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.

And yet.

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.

26 thoughts on “Crying

  1. Phrasing stuff in ways that it doesn’t come off badly isn’t working well today because my ear hurts like hell, so I’ll keep this short in hopes that shorter means less room to fuck up in: I get your post. A lot. Thanks for writing it.

  2. I have quite a weird relationship with crying. I don’t cry when everyone else seems to, like at weddings or when sad things happen on TV (I cried at TV once, but that was a bit more complicated than just “something sad happened”. This makes me feel really guilty, even though it probably shouldn’t. I also don’t do happy crying, except crying with laughter which happens to me quite a lot! On the other hand, I’ll sometimes cry at the slightest hint of conflict, which sometimes leads to my being-upset being used as a weapon, which really isn’t nice. Generally, though, if I’m crying, something is seriously wrong – not because I don’t like crying in front of people (even though I don’t), but because it just doesn’t happen.

    • My TV thing lately (well, I say TV, but I mean series which I watch on my computer) has been crying whenever I see someone on TV cry. Doesn’t matter if I identify with them or whether it’s important to the story or whatever. If they cry, I cry. Pavlov much?

  3. Me and crying have never quite gotten along either (mom issues, not surprisingly)…until the last month or so. The day my boyfriend came home and I just shoved my computer at him with a list of Aspie traits in adult women was apparently the first time he saw me cry, though I feel like I cry all the time and I am horribly ashamed of it. But then for the last month or so…crying is just not that bad. It almost seems useful sometimes. I know it’s a pretty typically autistic thing for me to read your post about your emotions and reply by talking about my emotions and me me me, but you get me, right?

    • I get it completely. It’s empathy. 😀

      I just think it’s so amazing to connect to people who talk in the same way I do. It feels so normal. So natural. No need to apologise all the time anymore.

  4. I can relate. I also used to hide my face when I would laugh. I just didn’t want people to see my emotions at all. I am much less worried about this now because I am more comfortable and accepting of myself and have made some friends who really get me. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Thank you for sharing as well! It’s interesting to know that it might be true for more emotions than only sadness. Maybe anger as well? I know I find it very hard to regulate my anger. It seems to pop out at the most inconvenient moments.

      I’m glad you found that acceptance inside yourself. I’m still working on it but I think the crying might help!

  5. Thank you for the shout out. I hope it’s mostly good crying.

    The only time I cry seems to be during bad meltdowns. Oh, and once while I was running, which was bizarre. I was raised with the idea that crying is bad so I think I suppress it a lot. :-/

  6. I pretty much almost only cry during meltdowns. Its actually usually one of the first visible signs of a meltdown that people who don’t know me well can notice. Even relatively small ones.

    (I cry in public more than average for someone who is over the age of 10.)

    But also for me, the few times where I’ve been actually sad-sad have turned into meltdowns, too. I don’t know even know if I know how to cry not during a meltdown. Or it might be that crying in public will lead to meltdowns, because it is not allowed.

    • Could very well be related. Hadn’t thought of it that way. That maybe I try to stop myself from crying because if I start feeling too overwhelmed by sadness it will trigger a meltdown.

  7. I just want to give everyone a hug. I’m NT, and I share the problem with crying. I have a hard time crying even in front of people it’s “safe” to cry in front of. My preferred crying spot is the bathroom, door closed, quietly if others are in the house. Definitely got the message growing up that my strong emotions were “inconvenient” or bothersome to others. Sigh.

    • Strong emotions are hard enough without also getting criticised for them! It makes me wonder if I’ve ever made someone else feel like it wasn’t OK to show emotion.

      • I’ve often been criticized for my uncontrolled crying and meltdowns, and all I’ve ever wanted were for my loved ones to accept me the way I was. And then I see you ask: “It makes me wonder if I’ve ever made someone else feel like it wasn’t OK to show emotion,” and I realize I did just that to my mom. Did I learn this from those who did it to me? Or am I having difficulty empathizing with her and generalizing the situation? And even realizing this, I know I will probably continue to make her feel like her emotions aren’t OK. I can barely handle mine, how am I supposed to handle her’s as well?

        • It’s a very hard question. I’ve been told many, many times that I’m incredibly self-centred… so I’ve turned that into a strength and always look at what *I* can do first. I can learn how to recognise my own emotions. It *has* to start with me. I am the only area where I can affect real change. Once I’ve done that, I can be there for others. So, in light of that life motto, I would say that you can’t expect yourself to be handling someone else’s emotions when you’re barely capable of handling your own. Especially not with someone who may or may not have taught you that in the first place.

          But that’s just my opinion. 😉

        • Thank you, your opinion is appreciated 🙂 Yes, I’ve been called self-centered and “weird” for how I deal with other people’s emotions. And I do believe I am self-centered, because I do make everything about me. But often, when I ramble about my own issues in response to someone else’s–like in the “Comments” section of blogs–it is only because I am trying to relate to the other person. I want to show I feel their pain, and that is the only way I know how to.

          I don’t know if I fall anywhere on the spectrum, this Autistic/Asperger thing is new to me. But more and more I’m seeing it as a likelihood. Thanks to blogs like yours. Never have I read blogs (I hate reading blogs actually) that I have related to so much as I have in the past few weeks–since I’ve discovered the autistic blogging community. 🙂

        • Well, this might give you yet another item in the “pro” column: I can’t remember on which blog it was, but a group of autistic adults basically all came to the conclusion in the comments that the way we show support and empathy is by relating a similar story of our own. WE ALL DID THE SAME THING. And we all had similar experiences with others not understanding where it was coming from.

  8. I cry very rarely. Not from grief such as when my mum died or when my son-in-law was killed. Not when I’m upset by something or someone. It can happen spontaneously at the nadir of a cycle of depression, or when I feel released after (but not during) an emotional overload or meltdown.

    There’s a strong element of suppression which comes from cultural conditioning: for somebody who presents as male crying in public is seen as weakness which can leave one prey to bullying. So suppression is a protective adaptation: a means to avoid drawing attention. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become more comfortable about expressing myself naturally and I’m slowly trying to wean myself from such acquired inhibitions.

  9. Hm. There’s also (potentially) another element – there are different reasons we cry.

    Like Alana, I cry during meltdowns. That kind of is my meltdown: frustration, or upset, or shame, or toomuch tooloud toobright goaway leavemealone, and the crying starts. Maybe because it’s the only way I know to get across than I’m upset, that I can’t speak right now (I don’t lose expressive language – aka speech – often, but pretty much always in a meltdown), or maybe it’s my body’s way of saying that there are too many uncontrollable emotions going on, or something…? I don’t know. I just know that if I’m crying, and I can’t stop, odds are about 15-to-1 that I’m having a meltdown.

    And that crying doesn’t help. It doesn’t make me feel better, or act as a release, or any of the things that crying is supposed to do according to currently enlightened society and psychological analysis. All it gets me is whycan’tIstop, whycan’tpeopleunderstand, whywon’ttheyleavemealone.

    Then there’s sympathetic crying. (This crying, BTW, I can stop, so it doesn’t fall into the odds listed above.) If I read something that impacts me emotionally, with sadness or upset or unhappy understanding. If I see something that impacts me emotionally (again, same status) on TV. If I’m grieving, but not overwhelmed by grief (the latter falls under the meltdown category). Again, this isn’t really a psychological release – it’s an expression of sympathy and understanding. (Even if it’s for fictional characters.)

    Then, there’s the 1 in 16 to 1 in 20 or thereabouts times when I can’t stop crying, but it’s not a meltdown. In that case, it’s generally a release of some sort. A relief of pressure, a sense that I’m understood, that I’m not to blame for something… that kind of thing. (I think I cried like that when I really understood some of what being autistic meant, in terms of “I’m not alone, this is normal for me”. That’s the good kind of crying, the kind where there’s a relief at the end of it, as though a burden has been lifted. But it doesn’t happen often.

    Anyway, long-winded way (with examples) to say that – at least as far as I’m concerned – there are different kinds of crying, and so your post makes perfect sense. (And yes, I also hate the vulnerability it shows, and try to hide it – even if letting people know that I’m crying and thus likely melting down would help.)

    {Virtual Hugs}

    😉 tagAught

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