Crying

I am worn out from my groaning.

All night long I flood my bed with weeping

and drench my couch with tears.

My eyes grow weak with sorrow;

they fail because of all my foes. (Psalm 6:6-7)

I’m not typically one to cry. Apart from a few touching scenes at the ends of movies, and the first times I laid eyes on my children, I’m not sure my cheeks even got wet the first decade of my adult life. So it came as quite a surprise to me when I suddenly started crying uncontrollably in the middle of my sermons.

The first time it happened, I dismissed it as being a strong reaction to a moving illustration; I quickly collected myself, and moved on. The following Sunday, however, the tears came at a much less emotional point. By the third week, I could have been reading the phone book up there and blubbering through it. What was happening to me? Was I going crazy?

In a sense, I was. I needed help. The next day I checked myself into the hospital, and there I would find out that the anti-depressant I was taking not only wasn’t working, it was causing me to cycle from dangerous highs to desperate lows. I was experiencing what they called medication-induced, mood-incongruent symptoms.” In other words, I was crying for no good reason, and the drugs were making me do it.

In time, we were able to make necessary medication adjustments. Since then, I have only experienced a handful of occasions where the tears flowed, usually with good cause. Sometimes I almost wish I would cry more, to let out some of the sadness bottled inside me.

One of my frustrations over the years is how, first with my illness and now with my medication, I have lost touch with my true emotions. In the midst of personal crisis, I maintain a “flat affect” and then, much later, a wave of sadness strikes while doing something as basic as vacuuming. It’s as if my body has become a test tube and my emotional outbursts are simply expressions of the chemicals poured in from foreign sources, “foes” that weaken me, that wear me out.

It has helped a great deal to have an empathetic counselor. As I share difficult details of my experience in matter-of-fact tones, he sometimes reacts with audible expressions of pain, commenting, “That must be awful,” and asking me to reflect more on how I dealt with it. When I see how my story impacts him, I begin to sense what emotional links I’m missing and I feel better, knowing better how I feel.

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