Image in background by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

To read more of Alana’s work please visit her Medium page! Amazing writer with a deep sense of emotion.

What emotions do for us, and a snippet of my mental health journey.

I have been a highly sensitive person for the entirety of my existence. I get overwhelmed easily. I cry. A lot. I cried every morning during kindergarten school days. I cried at 9/10 movies I watched (uh, bawled my eyes out throughout the apocalyptic 2012 when humanity crumbled before my eyes, and within the first 15 minutes of UP when Carl was widowed). I cried for every sob story that made me feel too much because I could feel the pain that wasn’t even mine.

This tendency to cry easily made me look weak to others. And I grew up with a self-critical mind, constantly berated myself for feeling so sad, so often.

Today, I’m slowly learning to accept that my tears are functional. A little over the normal range than most people, but they are channels to release stress, and a healthy outlet of emotions — to a certain extent.

The counsellors I saw in the past few years helped me see the role of my tears and emotions.

We need emotions.

Anger tells you to fight for something important.

Sadness tells you what you value, and communicate to others you need comfort.

Guilt tells you to mend a wrong.

Jealousy tells you to protect what you have.

We need these signals.

Imagine a world without emotions. Would you still care for a justice system to persecute wrongdoings? Would you still care to protect your baby from harm? Would you be motivated to strive for survival and well-being?

We need emotions to propel us forward, although they can also set us back.

I have been so afraid of feeling my emotions. In a society where most people are conditioned to hide their true feelings, I felt abnormal being so uncontrollably expressive of my emotions. I could not mask irritation, nor sadness. I felt too exposed and raw to touch.

I didn’t like feeling so many things, so intensely. I didn’t like having nowhere to hide them.

But rather thankfully, my tears gave me indications when things went wrong.

In one of the most stressful semesters of university, I cried every day with no single cause or apparent trigger for two weeks straight. I was confused. Helpless. Angry at myself for crying so much. Desperate to feel okay again. Hoping for a break. A day when it didn’t feel like the world was caving in on me.

After a lot of support and help from counsellors and loving friends, that period of overwhelming emotions eventually passed. I felt a little bit closer to normalcy. (Sometimes, I ask myself what is normal anyway?) However, days still felt numb. It was like being in deep waters without air supply and no struggles.

A dull, quiet drowning.

At that point, I wanted to explore the option of antidepressants to lift me from my depressed moods. Just as I was about to make the appointment to see the doctor for prescription, my mother told me she bought Chinese herbs, and told me to try it out before turning to western medication.

Initially, I felt anger as she did not ask if I wanted to try herbs and went ahead to get them. I didn’t have the agency to choose. I wasn’t even there personally for the Chinese physician to diagnose anything. How would it have helped? Still, I didn’t want to let her efforts go to waste, so I tried it with doubt anyway and worked on other self-care methods.

Long story short, I didn’t see the doctor. The herbs were just for nerve-calming purposes. I managed.

This is just a part of my mental wellness journey, but it’s a narrative I didn’t know how to tell. I was the in-between case. Not clinically depressed, but not fully well either. I’m learning to own this narrative now.

Fast forward to post graduation, another episode led me to finally see a GP and try to seek more answers for what I feel so often. I was out of the school system and could not rely on my school counsellors for proper counselling therapies.

I wondered if I were making things up in my head.

Is there something inherently wrong with my brain? Could this feeling be fixed via medical treatment?

Thankfully, I was assured that what I was going through could be managed without psychiatric treatment, and talking therapies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy would help. I’m also grateful that my concerns were not callously dismissed by medical professionals. Each new touch point was anxiety-inducing. I feared that I would be rejected from getting help. It’s a difficult journey, but I hope to walk with others on their own journey too. Although it may feel terrifyingly lonely, I want to tell them they are never alone.

This journey has opened my heart to embrace my existence.

This journey has allowed me to listen closely to the suffering and pain others feel.

This journey has peeled open my eyes to see the healing powers of love and compassion.

Will you let your tears and emotions tell their stories too?