There’s no crying in Craps — or is there?
Embracing mental health and vulnerability
February 13, 2018
I have some trepidation about sharing this one because I've heard some of the things said about people who post emotional pictures on the internet. Hint: it isn't nice.
Why do we pass so much judgment on those kinds people and, more specifically, on emoting photos? If you're thinking: because I want my Instagram feed to look like a cross between an L.L.Bean catalogue and the latest issue of Bon Appetit, I'll admit sounds aesthetically pleasing but equally inauthentic. Maybe you're less concerned with the aesthetics and more concerned with the social implications of such a display. You baffle at the thought of people knowing what they look like undone and unrestrained. Or maybe, like most of us, you don't quite know why emotion makes you cringe. It just does.
I think we cringe those photos because, even if we know it’s important, most of us still cringe at vulnerability. I am no exception. I can publish a story about my mental health or eating disorders on the Internet but still have to write four drafts of a speech to my boyfriend just so I can mumble a soft-spoken, roundabout explanation on why I’m upset about something.
“I’m trying to vulnerable and open which is hard to me,” I say almost every time.
I know vulnerability is important and I’m happy to take the lead among friends, colleagues, and internet pals. Romantic relationships, an environment where I’ve always preferred to be in-control and seen as a strong, capable caregiver, are where I struggle.
When we are vulnerable, I’m talking about tearful-internet-picture levels of honest and open, we give up our ability to control or curate a person’s response to us. Learning to act and feel with openness turns that situation, whether it’s a relationship, your mental health or a creative project, from feeling like you’re playing a game of chess to ... a game of craps. You place your bets, dice are flying everywhere, you’re not sure if you even remember how the rules of this game work, sometimes you lose, and sometimes you win.
Sometimes you win big.
That potential to lose keeps a lot of us from stepping up to the table. It keeps a lot of us from even walking into the casino because watching people risk big makes us nervous. Watching someone crap out makes us cringe, just like seeing someone cry. Tears are a sign that someone is crapping out emotionally.
Watching people crap out, physically and emotionally, makes us uncomfortable because we can empathize with the fallout. We know how much it sucks to hurt, struggle, be broke, sick, or tired and we don’t like feeling that way. We watching that person experience something unfortunate and somewhere deep down realize that we’re probably going to crap out again too.
We don’t like watching people crap out because we know that it’s unavoidable. Odds are that, at some point, life is going to force you to walk up to that table and throw the dice. If you want to win big, the first step is to join the game and place your bet. You might lose a throw or two or three.
Embracing my mental health has been an arduous journey at times. Admitting that I feel things like exhaustion and imperfection often makes me angry and uncomfortable. It's only after I process those feelings that I'm able to harvest the rewards of rest and freedom. I’ve thought that it might be easier to go back to hiding behind disordered eating and numbed emotions more than a handful of times. The other night, as I struggled to ease an impending panic attack, was one of those nights. I wanted to go for a run to escape the growing panic, but I’d already been quite active that day and I knew part of this was because my body needed rest. I also wanted to stomp around the house and be angry at my boyfriend for the fact that we couldn’t agree on dinner, but I knew I'd regret that because I didn't care about dinner and I didn't want to be mad at him. The real reason I wanted to be angry was because I was feeling weak and vulnerable.
Embracing vulnerability, mental health, and what it means to be human, doesn’t always look like the inside of an L.L.Bean catalogue. It’s not always as simple as reading a happy blogger’s inspirational post. While we love to listen to triumph stories, we can’t form them without the action and conflict that came before the resolution. The truth is that no matter how good things are right now, you’re probably going to find yourself in a little bit, or a lot of bit, of hurt again before it’s all over. Being vulnerable is not always a winning throw, but one bad throw doesn’t mean the game is lost. If you bet smart and you know what’s on the line, you can always get back in the game.
I didn’t run, throw a tantrum, or start a fight that night. Instead I just sat on an old yoga mat and I cried. I cried until I could start to employ my breathing practices again.
And then, once the breathing worked, I grabbed the dice and got ready to throw again.*
*Okay actually then I got sick with the flu… but I’m gonna start rolling those dice as soon as this passes.