I am fond of the expression, “sometimes you have to laugh or you’ll cry,” and I use it a lot, often laughing at circumstances and myself. It seems though that over the past week or so, I had used up my allotment of laughter and it was more like, “sometimes you just have to cry it out.” There was nothing catastrophic or out of the ordinary that happened to bring on this fit of emotion, sometimes it just happens to me and I’ve learned to go with it. I’ve always been a highly sensitive person, often being affected not only by my own emotions, but also by the emotions of the people around me. Maybe it has something to do with bipolar disorder, or rejection sensitivity, or anxiety. But, here’s the kicker, when these specific moments hit, I’m not sad, my moods are good, and there is no underlying reason for why I’m floored with this flood of emotion. So I honestly cannot tell you what it is. All I know is that from time to time, I need an epic cry and after I have that, I feel rejuvenated.
Before we get right into this, here’s a link to an article about the science of tears. We have three different kinds of tears, who knew? I am not a doctor. I’m not a therapist. I have absolutely no standing when it comes to diagnosing or treating people with any ailment whatsoever. But, I am a person who lives every single day with an illness that is sometimes so debilitating that I struggle to get out of bed. This illness has also granted me the ability to experience some of the most heightened feelings that I can’t even begin to put into words. Bipolar disorder really can be a roller coaster ride of intense emotions and swings and that can be very unsettling to say the least, so when I am in a good spot and am overcome with a need to cry it out, I’m ok with that. I’ve embraced the fact that I am just built this way. I understand that other people may not feel the same way as I do; in fact they may feel quite the opposite and find this behaviour very upsetting. Maybe reading some of the benefits of crying will help reassure you that it’s natural, normal, and really good for you too.
The director of The Alzheimer’s Research Center at Region’s Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota is Dr. William H. Frey PhD, a neuroscientist and tear researcher who studies the effects of crying and tears.
According to Frey, “crying is not only a human response to sorrow and frustration, it’s a healthy one. Crying is a natural way to reduce emotional stress that, left unchecked, has negative physical affects on the body, including increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and other stress-related disorders.”
The Health benefits of Shedding Those Tears
Crying relieves stress – There are few people that are not aware of the damage that unalleviated stress can do to us. Our minds and bodies are inextricably linked and often times if one is affected, the other suffers as well. Mental health and physical health are both health, and they both need our care and attention. The stress related tears actually help rid your body of toxins that raise cortisol levels.
Crying eases agitation – According to Dr. Frey, most people feel less sad and angry after crying. When you’re calmer your agitation comes down. That starts a chain reaction of bringing down your anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate, putting you into a much more soothing state.
Crying can help express emotion – Some people believe that crying helps expose deep emotion, ultimately giving the opportunity to then express that emotion in a clear and concise manner. When we can become self aware of how we are feeling and validate that ourselves, we are opening up a door to letting others in as well.
Crying has had a really bad stigma attached to it, but thankfully that’s starting to change. I can’t begin to count how many times I have heard people say to boys, “Act like a man, boys don’t cry.” This is seriously one of the most damaging things you can tell someone. For years crying has been frowned upon, showing any type of emotion actually has been looked down on. Like I said, I’m not a doctor, but that just seems really detrimental to me. If we’re continually told to, “suck it up” or, “get over it,” that is just dismissing our feelings, and it’s no wonder people shove everything inside of them and is surprised when it eventually starts leaking out of their face.
Look, as I always say this isn’t going to make everything better, but acknowledging your feelings, even if you don’t know why you’re having them, is ok. Crying is cathartic, it just is, and look at the connections that happen when you see someone cry, you’re there to offer a hug, or an ear to listen. Emotions bring human connection with them, empathy and compassion.
Crying is nothing to be ashamed of. But, if you’re finding yourself crying all of the time, or are depressed, having thoughts of harming yourself, I would like you to make an appointment with your doctor or therapist. If you’re in a crisis situation the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always available, as is your closest ER.
Crying can ease sorrow and grief, it can lessen anger and rage, and it can provide comfort and bring people together. Sometimes I just need that epic cry to cleanse this old soul and get my balance back a little bit. Think of it as a much-needed rainfall during a very dry summer, now everything is replenished.