"Crying is universal - across all cultures. It appears in folktales and mythology and across ages, from babies to the elderly and even animals. Given this, why is there so much shame in it?"
You know when your face is all red and swollen, that heaving - almost vomiting - sadness that wells up from deep inside us and there are no more tears left? That moment when you couldn't possibly cry anymore because you have nothing left inside?
It's similar to the space between asleep and awake, an inhale and an exhale, the moment your foot leaves the ground ready to step forward, or backward.
When you're completely exhausted from sadness.
That is the moment that sits in infinite potential of our being. It's that moment that we are raw and vulnerable and our beingness sits in possibilities - the possibilities of awakening, the possibilities of exhaling, the possibilities of changing direction and the possibilities of allowing joy to bubble up inside us.
We have so much power in that moment.
Crying is as natural as breathing. But just like when we hold our breath or when we hold our tears and sadness in, it is us that suffers. We choke. We drown in our emotions. We are unable to live fully. Borgquist suggests that before we cry, we have an accumulation, where emotions build up until they can no longer be held by the physiological system. And yet, as awful as it feels sometimes, crying is good for us. It is hard for science to measure a good impromtu cry in a lab, but overwhelmingly (60-70%) of people found psychological benefits in having a good cry. Crying is universal - across all cultures. It appears in folktales and mythology and across ages, from babies to the elderly and even in animals. Given this, why is there so much shame in it? Why do we hide our raw, emotional feelings?
According to psychosomatic therapy, tears shouldn't be wiped away. The energetic release allows for the tracks of the tears to fall away along with the reasons for the grief. The Communication Queen Carmel Murphy suggests they should be allowed to flow past your chin "You simply must allow your tears to flow to allow release. Pschomatically your spirit does not register that you have released the emotion until your tears reach your chin. So cry freely and heal quicker." So let them flow. As my girlfriend rightly said yesterday "maybe it's about accepting...and not fighting it." Her wisdom was a timely reminder of loving what is, diving fully into the sadness, to sit in it, to sit with it - without judgement.
Life is not about our achievements or popularity or the stuff we collect, it is the moments. It's the moment before sleep or awakening, the pause between the in-breath and out-breath, it's the momentary pause between steps and it's the moment that sits between sadness and joy. Life is made of these moments. And in every one, we have a choice - to suppress our feelings, or to allow ourselves to BE in that moment, until our face is puffy, our stomach muscles are aching, the tears are exhausted and we feel empty. It's in that emptiness we have choice and that feels empowering.
©Alyssa Curtayne 2019
 Borgquist, Alvin. “Crying.” The American Journal of Psychology, vol. 17, no. 2, 1906, pp. 149–205. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1412391.
 Rottenberg, Jonathan, et al. “Is Crying Beneficial?” Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 17, no. 6, 2008, pp. 400–404. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20183331.
"It's such a foreign feeling that I'm not sure how to cope with it. Ultimately, I'm scared to be happy. My depression has formed such an important part of my identity that I don't know who I am without it."
Depression is a strange thing; we have a chemical imbalance in our brain caused by some pretty unbalanced gut bacteria, supported by life traumas and events and probably most pertinent to this post - it's a part of our identity.
I've always had depression. Most people who have a mental illness will show signs of it before the age of 25 and I'm no different. I first remember feeling really empty inside at age nine. I don't remember the circumstances at the time, but given the science about the biology of depression now, it probably had nothing to do with events, but gut bacteria.
As I wrote last week, I'm in a pretty dark place. I have thought about suicide and my own death on occasion but nothing that I'm willing to take action on. But this week has been somewhat of a roller coaster. I've had these moments where I've forgotten about my misery and can almost feel the flickering of joy that's trying to escape from me.
I'm terrified of being happy. It's ironic really - to be so miserable and wanting to not feel so hopeless and helpless - yet having this simmering happiness just sitting under the surface of my heart. It's such a foreign feeling that I'm not sure how to cope with it. Ultimately, I'm scared to be happy. My depression has formed such an important part of my identity that I don't know who I am without it. I know that I'll always have a predisposition to it, yet who am I without being a miserable, melancholy, introverted person. It's like I have this other person just sitting inside me waiting to come out - a joyful, happy, contented person - but my ego just doesn't want anything to change. It is happy with the status quo, it is comfortable, it is known and it is easier to be miserable than to be happy.
My power word, or Guru word - as I learned in a workshop with Marcus and Andy from the Wellness Leadership Revolution - is JOY. The word that both terrifies and excites me. It is a word that I can feel deep within myself but I'm coveting it just for myself, I'm not willing to let anyone else see me in a state of joy. And yet, I'm excited by how I could be if I could just strip of this coat of depression and be in that state of joy. Of course, it's unrealistic to expect to be in a constant state of joy - life isn't like that - but it would be nice to try it on sometimes and put that coat of depression in the cupboard, just like a winter rug that's put away in summer.
Perhaps being in a depressed state protects me from stripping back my vulnerable heart because I'm already punishing it enough on my own. So, this week I am going to do two things to help me to tap into that joy:
1. Listen to music that makes me want to dance or makes my heart sing.
2. Allow that joy to come to the surface when the bubbling arises. It is safe for me to be happy. It is okay for me to be happy. I have permission to be happy.
I hope this helps you too.
Until next time,
©Alyssa Curtayne 2019
"I didn't feel like I had permission to be here, to be seen, to dress up, to look nice or to feel empowered. I felt like I didn't have the right to ...well, exist - anywhere outside of my house, my family or my workplace. I felt like an imposter, not just in the restaurant, but in the WORLD."
Since the great yoga-teacher-training-ego-death debarcle lessons of 2016, I've not been well. I've been floating in this space of uncertainty and grief looking for a part of me that I have lost. This is a poem I wrote recently that captures that feeling...
My ego death about my yoga identity, the empty-nest hollowness I feel about my children growing up and the loss of my home have all converged in this massive ball of grief that I feel almost all of the time these days.
What my children leaving has done, however is to remind me who I was BEFORE I became a mother.
Last night, my partner took myself and my youngest daughter out to dinner at the casino. I looked around at all of the women who were dressed immaculately and I could feel a mass of anxiety rising in the pit of my stomach, the realisation that I was an imposter; like I shouldn't have been there, because I had no right. Just like I did as a teenager and a young adult at university.
In both situations, I didn't feel like I had permission to be here, to be seen, to dress up, to look nice or to feel empowered. I felt like I didn't have the right to ...well, exist - anywhere outside of my house, my family or my workplace. I felt like an imposter, not just in the restaurant, but in the WORLD.
I am afraid of being seen and to be honest, my greatest fears (apart from tsunamis - and who isn't scared of them?!), is to be the bride in a wedding because that would make me the centre of attention. All of these fears were hidden while I was a mother, but now, it's come back in a full-frontal assault on my consciousness. There's this real sense of a feeling that I don't have permission to be happy, to have fun, or be successful outside my comfort zone of my introverted protective bubble that I created while my kids were around.
Recently I signed up for the Femme-preneur training with Marnie Le Fevre and the moment I signed up I realised that this was a woman who wouldn't allow any of this inner crap stay inside me, the training will break down these walls that I have put up to protect myself from rejection and hurt by others because in truth, I'm afraid to shine. I'm afraid to shine my own light and to just be fully in myself as Alyssa Curtayne. The moment I signed up, it was as if I actually started the training with her on an energetic level and I'm scared, I'm excited but mostly I'm tired of pretending that I'm okay with how things are because I'm not.
So, today, I'm asking myself what the most extraordinary thing I could imagine for my life. I'm breaking down the walls and giving myself permission to live an extraordinary life where I am comfortable in being the very best me I can be, the most beautiful me I could be and the most happy me I could be and in August I experience the training with Marnie, I know I'll just be ready to shine and let my vulnerable brilliant self be.
©Alyssa Curtayne 2019
I have a theory about depression.
I must preface by saying that I am not a doctor or psychologist, but I have experienced depression and this theory originates from my experiences and discussions with other people experiencing depression.
According to BeyondBlue, one in six people will experience depression at some point in their lives. Linked to depression are both self-harm behaviours and suicide. I have had suicidal thoughts and I made it through it. I'm still here and I am so grateful.
Please contact Lifeline if you are feeling suicidal 131 114 (in Australia) or the equivalent in your country.
I was first diagnosed with depression, post-partum my third child, but I definitely had a lot of signs before that into my
teens and early 20s. It was recommended that I take anti-depressants, but it never felt right to me, I don’t even take paracetamol when I have a headache, so I’m not likely to have more serious medications! I did go through a lot of counselling but art therapy and journalling worked the best for me.
Anyway, back to the theory. My theory goes like this: we all live our lives following what society says – our parents and families, schools, peers and so on and that’s how we are socialised into the world. That is not to apportion any blame of parents, after all, we parents are doing the very best that we can in the world. But within that life that we live, our identity is built by external forces, starting with gender roles, expectations of behaviour learned from modelling by our parents, television and our peers and increasingly YouTube. Even our name to some extent defines who we are before we ourselves even have a chance to figure it out.
When we are driven by external forces we lose ourselves. We are not quite sure who we are. We are not quite sure who we were born as and who we were destined to be and we spend the rest of our lives remembering who we are. That’s where depression comes in. It is a place of not knowing exactly who you are in a world where you don’t feel like you have a say or have any power to change the trajectory of your life. It is a place where you feel like your life is out of your hands and you are playing a role.
It is a dark and dismal place and like all great self journeys, you have to reach rock bottom in order to find your way out. Within the darkness, we face our greatest fears, our shadow selves, negative self-talk and rid ourselves of all of those things we thought we were in order to emerge as our creative selves. If we don’t do that deep work to shed who the world told us we were, we will never be able to be our authentic wonderful selves.
For me, depression felt like my true self was trapped inside my heart and I wasn’t quite sure how to find my way out, or back or to open that door. But it presented for me as a blocking of my heart chakra with bars and chains and boxes, no-
one could get in but more importantly, nothing could get out.
If I look back on my life, when I was depressed, I had no control, no creativity and felt like life was happening to me. I didn’t feel like I had taken charge of my life.
I do now. I feel completely empowered, creative and in the “drivers’ seat” so to speak. I haven’t had a bout of depression for a long time. I have moments of sadness triggered by hormones, bad food choices or adolescent daughters, but other than that I finally feel like I am being authentically who I was born to be.
It’s strange how at 41 I feel like I have stripped back the layers of who I thought I was based on who the world told me I was and I can finally be the authentic, beautiful me that I was born to be and I AM AMAZING!
Depression, for me, was a reaction to a world where I felt disempowered and out of control of my destiny. As a mum, I have come to the realisation that despite having similar life experiences and exactly the same genes, my daughters are completely different from each other and that no matter what I do, they will be who they will be. My job is not to stifle their creativity or their authentic selves, but to create space where they can be themselves and nurture the things that bring them joy. It is a difficult thing to not put my own values and judgements on them and to find the balance to help them to contribute to the world, but not to tell them how to live their lives. It’s a hard balance. And I am not perfect. I make mistakes.
Depression is not a life sentence. It is a reflection of hiding your true self behind a mask of what is expected. Since I started to let those masks fall away I have been the happiest I have ever been. I am more creative, expressive, expansive and my heart is filled with joy every day when I wake up and am grateful for my life.
Life is amazing. You are amazing. Let yourself shine.
©Alyssa Curtayne 2015
*Please seek the advice of a professional if you are having suicidal thoughts. This blog is written from my experience only, if it works for you, excellent! If not, see a doctor.