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Feeling My Feelings: Releasing the Sadness Within

For a long time, I struggled to express my sadness. Even when I wanted to cry, I often held in my tears, as if I was embarrassed or ashamed that they needed to fall. I denied myself the right to cry because I saw it as weakness, even though, deep down, I knew that crying was a sign of strength. I tortured myself for years by convincing myself that it wasn’t ok, and so I had no choice but to find another way to express my sadness.

Instead of crying, I turned to writing. Where my tears struggled to fall, my words fell from my pen with ease. I poured all of my unshed tears into stories, poems and journal entries, believing that they would help me to get rid of my pain. Though writing did guide me down the path of healing, it didn't have the same effect as crying. Crying was more powerful… crying was the ultimate acknowledgment, admission and acceptance for the sadness I felt inside. By allowing myself to cry, I would have honored my sadness and began the journey of letting it go. Instead, I held on to it... pushing it down into the far reaches of my being where it waited for the time when I would have no choice but to acknowledge it.

I experienced one of those times two weeks ago. One of my favorite animals, my fur brother Skippy, became ill, and I feared for his loss. His sickness came out of nowhere and affected me so deeply that I didn’t even try to stop the tears from falling. Skippy “skipped” into our lives last year. He was living with 8 other cats in the remnants of a burned down house after his own family abandoned him. Out of the goodness of their hearts, my parents provided medical attention, fed and tried to find homes for the whole colony, but they fell in love with Skippy and decided to take him home. His carefree spirit and warmhearted nature touched our hearts instantly. Loving him was easy. He embraced all the other cats in the house, took turns sitting on our laps, accepted the endless affection bestowed upon him, appreciated each and every meal and played with every toy he was given. Skippy was the missing piece to the household that we didn’t even know was missing until his arrival.

Having two cats of my own, I was surprised at how attached I became to him. He warmed my heart with his love of life and his lack of fear. A special soul, he encompassed all the good traits that I loved in both of my cats. The heart of the family, it was devastating when his endless energy and insatiable appetite came crashing down unexpectedly. An explorer, a daredevil and a force of nature from the moment he woke up to the moment he went to sleep (aside from his 3 hour cat-nap in the middle of the day), Skippy was always doing something. In the span 2 days, he turned into a cat we didn’t recognize. He became so devoid of energy that the entire house felt the change. We knew something was wrong, but we didn’t want to panic because it was the weekend and our family vet wasn’t open until Monday morning. We put our faith in God, did what we could to keep him comfortable, stayed by his side and hoped that he would self-heal whatever was ailing him. That Sunday was one of the longest days of my life.

That Sunday was the day I let the tears flow…

without shame, guilt, embarrassment or judgment…

for as long as they needed…

until there were no tears left to cry...

and in doing so, I healed.

While crying for Skippy, I released years of repressed tears. The longer I cried, the more I realized that I wasn't just crying for Skippy but for all the times that I couldn’t cry. I cried for all the times I was hurt by the world… all the times I was hurt by my loved ones… and all the times I was hurt by myself. While memory after memory graced my consciousness, I allowed them their time to heal. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t berate or judge myself for crying and that made it easier to let go of all the sadness that had been stuck deep inside. I cried until I had nothing left to cry and when I was finished, I felt like the cloud that had been hovering above my head was finally gone.

Though he was unaware of what was happening around him, Skippy gave me a gift by helping me to heal. We took him to the vet on Monday and he got the treatment he needed: antibiotics, fluids and a cortisone shot. Our vet recommended that we take him home and allow the medications to work their magic, but to bring him back as soon as they opened if he didn’t improve. We prayed that he was on the road to recovery. Unfortunately, his condition seemed to worsen before it got better. That night, his breathing seemed labored, he still wasn’t eating or drinking and his energy remained depleted. I spent all night sleeping by his side… counting down the seconds until we could take him back to the vet. After a full day of tests with no significant findings and lots more fluids, the vet had done everything he could do. Whether or not he was going to pull through was up to Skippy.

When he got home that Tuesday, we watched as he took his first few bites of food. Little by little, his energy resumed and within a few days, he was skipping around the house as if nothing had happened. We were so grateful for the chance to keep loving him. Instead of crying tears of sadness, my heart cried tears of joy. Just like we will never know the cause of Skippy’s illness, I may never know why the thought of losing him opened the floodgates of sadness I had kept closed for so long. I'm glad they are now open for when my future times of sadness call for tears.

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