There was this moment when I had job coaching. I started job coaching because I’d gotten fired a few months previously, from a job I loved. And it wasn’t the first time I’d lost my job. And I figured maybe I could use some help figuring out why it always went wrong.
My job coach asked me to describe my wishes and goals. And somewhere along the line, I can’t remember how, I mentioned that all I really wanted was for my employer to accept me the way I am.
And I felt tears starting in my eyes.
The horrible thing was, my job coach noticed too. And she asked the dreaded question, “How does that make you feel?”
Please. Don’t ask that question. Don’t remark on the fact that you see the tears in my eyes.
I cannot cry. I MUST NOT CRY.
Not where you can see me.
I don’t know why I feel such a near-instinctive aversion to letting others see my vulnerability. It’s not reasoned out. As soon as I start feeling a “bad” emotion, my reaction is to STOP. HIDE. I feel bad about crying in private too, bad to the point where I will slap myself to stop crying. But when someone else is there it feels far, far worse.
I can vividly remember the times I sobbed like a child in a public place in the last 20 years. At the funeral of the mother of a friend of mine, when I thought of how the rest of the family would miss her (I didn’t know the woman at all). When I was managing a store all by myself and I had my first angry customer (I was 17). When a boyfriend broke up with me completely unexpectedly. All through the second half of the film “Once Were Warriors” (seriously unstoppable sobbing). When the manager in one of my jobs told me she didn’t want me to come back to work the next day, even though the company had offered me a permanent contract and we were in the middle of negotiations. When I was told in my last job, the job that I loved, that my putting in overtime to get the job done wasn’t appreciated. When I admitted that I wasn’t able to keep track of my finances and that I’d probably get evicted from my house very soon because of all the letters that were lying unopened on my bed. I mean the kind of sobbing that makes you gasp for breath. Buckets of tears. Uncontrollable.
And every time I felt so angry and embarrassed and awful that someone would see me like this.
It’s probably normal. Nobody likes crying.
But I never got that sense of “release” that other people kept mentioning. That I could “let it all out”. Crying just made me feel worse. Even when I cried in private. I just felt tired afterwards. But not relieved. It was all still there. Crying didn’t solve a thing.
In the past few months, while I’m working on getting diagnosed, I’ve cried. I’ve cried so many times. Reading other people’s experiences. Their feelings. Their hopes. Their fears. I cried and cried and cried every time I recognised something. Something that touched on that idea of being accepted the way I am. So much crying. It’s always in private, but it’s a lot of crying.
I’m crying as I write this.
And weirdly enough, it doesn’t feel all that angry and embarrassed and awful. I haven’t slapped myself to make it stop. It’s not my idea of fun, but still. It feels a bit like at least it’s OK to cry. It’s a sad cry but also a happy cry. A forgiving and compassionate cry.
I cannot believe how much I’ve been crying.
And it feels like it’s going to be OK.