Sometimes, life is just a bit too much. Sometimes things are a bit crap. I’m not going to define what crap is. It might be catastrophically crap; it might be an everyday, yet relentless sort of crap. But it happens to all of us.
My current sort of crap is the type that is little things piled on top big things that all conspire to crush me.
The big one, as I’ve mentioned on this blog before, is that my grandmother is dying. She brought me up when I was little and is one of the people I love most in the world. She has been unresponsive for months now and we’re finally moving her into hospice care. It has been difficult: missing her already but not feeling I’m allowed to grieve until she’s truly all-the-way gone. And I have yet before me the task of learning how to exist in a world without her in it.
The second biggest one is that I keep having these weird episodes in which my heart pounds and races. The other day one of the episodes lasted a full 10 minutes and my Fitbit said my heart rate was 194 bpm. I ended up spending that night in A&E, but they didn’t find anything wrong beyond a slight arrhythmia – which is apparently pretty common. So I’ve been worried about my health. Do I have a heart problem or is a stress/anxiety thing? I don’t know yet.
And then there are lots of other little/big things. Getting called in by the headteacher at school to meet about my son’s “behavioural issues”. The mum that snubbed me at the school gates. Running behind with work deadlines. Feeling emotional at work and fighting back tears at ridiculously inappropriate moments. Feeling fed up with blogging and yet not truly wanting to quit.
I’m sure all of you can relate to some of this. Big problems, little problems, 1st world problems – whatever. There is no hierarchy of problems. The fact is: if they are upsetting you, affecting you, making it difficult for you to function as you would wish, then they are significant.
Ignoring these things, downplaying them and telling yourself to get over it is not going to help. You need to confront these feelings head on. To say, “this is the way I’m feeling, and that’s okay”.
But at the same time, we all have a lot on our plates. I know there have been days when all I wanted to do was curl up on the floor and wallow in my grief. But I didn’t. Because I couldn’t. I’ve got small people to look after. And if I lay down on the floor they are going to jump on top of me and demand to be flown around in the air.
I have a job that needs doing because I have a mortgage that needs paying. I have other friends and family that need me to be there for them. As much as I’d like to, I just can’t give up. I can’t mentally check out and take a holiday from all of my responsibilities.
And so the pressure of all of my troubles weigh on me and are compounded by my need to keep on going even when I want to quit.
But the other day, after I’d spent the night in A&E – when I felt tired and lost and lonely and sad and fed up – I had a revelation. My husband was at work. My kids were at school and nursery. I’d called in sick to work because I’d been awake all night in hospital. And when my grief pricked me in the eye, I let it. There was no one there to see.
So I cried.
But I didn’t cry like a grownup. I didn’t cry the way you cry at a sad movie, with tears running down your face quietly and the odd little hiccup. I didn’t cry the way you do in front of other people, when you are desperately trying to stop – trying to hide it – apologising for your crass display of emotion.
I cried like a child. I screamed. I moaned and groaned and probably sounded much like a cow giving birth. Nobody could hear me. So I let every messy feeling pour out in tears and great wracking sobs.
And when my tears dried up and I was tired of railing against the universe, I simply stopped. And it was like a great weight had been lifted.
I’ve since been doing a bit of googling about crying and apparently there is scientific evidence that crying releases stress. Tears actually contain stress hormones that are leaving your body when you let them go.
Ever since my big cry, everything has seemed easier. I’m not crying at work anymore. I’m not feeling as tense around my family. I’m able to keep doing what I need to do while I weather my personal storms. I had thought if I didn’t cry, I was being strong. But really I was stifling all of the emotions that scared me, instead of facing them. When I didn’t let them out, they festered.
So I’m not going to start making crying one of my big hobbies. But it’s comforting to know that I can – and should – cry when I need to.
Crying is okay AND it helps. So the next time it’s all a bit (or more than a bit) crap, send the family out of the house, close the curtains, put the kettle on, and let the tears flow.