I’m a crier. I cry a lot. It’s not that I cry at the slightest hint of emotion, I don’t cry unless I’m genuinely, deeply upset. But there’s the problem: I feel too much. It’s like I’m standing on a shore and my emotions are waves rushing towards me and over me. The bigger the waves are, the harder it is to stay standing. Sometimes it’s a torrent and I’m pulled under, I can’t breathe, I can’t speak. I don’t have the words at that time to communicate or ask for help. I try, but the words don’t come. I want to show someone how I feel, I want to transfer a snippet of my experience to another person’s mind just for a moment, because then someone would understand what it is really like. For them to experience that helplessness, the feeling of being trapped, that suffocating pressure on their chest.
To say that I’m ‘over-emotional’ or ‘too sensitive’, is misleading, as it is often said as a synonym for ‘weak’. Such expressions are often hurled, when what is really meant is “Your emotional response makes me uncomfortable and I don’t know how to react, so you must be faulty,”.
I am not weak, if I was weak I would have broken long ago. I’d be a drooling mess in a funny farm or worse. But I’m not, I’m still here. I’m fractured, but I’m still holding all the pieces in place. I am what Psychotherapist Joy Malik, calls a Deep Feeler. I am easily overwhelmed by my own feelings and the feelings of others. My feelings are real and valid, they are not something that is enhanced intentionally. It is as much physiological as it is mental. Malik said, “For those with high sensitivity, strong emotional responses are natural and need to be processed in order to metabolize them.” And so I cry, and I write.
I write my most honest thoughts privately, and share publicly some of my struggles. I do this in writing because talking about them out loud is difficult. Being upfront about your emotional and mental health is not easy. It’s mistaken as self-pity. Some think I’m an over-sharer and should keep things to myself; have some class and dignity. But the fact is, it’s taken me years to get to the point where I can be open about it, where I can say .”I’m not okay today” . I’m not ashamed of it anymore, nor should I be. I want to show my children that it’s safe to speak up when they’re not OK. The world is changing and the stigma is gradually lifting, but there’s still a fog of taboo that needs to be burned off. It’s time to clear the air.