Lately I’ve experimented with revealing my tear-stained face to friends and family as a way of being honest about my feelings. If people see that I’ve been crying, that tells a lot about my current state. But what if you don’t want people to know that you’ve been crying? What if the fear of people knowing you were crying keeps you from crying in the first place?
I first started to self-harm because a cut was easier to hide than a tearful face. Then, of course, that backfired because I had to hide scars once t-shirt season arrived again, that were proof that I’d been hurting months and months ago. Had I cried at the time I was upset, people would’ve known for maybe an hour or two and then the evidence would have been gone.
Crying can be embarrassing but we get the urge to cry for a reason: it’s our built-in coping mechanism for dealing with stress and pain. Our bodies don’t waste energy on things that aren’t helpful. Even getting goosebumps when you’re freaked out has a purpose: it’s to raise the hair on your skin to make your body look bigger and scarier to potential predators. Just like a freaked out cat!
“Maybe crying is a means of cleaning yourself out emotionally. Or maybe it’s your communication of last resort; the only way to express yourself when words fail the same as when you were a baby and had no words.”
It might seem kind of dumb to write a how-to guide for something we all do naturally within seconds of being born, but I think our urge to cry gets smothered in today’s culture that label such normal coping methods as weak or unflattering. Can you imagine how ridiculous it would be to say to someone, “You don’t have to pee! Don’t be a baby! Do ______ instead?”
Anyway, I’ve cried a lot lately because things have been difficult and I’m trying really hard to cope in healthy ways. Sometimes I don’t hide the fact that I’ve been crying but other times I really want to, especially if I feel better after crying and don’t feel like talking about it anymore. That happened yesterday and I think I did a stellar job at hiding the evidence. But first, I needed to cry it out.
How to Handle a Good Cry
1. Let yourself feel everything you’re feeling
Give yourself permission to feel everything that you’re feeling. Don’t beat yourself up by calling yourself names. (My mom used to tell me not to feel sorry for myself so now I think, “Damn right, I feel sorry for myself! And it’s okay!”)
2. Keep Kleenex/tissues nearby.
Yesterday I needed two boxes. Also get a garbage can so your dog doesn’t eat your snotty mess.
Keep a glass of water with you. You’re losing a lot of liquid through your tear ducts and your runny nose. Taking a drink can also help you slow down your sobs if you feel overwhelmed by them. Drinking extra water also prevents a post-crying headache from hell.
4. Remember to breathe.
Breathing helps your body cry. Think of it like “Oxygen in, tears out.” Plus, if you don’t breathe while crying hysterically, it can lead to throwing up. Trust me, you don’t want that to happen on top of it all. If you think you might vomit from crying so hard, cry in the bathroom.
5. Comfort Yourself
Crying can feel scary, especially when you aren’t used to letting yourself do it. I held a teddy bear super tight yesterday as I bawled. Teddy bears can’t be squished! Hang on to whatever you need and it will get you through the tears.
There is nothing more physically exhausting than a good cry. Work rest into your method of comforting yourself
Although I believe that crying is never shameful, sometimes the fear of people knowing about the tears can keep us from allowing ourselves to feel.
How to Do a Post-Cry Fix Up
1. Rest Easy
My last step of the good crying process is “rest” but you will prevent puffy eyes if you don’t lie down during or after you cry. Lounge on a chair or with your head propped up to prevent your eyes from getting extra puffy. I’ve tried using ice (or freezies) on puffy eyes before but it never helped me much.
2. Dry Off
This is kind of a “duh” tip but make sure your face is dry before attempting any more cover-up steps. You can wipe your face but even then it still needs to dry a little.
Even if you don’t wear make-up in general, a good concealer will hide the redness and dark circles under your eyes. I use Maybelline’s Cover Stick Concealer. It’s amazing and is available at most drug stores.
4. Eye Drops
Yesterday I used regular Visine and it took the redness out of my eyes.
Were you wearing eye makeup before you cried? Removing it and redoing it should help. If you weren’t wearing eye make-up, adding some now will make your eyes pop in a different way. If you don’t wear make-up, try adding earrings or anything else on your head/face to draw attention from your post-cry face. Sunglasses work especially well if you’re going to be outside.
I’ve been told that if you smile, no one will know you’ve been crying, but I don’t believe that. It will help people see that you feel better after your cry, however.
What do you do to help yourself cry when you need to? What do you do when you want to cover it up?
(Wondering where my Monday posts have gone? I’m changing the “Monday Theme” to a “Monday Challenge” because I’m typically not able to post more than once a week right now and I’m sick of only writing about music, medication, and memories.)