For me crying used to be a lot like death, it was something that happened to other people.
“It’s just allergies.” I said wiping the tears out of my eyes. Seasonal allergies in the middle of winter?
“I’ve got something in my eye.” I said convincingly another time nodding off sadness.
Are you crying? Nervous laughter and sniffling, “What makes you think that?”
Tears? How many times had I escaped my feelings?
In fact, for a solid 30 years I’d become an expert at not showing my true emotions when feeling them. Cue the highlight reel:
- I gave birth twice with no epidural and debilitating back labor and proudly did not cry, scream, or swear. Oddly, I did not cry when I saw my children for the first time.
- Funerals, like a soldier of stoicism I’d take it in completely detached from the emotion of the moment. What was crying going to do?
- Oh, did you just say you’ve been having a secret life since before we were married nearly a decade ago? Frankly, I’m too relieved to shed one tear. Turns out I wasn’t crazy after all. Well, maybe just a different kind of crazy.
Somewhat unconsciously I wore my emotional delay like a badge of honor. While I would not publicly cry, I most certainly privately suffered. Each day trauma landmines exploded around me while trigger lines ignited implosions within me. It was as though my internal voice dismissed the flames as an excessive measure.
Six straight days, that’s how long I could keep it together. Boy did it look convincing on the outside: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday handling things like a boss and then, well, then came Sunday. Sundays. Sundays. They used to have a way of getting under my skin and whispering the truth into the ignored weekly wreckage.
The problem with not being able to cry is that you lose the ability to cry out.
All that suppression and buildup would float to the surface like a secret you just couldn’t drown. Feelings. All the feelings I felt would begin to come out after thinking thoughts so painful that my chest hurt: You fit in nowhere and are wanted by no one. Look at you, you are disgusting. Pathetic, such a loser.
Not sure what which byproduct was more shocking, the heart testing and endoscopy exploration in search of the root of my health symptoms or the bills that came after? Apparently, unaddressed issues are not only hazardous for your health but are also expensive.
Sundays were hell. They were made so by a mindset that force fed me venom by the second. The conditions were always perfect for this downward spiral as there was nothing to accomplish on Sundays. Back then I thrived on accomplishment therefore Sundays had nothing to offer. That day was still. In that stillness my pain lurked, laughing and sneering at my growing hopelessness.
At the root of this pattern was a desire to control. By controlling my emotions I’d be safe, in theory, since I was in control. Unknowingly, one of my fears was for my emotions to control me. The irony was that this is exactly what would happen every seventh day, my emotions would take over. The other part to this habit was to really feel my feels potentially meant getting down. Could I get back up out of the darkness if I truly allowed myself to collapse?
There are certain unspoken truths that don’t make it onto social media posts or LinkedIn articles. Truths like:
I hate my job. I am broke. I am lonely. I hate myself. I dislike my life.
If this is you, hear me now: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Under the smiling face, hashtags, and pictures of what we are most grateful for, in some way we are all dying inside. No one’s life is what it seems. No one is untouched by heartache, disappointment, or failure. In some small space in each of us there is a need for a bigger hope. For a truth to emerge that silences the lies and calls us forward into greatness.
The problem with not being able to cry is that you lose the ability to cry out. When you’ve lost your voice it is as though no one hears you, not even yourself. Perhaps we don’t disclose these unspoken truths because we know that we can change them? When we take ownership of our thoughts we move into a place of power that has the potential to dispel.
Sundays no longer haunt me. In fact, as I’ve begun acknowledging my feelings in real time, many things have changed. Whatever we want to change in our lives can mostly be done. I stand in solidarity with those who have the courage to speak their truth and adjust. Emotions can not be outsourced for others to address or squelched like a bug. This one thing is true: the only permission needed to speak your truth or feel your feels comes from within.
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Jennifer Magley is a former Professional Athlete, High Performance Coach, NCAA Division I Head Coach, Entrepreneur, Activist, Single Mother, and Author. She has received national media coverage most notably by USA Today, CNN, ESPN, and Heart & Soul Magazine. Magley is the author of Division I a novel and is an in-demand inspirational speaker.