My holidays were great. I think I had one of my favorite Christmases ever with my family. I was happy. Between my nephews—Tyson and Mikko—surprising us with a performance they called, “Christmas Gangham Style,” great conversations, and all thirty-four of us singing Joy to the World , it was all I could ask for. Despite that, I had sporadic depressive moments where I felt sad for no reason at all. I have bipolar disorder; it happens. Being around family lifted my spirits. (Note: Not everyone feels that way; some people don’t want to be around others when they’re in pain.) Bipolar disorder isn’t as simple as being happy or sad, depressed or manic (or hypomanic for people with bipolar 2, like me). Sometimes, you can be happy and sad at the same time.
When The Pain Comes Out of Nowhere
At times I wondered if I would cry. Would it be weird? What would that look like? What if this pleasant conversation is interrupted by awkward crying? My nieces and nephews have never seen me cry from depression. Then, I remembered a Christmas many years ago when I was playing with Tyson—he was a toddler at the time. We were playing together when all of the sudden I started crying because the pain of polycystic ovarian (PCOS) shot right through me. It came out of nowhere like a sneak attack on my ovaries! He ran downstairs and told his mom, “Mommy, Tita Jessica is crying!”
Flash forward a few years later: His brother, Mikko saw me hunched over, crying at a family gathering. I was in pain—this time from the PCOS and Myasthenia Gravis. Mikko was about three. He came up to me and pointed to my stomach and asked me, “Hurts? Hurts?” Yes, I nodded. Then, he ran to his mom and told her, “Mommy, Tita Jessica is crying.” My cousin said, “Why don’t you ask her why?” He returned and brought me some pillows. An hour later, he checked up on me. I was still crying. So Mikko brought me some flowers that he ripped from my aunt’s floral arrangement. Even if I’m not crying, Mikko senses when I’m in pain. Often, he will put his hand on my arm and sit with me in silence or tell me a joke to make me laugh.
No Shame In Crying Because of Mental Illness
When we’re in public, I notice that my nephews go out of their way to reach out to people who are different (such as people in wheelchairs). They don’t stare; they’ve grown up around an aunt who carries a cane after all. They see me in gloves and sometimes, in a mask. They’re not wierded out the way some adults are. If it’s okay to see my crying because of physical pain, what’s wrong with crying from emotional pain? If I cried, I shouldn’t be embarrassed. If they asked me why, I would tell them, “I’m sad.” I wouldn’t need to go into the specifics of bipolar disorder with a seven-year old. And I shouldn’t be ashamed.
Intuition and Empathy
When the boys grow up, I’m sure they won’t tell their wives dismissively, “It’s just your period” should those women should have painful periods and conditions like endometriosis or PCOS (which happens to 10% of women). I had a teammate “G” in college who was extremely patient and empathetic. One day, I found out why. After a meeting, we were alone and I burst into tears. I cried “the ugly cry” (on his Alpaca sweater too)! I told G that I had been depressed in bed all day, I struggled to go to practice, and that I had bipolar disorder. (At that point, I hadn’t told anyone on the team.) He responded rather calmly with, “I know. My dad has bipolar too.” Afterwards, G took me out to eat as I had not eaten all day. Like G, I imagine that my nephews will also grow up with this intuition and desire to help others.
Okay To Cry About Penguins Too
I didn’t cry on Christmas night because my mood gradually improved. A few days after Christmas, my mom and I saw Penguins of Madagascar with the boys. After the movie, I woke up to hear Mikko telling my mom, “Lola Tita, I almost cried during the sad part.” I told him there’s nothing wrong with crying.
He said, “I know that. I didn’t cry because it made me sad but not that sad.”
I learned that it’s okay to cry—okay to cry about physical pain, emotional pain, and penguins (whatever happened to those penguins).
–Your Stylist, Jessica Gimeno
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