rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
If you've been waiting for me to stop whining and post something more librarianish, fear not, because I'm totally going to do a Spring Programming Roundup as soon as I get back to work so as to get my planning schedule so as to remember what I actually did this Spring. Meanwhile, I'm digging around in my psyche some more instead, because something's on my mind that I still can't quite get a handle on.

I'm sure I've mentioned before that I was a famous crybaby as a child. Not even as a child-- I've had my moments as an adult, too, which I've always attributed to my depression. But I've just started wondering if it's not more complicated than that. That it's my sensitivity that makes me cry, but it's my shame about it that makes me depressed. And, ironically, cry more. Except for all the times I don't. The many times I've deadened my emotions, held the tears in, taken a deep breath and kept on plugging, feeling proud of myself for growing and improving.

Except maybe I haven't actually been growing and improving. Maybe I've been turning myself in on myself, bottling myself up, filling myself with negative energy, SHAMING myself so deeply that I can't move. Maybe I've just been digging myself into this deep rut I've been despairing ever getting out of lately.

But you have to understand. It wasn't like something sad had to happen for me to cry about it. Sure I cried at sad things. I cried when I got physically hurt. I cried when I was scared. I cried when I was frustrated, when I was angry. I cried when I didn't get my way. I cried at EVERY. SINGLE. NEGATIVE. THING. that happened, or that I even just percieved as happening. Any negative feeling that arose in me, no matter how insignificant, bubbled out through my eyes.

(Ironically, it was often the REALLY sad and REALLY bad things-- the things OTHER people cry about-- that barely seemed to phase me. I could be philosophical about those. It was only IN THE MOMENT emotions that made me cry).

But I picked up on how shameful this was really young. Sometime before I was five (having moved at age 5 makes remembering whether something happened in early childhood or not much easier) I know I picked up on this message from somewhere: "Crybabies are being selfish. They're doing it to manipulate* others into giving them their way." But I'm not, I thought. I don't DECIDE to cry. It just happens. This frustrated me, this knowledge that people thought I was doing it on purpose. And being frustrated made me cry. And NOW I knew to be ashamed of it.

It alienated me from other kids-- more than my nerdy smarts, more than the physical ugliness I just assumed I had that would make people not like me, more than my different way of looking at the world, even probably more than my occasional know-it-all attitude-- it was the crying that really separated me. That was what the bullies would taunt me about. That was what my "friends" would roll their eyes about or decide they didn't want to associate with me in front of the cool kids. That was why my actual friends would be overly gentle with me, try to shelter me from things, even though I knew that's what they were doing and it just made me feel worse.

I often wondered if they ever knew that I hated my tears even worse than they did. Again in my head I was screaming, "I AM NOT DOING THIS ON PURPOSE! I AM NOT TRYING TO MANIPULATE ANYBODY! I DON'T WANT YOUR SYMPATHY! I DON'T WANT TO BE CRYING RIGHT NOW!" But of course my shame made me cry even more, which made me hate myself more, which made me cry more....

It got to the point, in high school, where-- okay, maybe I HAD "improved" about it. Maybe I took small bumps a lot more easily than I'd used to, and maybe that is a good thing. I was crying over less things, but I FELT WORSE about it. I felt like I could never shake that Crybaby label, and to some of the other kids, at least, I hadn't. I remember one girl, a friendly aquainance at least, who did a whole speech about me in our 11th grade Speech class-- never naming me outright, but referring to real situations we'd been in-- it was CLEARLY me, and I was right there in the same class listening to this speech passive-aggressively directed at me-- all about how people shouldn't cry over things, they needed to Man Up (that phrase wasn't used, but that's the general idea) and Deal and "just wipe those tears away." That one IS an exact quote, because I can still see her, hear her, concluding her speech with it, along with motions. I was SO ANGRY. I was about to boil over with rage. But what do I do when I'm boiling over? CRY. But I obviously couldn't do that, not right then, in front of her and the rest of the class who'd just listened to a speech about what a baby I was.

This is kind of a culminating incident, that I wrote about here, my closest what-you-might-say brush with suicide. Come to think of it I think it was the same girl. Maybe it was just her. Maybe she had a Thing about crying, herself, that made her uncomfortable around me. But at the time it was EVERYBODY. The whole world hated me for crying too much. Okay, maybe they didn't all HATE me, but they still thought I cried too much. So I hated me, even if it was just the "me at school" I truly hated.

Because even if she was the only kid at school who directly labelled me a crybaby, our culture in general doesn't like tears. It doesn't like crybabies. It assumes tears are either for manipulation or a sign of weakness. You'd even get the so-called "feminists" (Sure glad I've since learned what true feminism is all about) complaining about female characters that cried, that this was a stereotypical weakness. I'm such a failure to women everywhere because I cry a lot! I'm a failure as a selfless Christian good person who doesn't take things personally! I'm a failure as a writer because writers need to be able to handle criticism and rejection! I SUCK BECAUSE I HAVE OVERACTIVE TEAR DUCTS!

I think I should have taken it as a sign that these cultural attitudes were wrong, because they made me angry. Part of me knew they were unjust. But I just turned all that anger in instead.

Again, I just feel like saying to the world, You will never hate me for crying as much as I hate myself for crying. You have NO IDEA how sensitive I am to this topic. You have no idea.

And I have no idea. I'm so confused right now. Because it's only just occurred to me, yesterday in fact, that all this shame is NOT HEALTHY. That I'm NOT growing by hating my oversensitive side. AND YET I still can't help feeling ashamed about it. I mean, the times I've gotten teary when I've been corrected at work-- my current job, now, as an adult, which I love and know I am definitely not a failure at-- being corrected still makes me embarrassed, and being embarrassed makes me cry. But if I cry, will my supervisors write me off as being Unable to Take Correction? OF COURSE THEY WILL. And so I'm still ashamed of it, even though part of me KNOWS it's not that I can't TAKE correction, it's just that I've got to react to the embarrassment that way before I go fix my mistake. And since I'm ashamed of it-- I cry more.

There are so many situations where I absolutely do not want to cry, but how do I balance that out-- how do I keep a calm composure without hating myself for how hard it is for me? I feel like learning to accept my oversensitivity is a REALLY IMPORTANT PSYCHOLOGICAL THING FOR ME TO DO, but it's still so problematic.

*I'm not sure if I actually knew the word "manipulate" at that age-- I probably did, I was always a nerd that way-- but I understood the CONCEPT people were getting across just fine.

EDIT FOR POSTERITY, AND ALSO BECAUSE I FIND IT INTERESTING AND WONDERFUL AT LEAST: Disqus just reminded me that it was this article, particularly the description of Meg Murry, that got me thinking on this and inspired me to write this post. As you can even see from my comment on it, I felt "like I should elaborate but that's all I really have to say...." Well, this post was me elaborating! Yay, Meg Murry, I love you yet again! ...Now I don't know whether to add the Year of the Tesseract tag to this. :)
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