Why am I so emotional? This is a question I find myself asking nearly everyday. And if you’re reading this, then you’ve probably asked yourself the same question before too. Why does everything seem to make me cry? How can others act so normal all the time? There must be something wrong with me. I find myself constantly ashamed or embarrassed for showing my emotions and wondering why no one else seems to be as emotional as me. To clarify; there is nothing wrong with expressing your emotions, and slowly I’ve been learning to accept my emotions and allow myself to feel my feelings, but I feel really angry at myself sometimes for having a breakdown. It makes me feel like I’ve “let myself go” or that I’m going to push away the people I love most by being “too emotional” for them to handle.
I believe the anger I feel towards myself, and the fear of pushing my loved ones away, comes from the negative stereotypes about expressing emotions I’ve grown up hearing my entire life. In today’s society, statements like, “never let them see you cry”, “boys don’t cry '', “grow up”, or using “you’re being too emotional” as an insult, are used all the time. This can be incredibly damaging because it teaches people to hide their emotions; sometimes to the point that they stop feeling them at all.
Growing up, I was taught to be tough; that crying was a sign of weakness. As a girl, it already took a lot to prove to others that I was tough, so crying in front of them would’ve made me lose the small bit of respect I earned for “keeping it together”. This isn’t to say I never cried, as a kid I definitely had my moments. It wasn’t until my eating disorder started that I stopped crying altogether.
I never really noticed it while I was sick, but looking back I can’t recall a single time I cried. I remember watching sad movies that ALWAYS made me cry, but couldn’t even shed a single tear. Similarly, when I danced at the junior prom with my friends, smiled for pictures at the beach in the Florida Keys, and laughed at large family gatherings, I felt like my friends and family around me were so happy and in the moment, while I was just “there”. Although I danced, smiled, and hugged like my friends and family, I never really felt any overwhelming feelings of joy, happiness, or laughter; everything just felt dull.
Recovery gave me the ability to feel my emotions deeply again- even the ones I wish I couldn’t sometimes- like sadness, loneliness, and fear. Whenever I experience these emotions, I get overwhelmed by how they make me feel and struggle to regulate how I express them. Even small things that make me anxious, sad, or angry can cause me to become “overly” emotional. I put that in quotations because I’m not being “overly” emotional- although I am expressing my emotions more openly than others may- there is nothing wrong in doing so. It’s actually healthy for me to be expressing my emotions outwardly rather than bottling them up inside.
Instead of using my eating disorder as a coping mechanism for dealing with my negative emotions, I’m learning to feel them and work through them in a healthy way instead. For anyone who is struggling with mental health, it is likely that turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms feels much easier than feeling the uncomfortable emotions- especially since society has taught us that to express our positive emotions, but to hide it when we are feeling the negative ones. In reality, you can’t enjoy feeling the “happy” emotions, without being able to feel the ones that hurt sometimes too.