Filed under: Main
In the 45 years I knew him, I never once saw my father cry. And I don’t ever recall seeing my older brothers cry either. This made it hard for me as a little boy, since I cried a LOT! It definitely made me an alien creature both at home and in school.
So let’s be clear, men in America don’t cry.
Now I could almost imagine that it’s possible American men don’t have feelings. Or that the male psyche is constructed in such a way that crying is not in the repertoire of emotional responses to a situation. But I’m pretty sure that I’m a man (by chromosomes and chronology) … and I cry.
If you know me at all, however, you’ll see that I’m up front about the fact that I live life through an emotional lens. And even though this might seem like a handicap in the professional world, I have a different take on it. In my experience, I’m often able to tune into a person’s emotional state, which in turn helps me understand their motivations, their anxieties, and their actions.
The only downside to this is when I try to suppress, ignore, or divert my emotional take on the world. By holding in my feelings, I become depressed, disinterested in people, and anxious. When I was married, I often told my husband that I would rather we argued out in the open for 5 minutes than stewing about something for 5 months.
While there are many reasons that I grew up overeating and lived most of my life as an overweight person, I’m guessing that this attempt to stifle my “excess” emotions accounts for at least 50% of it. Eating serves to distract, it creates immediate–and often intense–pleasure, and it mucks up brain chemistry in a way that can make everything “feel better.”
Not being a scientist, I can’t claim to know for sure, but having a layer of fat on my body also felt like a way to insulate myself from the world. Being heavier makes a person less noticeable socially, and on the flip side it gives you a sense of “presence”. So overeating seemed to give me a double effect.
But life has a way of defeating false defenses, and I found myself falling into a deep depression last summer, despite consuming a heck of a lot of sugar. And I shed a lot of tears. Clearly, the system wasn’t working!
Fortunately, during the fall I experienced a recovery from my depression. I not only felt renewed confidence and resolve about the future, I also got my weight management groove back. It was definitely a virtuous cycle of feeling better and eating better. It seems like a miracle to me now that I lost over 20 pounds during this time, and felt strong and healthy in body and mind. (A huge shout out to my WeightWatchers leader and friend Melanie, as well as everyone in the meeting that helped support me.)
Yet… you know what? My problems aren’t solved. I still feel the weight of the world on my shoulders on occasion. I sometimes even wake up with a start at 2:30 in the morning wondering what the heck I’m going to do! My job search having been an utter failure after 6 months of intense effort, I literally have no idea what I’ll be doing or where I’ll be living 90 days from now.
So yeah, I have to admit it … I still have a good cry here and there. Usually when I’m out walking around in the fresh air, for some reason. This spontaneous crying puts me on edge a little –am I falling back into depression? Is this a sign? Should I be worried? Am I about to lose it?
MEN DON’T CRY!
Or, well, maybe they just do.