Tag Archives: courage

My Confession…I’m a Crier

I make no apologies for the following confession – I am a crier.

Not a sniffler, or a quick tear up, run down and wipe away. But when I’m stressed, frustrated, elated or over joyed, my one and only emotional output is tears…and lots of them.

It makes absolutely no sense, but it appears to be the only arsenal I have in my emotional toolkit, whether I’m happy or sad… let me explain.

Depending on what article you read, or Google, as humans we experience 4 distinct emotions – happy, sad, afraid/surprised, angry/disgusted. That’s it.

Everything else we feel is biologically driven from these basic four. And depending on the list you consult, that can be up to 40+ different feelings.

Our brain is an amazing machine that filters all environmental cues and combines it with our conscious experience, influenced on any given moment by our mood, our hormones, our personality and motivation, to deliver the experience of emotion.

It’s a pretty complex range of inputs that are synthesised into a handful of outputs. Effortlessly and seamlessly.

We’ve all experienced it, the feeling, the inkling…the partner that doesn’t seem quite right today, the unusual quietness of the usually chatty barista, the smile from the parking ranger as s/he walks away from sliding another ticket under the windscreen.

And on the flip side, the palpable excitement as your birthday rolls around as you imagine you’ll awake to breakfast in bed, a stack of gifts and the incessant trill of your phone (proof that you are loved). Or the nervous tension as you lay in bed, waiting for daybreak, deciding whether to burn or bury the evidence of the latest purchase.

Within micro-moments, those environmental cues are rapidly identified, sifted and sorted and bang you experience the exploding joy in your chest (or your nether regions), or the increasing tightness in your throat as you feel you may want to puke or pass out, or in my case, complete confusion as the tightness, the joy, the exuberance spills out into… the wet stuff!

Banksy, copyright Getty
Banksy, copyright Getty

Growing up I often heard, “boys don’t cry,” “don’t be a sissy,” “what are you crying for?” So I figured tears were wrong. A sign of weakness. After all, Saint Francis of Assisi had gone blind due to all his crying!

So I inadvertently shut the tears down, or any emotion that provided an insight into how I was feeling, to the point that I often heard “I can never tell whether something is bothering you or not.” I took it as a badge of honour. And smugly assessed, “That’s right, I’m not so easy to work out, am I?”

But when life slaps you in the face, and as the stinging welt on your cheek rises, something shifts.

The shield of invincibility (read: denial) starts to crack. And it forces you to let go and lean in. And that’s where I discovered my tears.

The endless stream. The untapped reservoir. The plentiful bounty.

Psychologists believe that tears are a burst of intense emotional sensation, hence why I’ll get teary when a footballer drops to his knees as he misses the winning kick, or I’ll cry as I turn on the news and watch the cruelty of humanity in all its vivid colour and movement, or I’ll sob when I watch Mr Metamucil cross the line after a long distance triathlon – relieved, excited, overwhelmed.

But it appears that’s “normal.” I’m “normal” when I experience the emotional intensity regardless of the situation. So why do I feel there is a “right” time and a “wrong” time to cry?

Because somehow it makes sense to cry when you’ve broken your leg, but not two days later when the doctor confirms it.

Because somehow it’s okay to cry in the bathroom after the boss has called you in and closed the door behind you, but it’s not okay when he tells you you’re being made redundant.

And somehow it’s completely acceptable to cry before the cop even asks for your license, because you know there’s no way out of this one…except maybe showing remorse (insert: bawling), before you’re charged.

For most of my life, I figured I had missed the circulation guide on “when to cry.”

Because I can’t seem to control it, it just happens. And sometimes at the oddest times, like at a funeral for someone I have never met!

Or when I take Franki to the vet yet again, because her incessant scavenging has her puking at 25 minute intervals, and after each hurl she looks up, pleading with her big brown eyes, “when will this stop?”

And when I am simply overwhelmed by doctors who give me those same pleading eyes as they don’t have the heart to tell me, “I don’t know what more to do.”

And I cry… In the doctor’s office…I cry…In the public toilet…I cry…In my car…I cry.

But I’ve slowly come to realise that those tears don’t make me a sissy, and they don’t make me weak.

Those tears make me human.

And those tears won’t make me blind.

But those tears are witness to my pain and even my joy.

And that those tears are my only outlet…for now.

And the flood of tears, means I have connected. And I have found another scoop of fibre.

And that those other emotions and feelings, the ones I’ve been too afraid to let out, they’re just around the corner… waiting for their turn.

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The Accidental Investigator

I think it’s only fair that when a doctor diagnoses you with an auto-immune disease, and they send you out the door with a prescription for medications, further blood tests, CAT scans and ultrasounds, and a reassuring smile they should also provide you with a prescription for the following:

Inquisitive mind. Ultimate skeptic. Fastidious researcher. Keen debater.

Boy & stethoscope

And not afraid of dark alleys & u-turns.

For those who are unfamiliar with the juggernaut that A.I is, I’ve written about my rollercoaster here, but let me try to provide a glimpse of that moment in time when A.I. is confirmed.

You’ve been sitting uncomfortably in the waiting room fidgeting, pretending to be interested in the latest Kardashians saga on the cover of Who magazine, whilst simultaneously hoping someone will want to play Words with Friends.

But the reality is you’re just waiting for your name to be called, and you pop your head up every time you hear the docs shoes approach the hallway…and then someone else steps up. Another sigh. Another 15 minutes.

And then, it’s time. The moment you’ve been waiting for, followed by the split moment where you’re hoping you can make a quick stage left exit.

You’re not meant to be here anyway. You’re over reacting. Your nan said you were a hypochondriac, it runs in the family.

But you follow the doc. Formalities are exchanged. You take a seat. You wait for a smile, it’s tortured, so you quickly try to put one on.

And then it comes.

The silence. The deafening silence.

Yet you can see the docs lips move. And the panic sets in, “I must be deaf! I can feel the blood rushing to my ears.”

But you’re not deaf. Nor are your ears burning. You’re in shock. And your brain is a powerful computer that is carefully selecting what you process.

I’ve mentioned it before, because of its many manifestations and a lack of funding and research, diagnosis of any A.I. disease, brings much more than just shock and confusion for a patient, it also brings much shock, confusion and helplessness for medical professionals.

They’re hoping you’re one of the text book cases. Responsive to pharmaceuticals. They know there will be an adjustment period. Where your body goes into shock as it gets hit by very powerful drugs. And they know you will experience some horrific days and question whether they know what they’re doing at all.

But they’re confident, to a certain degree. Until it starts to get complex. Until you don’t start to respond to text book therapy model. Until the doc says to you, “I’m increasingly seeing more cases where the standard recipe doesn’t work. I’m not sure what to do next.”

This is the moment where the A.I diagnosis hits you. And the prescription is in your hands. This is where you’ll need to dig into your bag of tricks.

What bag?

Do you remember asking where strawberry milk comes from?

Because you know that chocolate milk clearly comes from brown cows.

Do you remember asking why a dog chases a cat?

Do you remember asking how can the sun warm up the earth, when it’s so little, compared to your beach ball?

And is it true that a turd-burger tastes like the best banana split you’ve ever dreamed of? Just like your brother told you?

Remember those traits? The ones that were probably beaten out of you in the corporate world. Pull those out, dust them off and don’t be scared.

Question the docs, the specialists, the Professors, the very educated men and women, with their multiple certificates hung proudly on the wall behind them. This is your first line of defence and support.

I’ve struggled with this, and I still do. I may read a journal article and think, finally an answer. And I’ll go into the docs office, with my notebook lined up to ask questions.

And then my courage wanes. I see all those certificates lined up. Somehow it just doesn’t sit right. I feel sheepish. Like I’m being the smart arse in class. Giggling and mocking from the back row. Challenging and hiding behind the class clown.

Sometimes I can shake the doubt and I ask about a research article I found and ask whether there is any further research in the influence that hormones play in A.I? And in my case, whether my non-existent rates of testosterone may be due to high metabolism found in women with lupus? Testosterone, a building block for energy, mood and muscle building. All which I have seen waste away.

And often the response is greeted with, “Yes, it’s a theory. But we have no idea how to reverse it.”

It’s a minefield. And one often fraught with frustration, desperation and plenty of tears. Off one merry go-round and onto another.

But what I try desperately to hold onto is motivation. Motivation to accept the challenge of the accidental investigator and to share my findings with my defence team.

On good days, I go down the google rabbit hole hoping I’ll pop up the other end and it’s still daylight. On a lucky day, I may even find a carrot. And add to my fibre content for the day.

It’s never a complete loss and I’ll always wonder about that turd burger.