It's Friday and I'm confessing all that's happened this week. My grandma, my Mimi, is dying. I'm starting lab and classes and teaching are ongoing, and it's such a maelstrom of wonderful and horrific I'm grappling for any distractions and numbness I can find.
"I don't like crying where anyone will find me," I reply, avoiding her eyes. There's a box of tissues on the table between us, but I don't want to use them. I don't like using tissues.
I've told her my history of depression and anxiety and suicide in disturbing depth and I haven't choked up at all. I can get through this.
"Is there a quiet place you can go here where you can cry?" she presses.
"A bathroom, I guess," I say hesitantly. "But I'm afraid people will hear me."
I don't want anyone to see me cry.
Anyone who knows me knows I'm pretty sensitive.
I'm easily overwhelmed by crowds, and I cried regularly at my favorite movies and music - in fact, I even cried watching the new trailer for Disney's live-action Cinderella.
I analyze every word people say - if there's a hint of negatively, I'm scared, and careless comments often hurt. On the flip side, I'm neurotic about whatever words come out of my mouth.
I've been known to scream and collapse into a sobbing ball every time I see another ISIS killing or school shooting on the news.
The single sighting of a fluffy animal will change my bad days into good.
So, yeah, I've always been told I'm sensitive, and it's true. Too sensitive, really.
But I had to be, didn't I, because I always wanted to keep people from anger? I believed that if I acted a certain way, if I was sensitive to their emotions, I could control the people I loved. I believed that hyper-vigilence and sensitivity would elevate my relationships to the point that no one would ever feel angry at me. Sensitivity would keep me safe.
But this sensitivity backfired whenever I cried because someone misunderstood me or because someone was reacting with anger greatly disproportionate to the event. I was told my tears were childish, ridiculous.
Then I went to college and allowed myself to be influenced by the scientific stereotype: the stereotype that tears are emotional, illogical, stupid.
And then, as is typically the case with stereotypes, I actually met scientists. And the vast majority, well, showed emotion and it was absolutely scary and wonderful.
But I have to admit, though the fear has greatly lessened, I'm still a bit scared to show my emotions around my scientist friends.
These things take time, I suppose.
"I don't want people to think I'm stupid or weak," I confess to the therapist after explaining my confusing relationship with emotion.
"I don't think that's weak," she replies in surprise. "I think you are tough."
"I've never heard someone call me tough," I tell her. Never.
Well, yeah I've been through more depressive bouts than I would care to admit - the dark depths of which I would be scared to show you. I'm alive despite my mental health and I'm not engaging in my eating disorder habits. For some reason I can't give up writing or chemistry despite the fact that they don't always fit, and I want to be a Christian despite all the reservations I feel. I mother two feisty kittens, doggone it.
"You are tough," she repeats.
I think maybe, just maybe, we're all a lot tougher than we give each other credit for. And maybe - oh how I hope - the tears I cry alone and occasionally in the hospice with my Mimi are a sign of weakness that is actually strength.
Maybe strength comes in weakness.
So here's a hug.
Love you all.
P.S. Is anyone else out there thinking the entire universe is probably just a gargantuan, mysterious paradox?