Monday, 11 November 2019

BRiC's Collective Voice: Crying: It's benefits; 28 Aug. 2019

'Perhaps crying is like a muscle, it needs to be exercised regularly in order that we can regulate it. Tears have a job to do, and serve a purpose.'

According to wikipedia, crying is the shedding of response to an emotional state, pain or a physical irritation in the eye. How often we refer to crying as having something in my eye, to explain it away, make light of it. Crying is as natural as laughing, but it’s seen as inappropriate to cry in many situations, and so we hold our tears in and put on our brave smiling face.

Our discussion on crying showed that within our group we have some women who cry at the drop of a hat, and others who never cry. Some of us would like to cry a little less easily, others would give anything for a good cry. For all of us, we worry that once we start to cry, we won’t be able to stop. Crying is a natural healthy way to release emotion, and can help us to get rid of emotion that we can’t label or talk about. A good cry can help us to feel lighter, relaxed and relieved.

Many of us have been brought up to hide our tears, believing it to be a sign of weakness. We save our tears for when we are alone.

Naz told us that there is some evidence that after a good cry we are better able to cope with stress. This indicates that it is good for us to cry when we feel overwhelmed. Many find that bottled up tears will escape at some point, perhaps when we at last have time to relax, away from our busy lives, or when our tears are triggered by something beautiful or poignant.

Our members, all of whom have a diagnosis of breast cancer, some primary and some secondary, reported many different experiences of crying. Some of us report feeling numb, unable to feel, unable to cry, perhaps because the pain of crying is too much to bear. Crying requires a letting go that feels impossible to face, but if we do, we may find that the very act of crying can bring us closer to our feelings, and by allowing ourselves to feel, we build the resilience we need to help us to move forward through ongoing difficulties.

Some of us noted that tears of joy and pride are frequent, perhaps because we become more appreciative and grateful after a breast cancer diagnosis. A bout of crying may start from something trivial - a tv advert, a newspaper article, something quite distant that resonates with us - but then our tears turn inwards and we find ourselves crying our hearts out, letting go of complicated emotions that we can’t even put names to.

Many of us push back tears, finding them intrusive and feeling that we don’t have time to cry. Some of us are afraid to cry, afraid to unleash our emotions. We may find crying depletes us of energy so we hold on to tears for fear of exhaustion. Some of us are ok with crying, but we don’t like it when tears catch us by surprise and we don’t know why we are crying. This can lead to a feeling of helplessness, that we are out of control and our tears are controlling us.

The shower is a common place for us to shed tears, getting rid of some of our emotion before we start our day. Our tears mix with the water as we cleanse our bodies and our feelings. Many of us find this a helpful way to start our day. Perhaps crying is like a muscle, it needs to be exercised regularly in order that we can regulate it. Tears have a job to do, and serve a purpose. And although many of us worry that once we start crying we won’t be able to stop, we do stop as our bodies have a way of ensuring we continue to breathe.

For those of us who can’t cry, Naz reassured us that it’s ok, it’s a normal reaction to trauma or grief. Learning to sit with our feelings is very hard, and can be helped by practising deep breathing, just sitting still and breathing in and out. Some of us did report a long period of not crying which ended with a surprising trigger and a good long cry.

Dry eyes can be a side effect of our medication and for those suffering, crying can actually hurt, which is a cruel contradiction for those seeking the relief that crying can bring.

We would like it to be ok to cry, for people to be able to sit with us while we cry and not be embarrassed or feel they have to put an arm around us. Counsellors are taught this and can be good at sitting with us while we cry. Lots of us keep our tears for when we are on our own, not wanting our loved ones to see us as weak.

Whether we love a good cry or find ourselves holding back the tears, our crying is part of our healing, part of our emotional release, part of our vulnerability and part of building our resilience.

If you are a woman living in the UK with a breast cancer diagnosis and you would like to join our private group, please leave your name in the comments or send us a private message.

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