to heart

I used to fight tears. I would pinch my arms until I could compartmentalize. Let pain distract from pain until they canceled each other out. I’m not proud of this. It was one of my ways of coping as a child, then as a teenager, and as a young adult I included other harmful methods of coping until I broke through. I found my feelings, or rather, my feelings found me.

As a child I was told I was too sensitive. The words that I remember were, “you take everything to heart.” It was a warning. Guard yourself or you’ll get hurt. And I did. I got hurt. I hurt a lot, but armed with that warning I began to hurt less. Only, I didn’t hurt less. I just held it down twisting its arm to keep quiet.

I’m not sure why I’m writing about this. I’ve been thinking about how we’re so busy, so rushed and how our mental health needs tending to. We forget to look after ourselves and wonder why we’re crying as we’re watching the Amazing Race (okay, that’s probably just me. It’s all that bungee jumping and fighting that they do. I don’t believe I have ever cried at people jumping off ledges, but my tears flowed freely.) Our feelings demand attention. They don’t like to be shelved and ignored. They like to be dusted off now and then.

You can bottle them up. You can hold them back, but feelings will discover the tiniest crack, the smallest chink in your armor and seep out until you buckle under the pressure.

That’s what happened to me. It wasn’t a pleasant experience going from I’m fine to I’m in hell. But it was the best possible hell. The kind of hell you have to go through in order to get to the other side. I’m a better person for it. A person that works through her stuff.

It doesn’t take much for my eyes to well up now. I welcome a cleansing in the privacy of my home cry where my tears stain my face, where my eyes are swollen and my nose is red. Where there is no shame in caring deeply. Where it doesn’t matter if I’m too sensitive. Where I can let go and not be judged…by me.

Swept Up


In Charlotte’s Web
I’m reading it chapter by chapter to Annie. I don’t know if she’s too young for it, but we’re taking it slow. Really slow. We’re only at chapter five and I started the book two months ago. I love this book. It takes me back to my childhood and reminds me of how and why I fell in love with reading.

17 thoughts on “to heart

  1. B

    thanks for sharing Heidi – I really appreciate this! due to being abused as a child, i quickly learned to bottle my feelings and let nothing show…and i created artificial feelings by cutting myself and doing drugs…which lasted until my late teens.
    then after finding an amazing boy (now my husband) who accepted the place i was at in life and by finding a sort of spirituality, i slowly began to heal. i am still healing and may be for a long time – a flip side of the healing process has been that i now let my emotions show, usually by crying…at almost everything! freaked me out at first because i couldn’t control the tears, but now they are embraced and are used to help me heal, cuz it’s ok to cry 🙂
    again thank you for sharing and being open…i really love your writings!

  2. Heidi

    B, thank YOU for sharing. You have such courage.

    I’m glad you’re on a journey of recovery and healing and I’m so sorry you went through what you did. That’s the thing about crying…once you start it’s so hard to stop. 🙂

    Thank you. Truly.

  3. Lesley

    I let’er flow to ‘Big Love’ this week… Seriously, sitting in the field, searching for God, hurting for his family…Oh Bill Paxton I (heart) you!

  4. Kate Coveny Hood

    I’ve always been quick on the draw when it comes to frustrated tears. But I’m not as good with the tears of happiness. I have a hard time showing emotion – and I think that has a lot to do with my childhood. So now I’m like the man in my marriage. I’m all, “oh god – are we talking about ‘feelings’ again?” I’m kidding of course. Sort of.

  5. you gotta wonder

    Nicely written post. It takes me back. I can remember the version of me that displayed zero emotions. Now I’m an absolute weeper. Happy tears, sad tears, frustrated tears. Mostly joyous tears these days. I like to think it is the Spirit welling up within me and overflowing.

  6. Dorkys Ramos

    You’ve just explained exactly how I’ve felt these last several years. As I was reading this wonderful post all I kept thinking was “Yes! That’s exactly it.”

    After a rough childhood (and also being told I was too sensitive and that the overly sensitive suffer too much in life, aren’t ready for the real world or get chewed up and eaten alive), I just had to shut down. I couldn’t keep crying and keep feeling so badly. I just wanted out from the pain and not feel everything so deeply.

    But then I became cold and people started saying I had no soul (not even kidding on that one). Yes, I wasn’t feeling the pain (or at least I was pretending I wasn’t affected), but I also wasn’t feeling the joy and the happiness. I didn’t let myself enjoy life. Yes, I felt safer, but I also felt half-alive.

    After I met the ex, I started to open up again and realize that it’s ok to accept love and if you’re going to live this life you must live it completely and wholeheartedly. Otherwise, there’s just no point at all.

    So the tears will come, and come often, but that’s just proof that I haven’t detached myself from my heart.

  7. Heidi

    lesley, wasn’t it so good?? best episode ever. the kids were in school and i watched and cried and watched and cried. so good.

    kch, the man in the relationship…love it. us women…we get so bogged down by feelings! i sure like you, kate.

    ygw, happy tears are the best kind of tears. i relish those tears.

    dorkys, we often swing hard to the other side of the pendulum when we’re told we’re too much of something. i get that. i’ve done that and still do that sometimes. You’re built a certain way and if you’re sensitive then that’s a part of who you are. I think being true to yourself is the best thing we’ve got going for ourselves. Because as soon as we aren’t things start to fall apart.
    What I’m trying to say is I so hear you on this. And thank you for sharing this. I think you are just wonderful and precious and strong.

  8. Linda Sue

    I have reckoned with the fact that I am just a cry baby- I cry at ANYTHING! , when I am happy, sad, angry, or just basic feeling sorry for myself and the world we live in. I can cry just looking at a dog… I try sometimes to fight it but then my face gets all goofy looking and I just look scarey – I would rather have people say “she’s too sensitive, what a cry baby” than frighten them…

  9. dawn

    i hear you on this one, heidi. so beautifully written. i was told so often by my well intentioned parents to “stop that crying” which of course wounded me all over again. so now, i tell those voices to shut up! it’s time for a cry. crying makes room for other things! 🙂

    wondering….how are you feeling? did you get rid of that infection? hope you’re well. xxoo

  10. thezeninyou

    Bravo! It is so hard to come out and deal with feelings. I tend to be overly emotional and cry at the silliest things! But it’s good for me. My Mom was a “stuffer” she could keep her feelings hidden. I just can’t. I never could actually..sometimes it’s a fault (being too emotional). So I work on trying to be a bit more balanced…

    Charlotte’s web is so wonderful…but I cry like a baby at the end!

  11. Heidi

    linda sue, you are just delightful! I know all about that scary face – that face just before we cry…it’s true – it is just better to let it out than to hold it in and make that horrific face!

    dawn, well said…crying does make room for other things…i love that.
    i’m doing better. still ridiculously tired, but definitely on the upswing of things. thanks for asking. 🙂

    tziy, i don’t cry at everything, but i like a good cry once in a while. i just notice that if i haven’t spilled any tears for a long while tears start to spring up everywhere and when i least expect it.
    bravo to you for not hiding your feelings!

  12. tiff

    Wow Heidi, everytime I come to your blog your posts seem to speak to the very heart of me.
    *hand up* another oversensitive child here, who learnt to put things away and really crashed and burned later on.

    I cry now, I let myself hurt when it hurts and the tears make me feel better.

  13. LMN

    This post resonates so strongly with me. Thank you for putting into words EXACTLY what I feel. I recently was talking with my counselor about these times where I sometimes just cry incontrollably and I don’t really know the source. It’s weird. Maybe a new phase in my life. The acceptance of age, of the loss of my mother at such a young age, the acceptance of both the beauty and the pain of life … all of it. And my counselor said, “and it can just be about endorphins. A release for your body.” And that makes sense. And now I don’t have to go looking for a reason for the crying. It can just be what it is, even though sometimes it feels like I am attached to a geyser in the earth.

    THANK YOU FOR YOUR WORDS. Perfectly said.

    And I LOVE Charlotte’s Web – just got the new movie as a gift!

  14. Heidi

    tiff, there seems to be so many of us that kept things to ourselves. i wonder why that was taught as the best way to handle our emotions. it’s not like i cry all the time, but every once in a while there is nothing quite like relief through tears. 🙂

    lmn, yes to all of this!! it’s true…sometimes we have no idea of why we’re crying like that weird amazing race thing for me, but it felt good later. there is release, like you said.

  15. Isabella Snow

    I’ve never been one to suppress my feelings — I don’t I have it in me. I’m one of those screaming mimi divas 🙂 Course, that might actually be a lot worse than suppressing. 😉 I remember Charlotte’s Web. My 3rd grade teacher read it to us and someone gave a copy to me for Christmas. It’s been ages since I read it but I’m sure it’s still fabulous!

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