I’m a crier. Whether it’s born from anxiety and stress or gratitude and joy, I’m a crier, and it’s only over the past few years I’ve realized that it’s absolutely OK.
I’m fortunate to be part of a family who is all very in tune with their emotions; checking in regularly with each other with no expectation to be full of smiles 24/7. Nevertheless, growing up, I was what I considered overly sensitive at times.
I wasn’t a perfect child (who was?), and so inevitably, there was the odd telling-off every now and again.
Sometimes I’d give the teenage shrug, grunt a little and spend the rest of the night feeling sorry for myself, peeking out of the duvet to watch Mary-Kate and Ashley.
Other times, I’d take it badly. I’d cry as a defense mechanism, helping to protect myself from the intense sense of guilt triggered by what I dramatically assumed to be disappointing my parents. Baring in mind, they always expressed how immensely proud they were of me; my reaction was often completely in-congruent with the situation.
Oh, the joys of being a perfectionist.
As I grew up, this continued. The difference this time was that I could no longer pinpoint the circumstances leading to the first gust of this emotional tornado.
Different things started to happen; my heart would race, my breathing was hard to manage, and my brain jumped to the worst possible conclusions. When I felt out of control, I’d cry, and, unfortunately for me, this loss of control usually happened in times of increased stress.
So, what did I do?
I decided to go to university. To dive, head first, into what is considered one of the most stressful events throughout adulthood; and chose an intense psychiatric nursing course to add to the pressure.
Although university life brought a lot of challenges for me, it also showed me my strength. My fabulous university allowed me to gain access to support to really understand what was going on.
And the main culprit? Anxiety.
So often, as women, our demonstrations of emotion are seen as a weakness of our sex; when it has nothing to do with our sex at all. I’d argue that managing intense emotion takes a lot of courage.
We all have anxiety. We all need anxiety to some extent, so the most important thing I learned was that no matter how many people say “there’s no point in crying,” your feelings are valid. And if you’re reading this, thinking about a recent insult to your sensitivity, you can take comfort from this; and you don’t need a formal diagnosis or a therapist for this to be true!
I understand that validation doesn’t make the emotional roller-coaster any easier. But there are things we can do to help us to rationalize situations for less inner turmoil. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
Like me, if you are one of the 20% of people born as a hypersensitive person, please don’t see this as a flaw. Research shows that highly-sensitive people are a lot more self-aware, have great communication skills, and take their time to make decisions. We can use all of this to our advantage.
I’ve cried from physical exhaustion. But I’m still climbing the mountain.
I’ve cried when I’ve been stressed. And I was supported to achieve.
I’ve cried when I haven’t felt good enough. And my colleagues helped show me that I am.
I’ve cried from loss. And it was the release I needed.
I’ve cried from overwhelm, with no specific trigger. And I no longer judge myself for this.
I’m a sensitive person, and that’s OK.