Monday, January 11, 2016

The Sensitivity Stigma

In the past week, I may have cried about three times.

In the past month, oh jeez, perhaps 20? It depends on how dark I am feeling. The number changes.

But I don’t want to portray the image of me strewn across my bed, coloring the comforter with my tears while the small of my back rises and falls with heavy sobbing.

Things that make me emote are hardly ever predictable, and often are not sad at all.

For example, things that have made me cry recently:

Driving by myself on a Saturday afternoon, knowing that I had the weekend off and seeing a single, crumpled leaf tumble in the air and go across the road. It was calming, and bright, and lovely.

The beginning instrumentation to Star Wars Episode 7. It began, and so did the sweet tears.

A picture of a baby hippo I saw on Facebook that was wet and very small. I wanted to hug it.

Hearing One Week by the Barenaked Ladies come on the radio while I was driving home from work. I love this song, and whenever it plays on the radio, my mood skyrockets out of my chest.

Seeing my dog when I recently visited my parents. I was able to kiss her little nose and sniff her ears and touch her tiny little feet paws.

And of course, miscellaneous cases where I felt hurt, irritated, left out, anxious, or existential.

Essentially, crying definitely isn’t exclusively reserved for when one is sad or angry. We know this. People sometimes cry when they are happy, and well, I am a happy-crier. I am an excited-crier. I am just an overall, general leaky bathroom faucet that starts unpredictably dripping.

From as far back as I can remember, I have easily gotten my feelings hurt. I have always been sensitive, to feelings, to senses, to loud noises. Stepping out into a bright, sunny day without sunglasses or a hat will cause me to act like a Mogwai that has just gotten its picture taken (by the way, I love that Mogwai wasn’t marked with a red, squiggly line. It wasn’t spell checked. That is awesome.) If someone turns on a vacuum cleaner or blasts music in a car, I feel like pencils have been shoved deep into my ears or that I am being attacked by the air around me. Loud clapping? Forget it. Ear phones? I have them turned down real low.

As far as being sensitive emotionally, I have memories of children being mean to me when I was younger, and I am sure that they were because children can be super evil, and realistically I may have twisted the actual situations around in my head to be a little worse than what they actually were (I realized that I said “children being mean to me” which seems like hordes of like, 25 little kids scowling on a playground, and that seems exaggerated. I dealt with about 5 mean little girls throughout elementary school, probably). A certain instance that stands out in my mind is when I went camping with girl scouts in second grade and a member of my troop, in front of many other girls, said “Jordan looks like a opossom!” and started meanly, manically laughing. And okay, reflecting on this now, I realize that it sounds silly. But I promise that it was definitely traumatic, and the first time as a person that I really questioned what I looked like, and as a gap toothed, four-eyed young human, I felt super ugly. The same girl told my whole Vacation Bible School group one summer that “my tank top was inappropriate for church”. I was so embarrassed (and also like, ten years old!!!) and thought that God was upset with me for showing my little baby shoulders on a 95 degree day. (Ugh, remember when I said that I wasn’t going to hold grudges for a New Year’s resolution? See how well that is turning out for me? You also know that I was involved with girl scouts and went to VBS, so uh yeah, little Jordan was big on the group activities.)

Like I said initially, one thing that I can be sure of, is that I have always been a sensitive person, and have hardly ever hid it well.

Times where I have cried in public:

Seeing Because of Winn Dixie in the movie theater. Really seeing almost any film in a movie theater.

In choir my sophomore year of high school because my choir teacher wouldn’t excuse my 5 minute tardy to 0 period (which started at 7:10 am) and I had never gotten a tardy before.

In hallways in high school, more than once, over a boy or two. Which is a whole lot of “yikes!” right there. Ugh, the things you wish you knew when you were 15 years old.

In my drivers ed class, when I cried at these horrible scare tactic videos. In one of them, a girl spoke about her sister that died in a car accident and well, I have a little sister! It got to me! My instructor pointed me out and laughed saying, “Wow, that must’ve really hit her!” and everyone turned around and looked at my red, shiny face, which made me cry more because it was embarrassing as hell. (He was an asshole that named the rat that lived in the class building after an infamous pedophile. Real story. I wish it wasn't.)

But it shouldn’t be. Emotions are things. They are part of the experience of being alive.

Being a woman, I have easily been written off as “overly emotional” or “crazy”. And I am not alone. How many women have been pigeonholed as the “Crazy Girlfriend” or how many guys have been written off as being “Emotionally Unstable” or pathetic because they cry? It’s gross and stupid. No one should be shamed for being emotional, because we are not all stone-faced like Chuck Norris. (Are Chuck Norris jokes even funny anymore? Am I behind here?)


There is a stigma behind emotions. But emotions do not make people weak. If I start to cry, I absolutely cannot hold it back. I have been told that my energy is almost tangible. I cannot hide what I feel, whether thrilled or furious, and if I walk into a room then it radiates off of me. You might be thinking, “Well, she sounds like she needs to control herself” but I am confident enough to admit when something makes me feel a certain way. And it’s not like I am rolling all over the floor crying or screaming at people (I really hardly ever get angry. It takes a lot to actually make me mad).

Writing off emotions as being “crazy” or “overly sensitive” only further stigmatizes mental illnesses and psychological stress in general. It is one thing if someone is upset over a bad person or force in their life, but how dare they be criticized for battling their own mind? It is such hell, that if everyone were more educated on it, they wouldn’t shrug off a young woman crying at work as “Just being hormonal”, or a dude as “Being a _____” insert whatever offensive word you’d like!

What I have found is that it is easier for people to write someone off as being emotional instead of admitting when they messed up. We hear this all of the time, with things such as:

I am sorry that upset you.
I am sorry you feel that way.
I can’t help that you feel like that.

Instead, we should probably be saying things like:
I am sorry that I upset you.
I am sorry that I made you feel that way.
I shouldn’t have made you feel like that.

It is harder to take accountability than just make someone feel like they are an emotional mess, but it isn’t cool. We don’t like to admit when we messed up. But this type of thinking makes emotional people feel like they are always wrong, and that emotions, in general, are intrinsically wrong or bad.

Being emotional isn’t an incorrect response. It is normal. So normal! We are allowed to feel and connect, to shed a tear or laugh maniacally when you feel truly happy. For some of us, a moment of pure happiness is so rare that the experience is ethereal. That we rise up out of ourselves and bask in light and warm watercolor, and none of that should be down played. We live for the highs that make all of the lows so very worth it.

By the end of the day, I will probably see a cute video of a puppy and kitten sleeping together, and inevitably, get a little overwhelmed.

By existing, we have permission to feel things, and say when we feel them. And if anyone tries to tell you that you are crazy for feeling A THING, then let me know. Once they meet me, you’ll seem normal by comparison. I am willing to do that for you.