I Cried Last Night
The fact that this happened the night before and into the morning of World Mental Health Day is entirely coincidental but also somewhat opportune because I can now write about it with a fresh outlook. We all experience mental health in a way that is entirely unique to ourselves. Even within diagnoses, the symptoms individual’s experience are not rigid. In fact, mental health professionals today are encouraged not to let their treatment be governed by a diagnosis of this or that, because it applies restrictions to the care they provide and contributes to stigma.
I have always worked in environments that have required me to be reflective, so I think I’m quite in tune with who I am and how I am perceived sometimes by people. A lot of people see me as a very positive character and others see me as grumpy. Some see me as articulate and others consider me argumentative. There are a whole bunch of opinions people have about who I am. That’s generally okay with me because I tend to be able to carry on with life, not allowing myself to be consumed by other people’s perceptions of me. I mean, for the most part that’s true but naturally there are times that I over think something I’ve said or a way I’ve behaved because it’s not necessarily in line with my view of who I am (but then, I suppose everyone does that).
I finished a 3-day stint of 12 hour shifts at placement last night and when I got home, I was in quite a positive mood. It had been a hard day and I was involved with some fairly harrowing experiences, but I was on the surface, feeling good. As my shift was ending, I texted my wife and offered to cook dinner, which was out with the norm of late because I have been physically exhausted by the end of these long days. Sore feet, hungry, tired and grumpy. Regardless, I felt ok in the moment. When I arrived at my car, I turned on the engine and the radio kicked in with a really cool song I’d never heard before by the Swingle Sisters, whom I’d also never heard (I’ve linked this in today’s ‘currently listening to’ at the top of the page). I drove home quietly appreciating the incredible vocal performance in this song and considered what to make for tea. As it happened, my wife and I decided instead to order a munchie box from JustEat and to enjoy our Friday night relaxing and watching TV.
The first set of tears came during a particularly vivid news article on channel 4 News about Kevin Clarke. A young, black man with known schizophrenia who died in 2018 during a police restraint in the midst of a schizophrenic episode. The piece shared police body camera footage of KC (as he liked to be called) being handcuffed despite his heightened state and despite causing no obvious threat to himself or anyone around him. Among his final words he is heard uttering “I can’t breathe” and “I’m going to die”.
Poignant and distressing.
Now obviously this is a difficult thing to witness and my tears could and should be considered justifiable and an example of empathy. However, this put me into particularly vulnerable mood. I cried several other times last night and a few times this morning. Sometimes as a result of emotional stimulation from TV or music and sometimes seemingly out of nowhere. I will allow for the credit to be given for this mood swing to physical exhaustion and emotional trauma, having had a difficult few days of caring for people in surgically induced agony and I know that I am not currently experiencing depression. I believe, and certainly hope that a couple of days rest, some good home cooked food and the brisk walk in nature that my wife and I are about to embark on, will help to relieve some of the tension I’m experiencing right now.
So, I suppose the intended purpose of this piece might be ambiguous. I’m am looking to contribute to a change in attitude towards emotion. I feel. And I’m not unusual in that sense. This is normal for humans. It is also normal for men. I was overwhelmed last night and at the point of further emotional stimulation within in my comfort zone, wrapped in a quilt, on the couch with my wife, munchie box in hand…those feelings were released in the shape of tears.
I am ok. I am not at crisis point. I simply needed to cry.
Now my wife is upstairs becoming increasingly frustrated that I haven’t showered yet and we are very much looking forward to an autumnal stroll, so I best be off now. But I’d like to say again loudly, clearly and undoubtedly, that what I’ve told you today isn’t weird or unnatural though many may perceive it to be so. I’m not reaching out right now. I am not oversharing. I’m just sharing. Normalise emotion. It’s what makes us human. It’s what makes us real and valuable. If we collectively talk more about emotions when we aren’t at crisis point, it might chip away at stigma and frankly outdated societal opinion that emotions are felt only by the weak, thus providing confidence to those who are at crisis point, that their voice will be heard and not ridiculed.