I've always been an emotional person.
I don't cry over movies, or have outbursts in public. But I do feel deeply, and am affected by changes in my immediate environment.
As a young child, I had imaginary friends.
On some level this is appropriate for a first born child. I invented characters with complex personalities and rich backgrounds of things I had not experienced, but wish that I had. I would become involved in their "lives" and want to "help" them (sound familiar??). I would feel so intertwined with their struggles that multiple times, my parents found me crying over them.
Now that I am an esteemed educator, I wonder....did nobody think to refer me for a psych eval?? One of those, "If I had a student that presented as....., I would definitely....." Yeah, right...
The truth is that this particular quality; the drive to become deeply invested in other peoples worlds around me, became my most cherished and simultaneously, most abused personality trait as an adult. I care. I can't turn it off. I don't know why or how or where limits may exist between my world and somebody else's. I worry about people I love, people I know, even people who I don't know.
With this, comes great guilt when the support that a person requires falls outside my sphere of influence. For me, these are unresolved needs that to this day, can bring me to tears.
In my classroom in Boston, we cried. A lot. Like, honestly, a ridiculous amount. Not a day went by that I didn't have a student in tears. I had a group of emotional kids, for whatever reason, who were given a highly emotional teacher during a year of great personal struggle. We cried a lot out of frustration, being misunderstood, from missing people, because we felt lost, for being overwhelmed, out of exhaustion, out of anger, out of love, out of tremendous loss and most painfully, out of fear. But with each cathartic letdown, we grew. Emphasis on we.
The boundaries of a classroom left me feeling that my energy was wrong, overbearing, misdirected, or unworthy. I knew that to honor myself, I needed more. I needed to be able to feel the emotions of kids without looking at the clock and saying, "well, I know you're dealing with a lot, but if I don't get to wrap up this guided reading lesson, I will have failed you". Something about that didn't sit well.
In my birth work, I feel a similar streak of emotions surface. It is common for a client to cry during our time together, and part of that feels to me, simply amazing. To cry means that you are releasing. You are exposing a part of you that deserves to be nurtured. You are allowing yourself to be human and react to strong emotions that have just as strong an impact on your physical health as any medicine we might have.
While I no longer cry over imaginary people, I do care deeply for people, and feel a desire to help. I cannot separate the emotions experienced by those around me from my own, nor do I want to. To me, they are interconnected, just as a mother and her child are during gestation. Her emotions affect her body, her child's development, and her own perception of experiences. Emotional support at any time is critical for a healthy society, but even more dire when we are considering the intense power a new mother has on shaping the individual that she introduces to the world.