Have you ever noticed how easy and simple it is to pour your mind into words to communicate with others, while it’s devastatingly difficult to pinpoint how exactly you feel about something and convey those emotions into words? It feels like it’s right at the tip of your tongue, and yet you have no words to describe how you feel. And then, instead of expressing how you feel—even before you’re able to—your brain sends a signal to react to it. Exploding anger, sorrowful sadness, joyfully jubilant.
I find myself in that position a lot, especially when I was younger. I would run into stressful, uncomfortable situations, so stressful that I can only cry. Don’t get me wrong. Of course I did try to retaliate out of the situation and stand up for myself. But did it work? No. It got worse instead. I remember vividly in one of those situations where I started tearing up, I was trying my best to hold it back, telling myself, “Please don’t cry. Not only are you gonna make yourself look horrible, the situation will look worse.” I can’t control it. “Why are you crying? Are you a girl? Boys don’t cry,” my parents said to me in disappointment.
For the longest time, I loathed myself for being so emotional at things. But now, I’ve come to a peace with myself that it’s okay to let out some emotion, to be more expressive at times. And through this piece of writing, I encourage everyone to do so. We’re a human, after all. It may sound cliché but, showing emotion is not a sign of weakness. If anything, it’s a sign of strength shown through self-acceptance.
But why should anyone be more expressive, especially when it comes to negative feelings that we tend to avoid as if it’s a taboo? Let me bring out the big guns, and by big guns I mean data to validate my opinion.
I noticed that this social stigma is deeply engraved in our society, whichever part of the world we live in. Take this old story from an English ex-footballer Dean Windass for an example. At the age of six or seven, he was instructed by everyone around him that boys don’t cry as it is a sign of failure. In an interview in 2012, Dean revealed that he had two suicide attempts in a month after battling with depression for 2 years.
“Why did he have to take his own life? Couldn’t he just speak up?”
Boy oh boy, if it were that easy, I wouldn’t be writing this right now.
From the same source, he mentioned that the moment he spoke up, he instantly became a laughing stock. “Everyone thinks that Dean Windass is a laugh and a joke and a kid blah blah blah, and got loads of money and his wife and kids are lovely. But that's all a mask. I was in pieces, I couldn't stop drinking or crying. I've cried every day for the last two years,” Dean told People.(1)
My supporting data doesn’t stop there. There is a research from WHO (World Health Organization) that stated there were an estimated 793,000 suicide deaths worldwide in 2016 alone. Most were men. The main cause of this issue is the aforementioned social stigma. You cry, you lose. Men tend to bottle up their problems as society encourages them—for generations—to be “strong” and admit that they’re not struggling.(2)
There are many ways we can do to recover when in such situation. Speaking up to someone we can completely trust is probably the first thing we can do. Though it may seem easy to do so, people tend to be judgmental and end up not being helpful, or even make matters even worse, which is why it’s hard to open up, as far as my observation goes. Another method to try is to seek out for professional help, i.e. therapists. It’s always something that I see people recommend to those who have hit rock bottom.
I personally have not been to one, to be honest. What I do to cope with that kind of depression is reaching out to someone close to me, whom I can completely trust without a shadow of doubt. I know it’s not easy to find a friend or anyone that can be your support system at times like this, but once you find one(s) that you can believe in and lean on to, you should be very grateful and treat them right.
What I’m trying to say through this piece of writing is that it is perfectly fine to cry when you’re sad or stressed out. In fact, crying is scientifically proven to have a self-soothing effect. Study shows that when we cry, we are releasing chemicals called oxytocin and endorphins that help us relieve emotional pain.(3)
Cry your heart out. Don’t be ashamed of it. Putting a strong front is tiring. Let loose a little bit. -HL
(1) Ally Fogg, ‘We tell boys not to cry, then wonder about male suicide’, The Guardian <https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/jan/17/boys-cry-male-suicide-dean-windass> [December 4, 2020]
(2) Helene Schumacher, ‘Why more men than women die by suicide’, BBC.com <https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190313-why-more-men-kill-themselves-than-women> [December 4, 2020]
(3) Asmir Gračanin, Lauren M. Bylsma, and Ad J. J. M. Vingerhoets, ‘Is crying a self-soothing behavior?’, US National Library of Medicine <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4035568/> [December 4, 2020]