I’ve just watched a really fascinating documentary called “For Crying Out Loud” which was on BBC4 last week, where Jo Brand explored why it is that she doesn’t cry easily.
This really struck a chord with me, as until fairly recently, I was exactly the same. I couldn’t cry. If I started to feel that I might, I would automatically stop myself. The only time I couldn’t stop myself was if I was really very angry, and sometimes that was the worst possible place for me to cry, as it made it impossible for me to express why I was so angry without becoming a sopping wet, slurry mess!
When I was at university, I was persuaded to ask for help. Not only could I not cry, but I was beginning to become a recluse, spending hours in my tiny halls-of-residence room, and eating vast quantities of food. One memorable night, I sat through all umpteen hours of Children in Need and consumed a whole family-sized tub of marshmallow and a dozen or so chocolate bars in one session. I stopped going to lectures, and retreated into serious depression. One friend (and you know who you are) probably saved my life. She carried on visiting me, once a week, without fail. It was she who finally persuaded me I needed help, and thank goodness she did.
It didn’t take me long to convince my GP that my need was critical, and I started my six sessions with the NHS counsellor the following week. She was fantastic, and even carried on counselling me on her own time (and completely free) after my NHS sessions came to an end.
However, it wasn’t until after I left Uni that I realised I needed to address my inability to cry. I found a really brilliant counsellor through my local women’s centre in Brighton, in order to continue the work I’d started at Uni. The first thing she did was to ask me to write down what I hoped to achieve from my sessions with her. What came as a shock to me was that, once we had been through my list and prioritised it, the most important thing for me turned out to be my inability to cry. I even put it above “not feeling sad”.
Now, thanks to her and the work we did, I can cry. I also know exactly why I stopped crying before, although it took me a long time to work that out. I stopped because I was told to. In the strange cult school I went to (another story for another time) crying was not only seen as a weakness, it was actively punished. Very quickly, the girls in my class swapped “tips” on how not to cry, no matter how angry or upset you were (and believe me, I got very angry and upset virtually every day at school). This then became so natural, that long after we had left the school, and I had moved on into adulthood, I still couldn’t do it. My counsellor then worked with me to help me cry for the unhappy little girl I had been, so that even now just thinking about her as I type has caused a lump to come to my throat.
Once I could cry for her, somehow I could cry for my adult self too. Now I cry at everything, including weepie films, dramas and even adverts!
But most importantly, I can cry for myself, and I can let that stress out, rather than bottling it up like I used to. There is a lot of scientific evidence that high levels of stress in childhood can cause illness in later life, in particular auto-immune disorders. Both me and my sister suffer from auto-immune disorders. This could be a coincidence, but I think it has much more to do with internalised stress when we were children.
So, thank goodness I’ve finally learned to let it all out. Now I’m off to have a really good cry!