Before I begin this blog, I want to be clear that this is not a call for help. I’m not looking for any suggestions about what to do. I’m fine now. Not the kind of “fine” that you say out of habit. I’m in balance again, I’ve recovered from my latest bout, but I’d like to write about a meltdown I had a few days ago in case you’ve ever had one, too. They look different in each of us, but I believe we all have them and if someone says they haven’t, pardon my judgment but they’re probably not telling the truth or being honest with themselves. Maybe they’re repressing their feelings and hurting their hearts.
I woke up in a dark place a few days ago. It happens sometimes and I did what I usually do – get up, have coffee, look at the newspaper, do the Crossword Puzzle and go to my desk. That’s all pretty normal, my mother always called it “her routine,” but here’s where it went awry. On that particular morning, I stared at my computer screen, my world felt ominous, my hands wouldn’t move, I couldn’t figure out why I was sitting there and the tears started.
Alice in Wonderland cried so hard and long, she was afraid of drowning in a pool of her own tears. I felt like Alice, I couldn’t understand why I was sobbing and I didn’t know how to stop. It thought if I blamed the meltdown on something specific, I could fix it, but there were too many things to choose from: politics, Covid-19, grief, boredom, aging, being alone for long stretches and conflicting chemicals that my brain was producing on over drive. After a while I realized the it wasn’t about anything specific so I dumped all those reasons and let the sadness free float. The best thing I could have done.
When sadness hits hard, the work is not about figuring it out. It’s about acceptance, releasing shame and embracing the truth that we are all human, there’s a reason we have tear ducts and crying is a healing experience. I lead meditations at the start of each of my writing classes and I suggest that my students try not to hold onto their feelings and tears or push them away. I suggest they just “let it be,” in the sage words of Lennon-McCartney.
Science tells us that “feel good” endorphins, oxytocin and endogenous opioids, are released in our tears and bring us relief. I looked up “crying” on Google and I was stunned to learn about crying clubs in Japan called “rui-katsu” (tear-seeking), where people come together to indulge in good old-fashioned sob fests. That’s how they heal. Beating yourself up and shaming yourself is not a healing path. When you allow your mind to free float, when you let yourself feel whatever is there, your thoughts lose their power and influence over you. When your mind stops making up stories about your sadness but just allows it to be there, when you touch your wounds with kindness instead of meanness, you may still have pain, but you can eliminate suffering. There’s a huge difference.
We all know the sentiment:
The way to heal something is not to chase it away or hide from it.
The only way out is in.