General Question

detinu's avatar

How do you deal with extreme emotions brought on by specific events?

Asked by detinu (16points) April 3rd, 2009

My mother is currently in the hospital. I tend to avoid seeing her as much as possible when she’s in the hospital or really ill. Something she’s told me she understands, she doesn’t want to see me in pain the same way I don’t want to see her. But even on the phone, I end up with long silent stretches while I try to keep myself composed and let her talk. Afterwards, I burst out crying and have to get it out.

This just happened, and now even typing this I feel that ache in your face when you try to hold back tears, and I shake a bit. Sometimes I push it all down, sometimes I have a full blown panic attack.

So, my question is, how can I deal with this better? Is there no better, is this something you just barrel through and hope for the best? Have you ever had to do it?

I know the standard is to speak to someone, talk, find friends. I have them, but I’ve always been uncomfortable with what I see as ‘burdening others’ emotionally. My friends are all empathetic types, and sometimes I think it’s too much for them, I end up bottling it up more. And my family, closes up or gets angry at each other when we spend time together.

When do you feel like this? What do you do?

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17 Answers

Mr_M's avatar

Why bottle it up? That’s your whole problem. Cry. Your mother and you will both cry at the same time and you’ll both feel better afterwards. Once you no longer fear crying, you won’t pressure yourself to NOT cry.

How about letting it all out NOW. C’mon.

bythebay's avatar

You need to let your feelings out, in a place and a way that you can still feel safe. Your Mom would understand that you’re feeling badly for her and your compassion and fear are nothing to be ashamed of. My Mom is also in the hospital right now, and I cry on the drive here, on the drive home and sometimes just while I’m sitting here. I have also learned that your friends will not feel burdened when you share your sadness and fear with them; they will feel gifted that you chose to share and honored to be able to offer their support. I wish you and your Mom well.

detinu's avatar

@Mr_M: I don’t cry on the phone with her for a reason, there’s a lot of history behind it, and I can’t handle hearing her cry on top of it. That’s not something that will make me feel better at the moment. It makes me feel incredibly & immeasurably worse.

Mr_M's avatar

I get it. You have to be strong? She’s scared and will get even MORE scared if she sees her children crying? How about conference calls to her with others, so that, when you can’t respond, someone can pick up the slack?

You WILL make yourself sick doing what you’re doing, and your family NEEDS you well.

detinu's avatar

There are elements of what you mentioned but it goes further back than that. Conference calls wouldn’t work, it’s just. I’m fine with the method I’m using – I know that listening to her when I need to keep things together is the best option. My concern now is handling the aftermath.

Mr_M's avatar

What do you mean by aftermath?

detinu's avatar

The emotions, read the question.

bythebay's avatar

@detinu: When the aftermath comes; find your safe spot. Outside, on a car, in your bed, in the shower. Give yourself the time to let it all out – in what ever manner suits you. There’s no perfect formula; just what works for you. I cry, then I clean. Some people punch pillows or pull out their hair, or drink themselves into oblivion. I don’t recommend the latter, but I do recommend finding your own way and allowing yourself the time to recognize your emotions.

detinu's avatar

@bythebay: Thank you, again.

Triiiple's avatar

I run away from my tough emotional problems by blasting music and smoking a fatty. Get into my own zone. Frag some people in a game.

detinu's avatar

I’ll pass.

wundayatta's avatar

It makes me really sad that you can’t express your emotions honestly with your mother, especially at at time like this sounds it is. If that happened to me, I’d feel cut off and distant, and it would make the pain of her illness (and possible death?) even worse. These may be precious moments, and I wouldn’t want to waste them hiding from each other.

I’m sure there are longstanding familial reasons for the way you interact, but sometimes, in situations like this, you can break through the things holding you back, and finally express your true emotions.

I had a friend with pancreatic cancer. She said it was hard for her when people came, and cried about losing her, and she had to comfort them, when she was the one who needed the comfort. You are right not to burden your mother that way.

However, there must be a way to strike a balance where you comfort her, and draw her out, and let her speak what’s really on her mind, and she gives you, perhaps not the same courtesy, but some courtesy.

Most hospitals have hospital pastors or counsellors that help families in situations like this. You could use the help, I bet. Some hospitals have care pages where you set up a website so everyone can communicate with the person who is ill.

If you have to hide, and find someone else to help you let out your emotions, it will be a stopgap, but it will not get you closer to your mother. I don’t know what you want, but that’s what I would want if I were in that situation.

Love is everything, and we all need it so much. Sometimes we put up artificial barriers between us. Those barriers can be so hard to knock down, but if you can, you are rewardes so much. I really, really wish you the best, no matter what you end up doing.

cak's avatar

My family has a very odd way with dealing with prolonged illness, sudden severe illness, hospitalization and death and dying. We tackle it head-on, at first, then run scared.

My father had a prolonged illness, that he was never going to recover from – he passed away in January, from a stroke. During his stay, before he passed away, (he went in on December 24th, died on January 3rd) my mother would call and tell me I didn’t need to go see him, he was looking bad that day. She didn’t want me to get really upset, after all, I’m sick, as well. She wanted to spare me. My father and I have always been very close. The one day I listened to her, and the fact that I was running a temp, I didn’t go. That was the last day he spoke to anyone. He and I did talk on the phone, but I didn’t get to watch him – even then, in the hospital, he was trying to tell jokes and his eyes would just light up. I missed that. I missed my last chance. I cried and cried, in the shower, by myself. Why? Because like you – I hold those emotions in and eventually, they come flying out.

The day he went in, I didn’t cry, until that evening. I teared up, quite often, but never fully let it out until I knew no one was around. I did that every evening.

After he passed away, I was so physically ill and the only thing I could pin it on, was because I wasn’t letting out my emotions. In the days following his death, I tried not to cry around my mother – after all, she needed me to be strong, right? When I went home late, the night before his memorial service, I realized that I didn’t have black shoes that fit. My dog ate my good shoes and I wasn’t about to wear my casual black shoes. The only place, besides Wal-Mart that was open, was Target. My husband took me in and reminded me that I probably couldn’t wear my black pants, anymore. I needed a smaller size. When I went back to try them on, I just started crying. I couldn’t stop crying for anything. It just came pouring out of me. It was not humanly possible for me to hold any emotion in, any longer. The lady that was at the check-in for the dressing room came back to check on me – and all I could do was cry. I finally got the words out to form a sentence to tell her my father had died. She sat with me, put her arm around me and told me to cry. Ironically, this would not be my last Target meltdown!

You can only hold it in for so long. You have to let it out – if you don’t, you really will make yourself sick. My mom and I have talked about our ability to hold in emotions and how it doesn’t help. I don’t know how to tell you to be okay with showing that emotion to your mother – because I don’t know if I’m fully there, yet. I do know this, it’s okay to tell her you are scared. She knows you are going through something, just in the silence.

Write your feelings down, cry in the shower, do whatever you must do to let it out. Understand this, the longer you hold it in, the weaker you will be, you can only do it for so long before it start impacting other areas of your life. If you can’t cry on the phone with her, that’s okay. But please, do not try to hold it in. Tackle that issue another time, right now – do what you can to help yourself let those emotions out. just don’t have a complete meltdown in Target, like I did, recently. Believe me, they look at you funny!

wundayatta's avatar

Wow, @cak, that is a very moving story. Made my eyes well up. Life can throw so much at you. Wasn’t that Target lady who put her arm around you amazing? If only we all had a Target lady like that for when we need her.

YARNLADY's avatar

There are some great tips here, crying in the shower, going to a safe place to experience your emotions and let your self go. What worked for me was seeing a counselor who gave me some ideas and self-help techniques. Your insurance might cover some visits.

Also consider a private journal where you write all your thoughts about this, similar to what you have done with us, but even more cathartic, since no one else will read it.

cak's avatar

@daloon – that is the only time I can ever think of me not wanting to pull away from someone trying to hug me – or comfort me, without me really expressing that I need some kind of comfort. What she did by doing that was the exact thing I needed, at that very moment. If I could remember her face (crying too hard to remember) I would love to thank her.

Chattty1's avatar

Everyboby has their own way of relieving themself. Personaly I need to turn on a taped show that I know will make me cry so I can get a release and then when I need to calm down I have a bottle of clary sage pure esential oil that I breath in deeply which tends to stablize emotional stress.

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