Why It's Not Only Healthy, but Transformational and Resilience-building for Men to Cry
by Sarah Fader, Founder of Stigma Fighters
I can think of three times that my husband cried.
They were all totally understandable reasons. I can remember two times that my father cried, and I felt his pain and understood it on a deep level.
But, read what I wrote in the last couple of sentences.
These men in my life only cried a handful of times. Is that right? I don’t believe so. Let’s ask ourselves why this is . . .
Society places a lot of pressure on men to “suck it up” and “to be strong in a crisis." Our culture tells men that vulnerability is frowned upon, and being stoic is preferred. What does it mean to be a man? It means that you have two emotions: anger and happiness. You can be outwardly pissed or joyous. We know that the human experience is not limited to these emotions. As people we can be sad, happy, frustrated, angry, depressed or anxious. And that is naming only some of the options available for feeling.
I want my male friends to know that it is okay to cry. Fuck society and their perceived expectation of masculinity! Men have the right to cry their faces off!! They don’t need to wait until someone dies to shed some tears. Now, there is the issue of men who live with depression or bipolar disorder. These men are particularly sensitive to feeling low. Part of depression is acknowledging your feelings and processing them.
What are you supposed to do as a man who suffers from depression? Are you supposed to pretend to be happy? Pretending is bullshit, in my opinion, unless you’re an actor on a stage, and even then acting is rooted in the truth. Men with depression are consistently encouraged to hide their feelings due to societal stigma. I cannot imagine how difficult that must be for them. Wait, yes I can, because it happened to me from ages 15 to 33. I consistently experienced panic attacks and I hid them from my friends. I was terrified to be perceived as weak or dramatic.
Some people labeled me as such when they witnessed my debilitating anxiety. However, there is a difference between my experience with anxiety and a man with mental health issues. I owned my feelings even if it was in private. If I needed to cry, I cried. If I needed to scream, I screamed into a pillow. A man (according to society) isn’t “supposed” to do any of that.
They are instead supposed to be devoid of the majority of emotions. Bullshit!
When you process your emotions you move through them. Men have the right to experience the full spectrum of human emotion. When you’re a man living with depression you have no choice but to experience your feelings of sadness. You have two options: you can ignore your feelings and repress them, which we know creates more problems later in life or you can deal with them not “like a man,” but like a human fucking being.
Who told you that you “can’t cry?” Well, that isn’t true.
As a man you can dictate what you are “allowed” to feel. It’s not right for society or another person to tell you how to feel. So I say, cry if you want to cry. Cry until your face feels like it’s going to fall off. This is the way to process your emotions.
As a woman (also a human being by the way) I have tried to repress my feelings and it hurt me so much in the long run. For three years, I didn’t want to feel my feelings. I pretended I didn’t have them, as a matter of fact. They would come up, and I’d swallow them like a giant vitamin that tasted awful. I imagine that might be how a man feels when he is subconsciously told by society that he isn’t allowed to feel sadness.
I have a message for society: men have eyeballs that produce tears. Men experience life and are emotionally affected by its events. Society, back up and release your unreasonable expectations about what a man is. Men cry, and I want to see more of that. I want to live in a world where every human being feels that they have permission to cry and not seem "weak." We all deserve that chance. Society, you’re wrong and things need to change.
The next time a man cries, give him a hug and soothe him, just like you would any other human being. He deserves that and more.