‘give in’. It backfired – as it always does. Heather turned up this morning with chocolates and kindness and it was all too much. There were lots of very embarrassing tears. So many that Wes abandoned his plan for a much needed nap to be on hand and help out with the children. It ended well. And the chocolates are delicious!
The children don’t have these problems – they’re so free with their tears and their anger and their screams.
Honestly, it scares me. I don’t know how to handle all that raw emotion. I hear myself saying “stop crying” all the time, and getting annoyed when they hurt themselves and scream, rather than caring for them like I should. I find it really hard to handle. I know that I need to learn, otherwise they’ll end up just like me. I don’t want to teach them that ‘being brave’ means sitting on your emotions and never letting them out.
Because I’m beginning to think it’s the opposite.