“I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are evil.” – Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings
When I was younger and my body was responding to anti-depressants with a hazed blankness, I couldn’t cry. My emotions felt trapped in my head, unable to release through tears or a swell of feeling. Fears and obsessions cluttered my head, making it ache.
I’m not sure if this was only because of the anti-depressants, and I think it’s likely that some of it was because of my own habit of introverted introspection. I didn’t like crying in front of people, but I’ve learned over the years that I can’t cry alone. I have to be with someone to release. But to me, crying felt too close to depression or despair. It felt too close to fear, and I didn’t want to lose myself in my emotions again. So I fought them.
I’ve cried a lot this past month. When I found out my dog had cancer. When I had a stressful day of teaching. When I had self-doubts about being a writer. Every time I curled up next to my husband and talked about it until my tears soaked his sleeve. And I felt better.
Being able to cry has been healing. I’m learning that not all tears are evil–and that some are even good. I finally feel comfortable with my emotions. I can talk about them and let myself cry. When I’m done crying, I blink out the tears, wipe my eyes, and move on feeling stronger instead of weaker.
When I faced depression several years ago, I cried a lot, and afterwards I feared that all tears would lead back to that same despair. It took me this long to realize that sadness and depression are not only different but are greatly divided. I can now feel sad without fearing depression. I can mourn without despair. I can cry and know that I am mentally healthy and able to cope.
When I do have days of despair, I now know that it is a healthy thing to cry and talk about it, whether that is with a friend or mentor or family member.
While writing Obsessed with Happy, an old post on our society’s fear of sadness, I realized that my own fear of depression was keeping me from feeling all of the emotions that God has allowed us to feel. No, sadness is not something I look forward to, but it is something that is good and healthy and healing.
Depression is hard and terrifying, and I know that many of you struggle with that. I’m not saying that crying will heal you. But I do think that we can learn to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy sadness.
The first step, I think, is to learn not to fear our sadness or tears, but to welcome them and learn from them.
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