Cracking The Lid On Bottled Emotions
"No one needed to know I was hurting. No one needed to see me cry. Men don't cry."
My dad died in a car accident when I was 15 years old. It took me 10 days to get over the shock of the event and have my first cry about it. Of course, I chose to do this in front of a packed church while reading some bullshit about how great he was as a father. The fact is, he wasn't a great father, but he was my father. My mum and dad had separated when I was 9. My dad and I didn't have the best relationship leading up to his death, which I guess, in part, made the grieving process that little bit harder. How could I grieve the death of a man I spent so long being angry at?
In the time that followed my dad's death, those feelings of loss, hurt and anger bottled up in me. I was like a ticking time bomb. Any time someone would ask about my dad, I would want to cry, but I kept suppressing those emotions. No one needed to know I was hurting. No one needed to see me cry. Men don't cry.
It took 2 and a half years for that lid to finally burst open. I still remember the night it happened too. I was at a mates house for a BBQ when his mum asked why I never talked about my dad. I had suppressed my emotions to the point that I didn't even want to talk about him. So, with my mates mum's question about my father, and a little help from a few lagers, I cried. And I cried. And I cried. And it felt good. This massive weight that would squeeze at my chest and clog up with throat was finally removed.
From that moment on I could talk about my dad without feeling like I was going to break down.
Why did it take so long for me to open up? I thought that as a man crying was a sign of weakness. We grow up with a skewed notion of what it means to be a man. This misrepresentation is something that is echoed by media and by society. We are told;
- Man Up
- She'll Be Right
- You Need To Be Strong
- Toughen Up
It took years for me to realise, but these bottled emotions would have an effect, not only on me but on those around me and future relationships.
After years of bottling my emotions I have learned;
It's okay to cry
You don't need to do it in front of a packed church, or even in front of your mate's mum. Go off and do it alone, with a box of tissues. Take a load off. Real men cry.
Seek professional help
Only last year did I finally see the value in seeing a psychologist. For years I thought only nut jobs and people with "issues" saw them. So if anyone ever suggested I see one, I would get defensive. Seeing a psychologist provides a safe environment that is free of judgement. And if you don't like the first one you go to, shop around until you find someone you click with.
Talk to your mates
Don't underestimate the value of your male friendships. Have the courage to share your feelings with the friends you are comfortable to do so with. Be available to your mates who need the lend of an ear.
Tell it how it is
If someone asks "Are you ok" - Be honest. Let them know how you're really feeling. It's not a throwaway comment. A problem shared is a problem halved.
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