For anyone who knows me, I’m a crier. For those who don’t know me, let me fill you in…I’m a crier. It’s something I was picked on for as a child, which in turn made me cry more. And something I was criticized for professionally, which made me mad, and ultimately cry. I used to think I cried because I was “sensitive.” That’s what people always said to me. “You’re just too sensitive.” “Why do you have to be so sensitive.”
Before you read on, please listen to this podcast by the Savvy Psychologist, “How to Hold Back Tears.” But come back afterwards, please! Or else, I’ll cry!!!!
As I got into my twenties, I realized that when I cried it wasn’t because I was sensitive, it was that I was mad. I internalized anger into tears. Maybe it was because it’s a more acceptable response for girls, or maybe I just didn’t have the coping skills yet. Once I figured that out, I learned how to better identify my feelings and own my anger. Once I knew why I cried, I started to stand up for myself, learned coping skills to more appropriately address the anger, and I cried a lot less.
The podcast explains the structure and science behind the experiences I’ve had with tears. This Savvy Psychologist episode also touches on crying in the workplace, which was a challenge for me at times. Since having cancer in 2010, I find I’m less patient with people talking down to me, dismissing me, and when there’s male preference in the workplace. Being a woman in an executive position amongst nearly all men, these triggers were rampant. But also crying is even less acceptable the more senior you get. I was able to hold it together most of the time, but there were a few experiences that pushed me over the edge and I was so fuming mad or disappointed that my only remaining response was my eyes welling up. The tears came automatically at that point I knew neither compromise, reasoning, the truth, nor fairness were relevant. Sometimes it was when I felt let down by someone I really respected and trusted (there weren’t too many people that got this spot…the higher they are, the harder the fall). And as these experiences accumulated over the years, my tolerance diminished.
Sometimes though, we are just more emotional than other times. And that’s where hormones come into play. (Men, you have them too…this doesn’t just affect women.)
Other reasons we cry
My other triggers are disappointment, feeling helpless, loss and grief, or HORMONES. I don’t mean the PMS or menopause related hormones – though those equally can make a day that would normally be tear-free, seem like the world is coming to an end. I mean endocrine related hormones. The ones controlled by your thyroid.
I was recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism caused from the high-dose radiation and chemo scatter that hit my throat. I was diagnosed in 2015 or 2016, but I had symptoms prior and just didn’t realize what was happening. I didn’t know a ton about hypo except that I knew it slowed down your metabolism causing fatigue and fat, you get cold more easily, you might be thirsty, your skin gets really dry, and your hair can fall out. My mom is also hypo and what I knew was primarily from seeing her experiences.
What I know now is it also affects your hormones and ultimately emotions. It can be a struggle and a long-term challenge to get your thyroid managed properly with medication. Meanwhile, you’re just trying to function normally day-to-day but your hormones are all over the place. My daughter and I would be watching TV and some sappy commercial comes on and she turns and stares at me for a second and then says, “Are you crying?” She’s not concerned or condescending. It’s a question more about my sanity. And what can I say, that floor was SO clean. A clean floor would move anyone to tears.
In hindsight I can see a correlation in some of the months where I was struggling emotionally and when the disease wasn’t well-managed. I know my symptoms pretty well now and head in to see my doctor whenever something seems off. You can read more on how hypo can cause anxiety.
Doing the emotional work with my therapist over the years has helped me to understand my tears. I encourage you to do the same either with a therapist, a friend, or mapping out when you cry and unwinding what you were really feeling. And for some, maybe it’s your lack of tears that is worth exploring. The podcast I mentioned above might be able to to help you too.
This post is all around tears at awkward times, but I’m grateful I can cry. It’s one of the best stress relievers and speaks to the depth of my emotional access and capacity. This is one of my greatest strengths. And like the headline says, tears often speak greater than words. But it’s kind of like Spider-Man…with great power comes great responsibility. It’s all about honing your gift. Once you understand why you cry, you are in a better position to choose when to turn the faucet on.