Cry bitch cry!

January 14th is the last time that I cried. I remember the date exactly because I had a needle in my neck at the time. Alas, I wasn’t frequenting a hospital or a drug den… I was having acupuncture.

You take Sertraline? Ah ok, so you can’t cry and you’re too hot all of the time, states Martine (acupuncturist) during the initial consultation.
I was taken aback. Both statements were true, but I hadn’t considered this for a long time.

I don’t cry very often. I didn’t at my wedding, when my first book came out, or when my brother moved to Canada. That’s not to say that I don’t feel the emotion, I just can’t cry.

I used to, far too much due to anxiety, which is one of the reasons I started taking medication in the first place. The irony.

We have a complicated history ‘crying’ and I. From around the age of twelve, I tried to abstain at all costs, (looking upwards helped, as did blinking).
I’d feel ashamed as the first tears streamed down my burning cheeks.

It wasn’t the act of crying that I found so offensive, more the ‘being witnessed.’ Nobody enjoys crying in front of others, but I found it borderline traumatic.

My reaction makes sense based on my social anxiety diagnosis. Crying draws attention and like most people with SA, I HATE drawing attention to myself, especially from strangers.

Crying also signifies a loss of control, something that I also struggle with.

The benefits of blubbering

I’m aware that tears do serve a purpose.

  • They relieve stress.. literally – emotional tears contain stress hormones like cortisol and other toxins. Crying is a good way to flush them out of your system.
  • They trigger self-soothing – research suggests that crying activates the ‘parasympathetic nervous system.’ The PNS helps your body rest and digest.
  • They dull pain – Crying triggers the release of oxytocin, a feel-good endorphin that soothes physical and emotional pain. This is why after a good sob, a person experiences a deep sense of calm or stillness.
  • They’re a physical indicator that something is wrong – People who live with mental illness are really good at blocking out the mental symptoms of their condition (e.g. thoughts and emotions). Physical symptoms however such as crying, shaking, or heart palpitations are harder to ignore.
    Once the physical sh** starts, I know that I have to stop and assess how I’m feeling.

Back at the acupuncturist office

There’s a needle in my neck and I’m positively vibrating I’m crying so hard. I keep apologising to Martine, confused by my outburst. Don’t apologise, she soothes. I’ve cleared a blockage and the built-up tension is leaving your body. You needed this. Think of it like popping the cork of champagne.

So I continue to sob noisily and destroy several tissues. When the tears eventually stop I’m exhausted (in a good way).

Curious about my experience and antidepressants medication in general, I do a little research;

Studies from Oxford University have shown that between 46 percent and 71 percent of antidepressant users have experienced emotional blunting during treatment.

Curious indeed.

I have no current plans to stop taking my meds, but I’m mindful of releasing tension every once in a while. So, I’ll either have Martine stick a needle in my neck once a month, or I’ll get drunk and watch the scene from Coronation Street when Jack Duckworth dies. (No idea why this works, I don’t even watch Corrie! But it does the trick EVERY TIME).



  1. Andrew Beasley
    3 April 2020 / 5:08 pm

    I had never thought of acupuncture being able to do that – help with pain and stiffness yes.

    As a man, it’s always hard to express yourself by crying and the number of times I apologise during counselling sessions gets embarrassing. Fortunately I was not on sertraline long enough to notice this side effect – the others led my doctor to take me off them after a couple of weeks.

    One other wY I find is to listen to music – it’s amazing the mix of modern and classical that can trigger tears!

  2. 22 August 2020 / 7:08 pm

    I just came across this, not even sure what led me to this page, but thank you for writing that bit about crying in front of others feeling borderline traumatic. It feels the same for me, from childhood onward, and I thought it was just me. If I’m upset enough to need a good cry, then I need to be alone, because having someone witness it would represent an additional thing to be upset about. Good to know about acupuncture releasing tension/tears, I’ll keep that in mind if I ever do it.

  3. Marek Brylewski
    14 September 2020 / 8:03 pm

    I would rather cry than take the antidepressants. Why numb the emotions….

    • allmadhere
      14 September 2020 / 8:14 pm

      Because….. well the emotions are overwhelming to the point of disrupting day to day life. Not being able to cry isn’t a welcome side effect, but if it helps with the brutal symptoms of anxiety then many consider this worth it.

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