the return of the cry

Michele Catalano
6 min readOct 31, 2020

I was maybe ten, standing in the parking lot of a hospital with my cousins, waving to my aunt who was on the fifth floor supposedly waving back to us. I couldn’t see her. They didn’t let children into hospitals then, so we stood outside hoping to catch a glimpse of her. My cousin Terry said she could see her and immediately started crying, which set off my other cousins crying. The hospital was a bad place; you only went there if you were really sick and if you were old you might never come out. My aunt was in her 40s. That was old to ten year old me. So I worried. But I didn’t cry. I tried, because everyone else was crying and I was sure they would all think I didn’t care if I didn’t cry. I rubbed my eyes to make them water so it would look like I had tears. But I just couldn’t cry.

Funerals and weddings came and went, occasions where everyone around me cried and I stood stoic and tearless. It’s not that I had no emotion about these things, I did. I felt deep sadness, unbridled happiness, but I just couldn’t — wouldn’t — cry about. I didn’t cry tears of joy when my children were born, I didn’t cry when I had a miscarriage, I didn’t cry when I realized my marriage was over. The pain I felt for bad things hurt me to my core; the joy I felt at the good things overwhelmed me. But there were no tears.

I felt there was a piece of me missing, that something was fundamentally wrong with me. I never talked to anyone about, I just went on feeling shame for not having the emotional capacity for tears.

As I got older, I became overwhelmed with depression and anxiety. With that, I had found the ability to cry, and I cried at everything — sad movies, compelling books, tug-at-your-heartstrings commercials, stories about lost dogs, and songs, oh how I cried over songs. I’d listen to Foxing’s “Rory” over and over again, sobbing to Conor Murphys plaintive cry of why don’t you love me back. I’d listen to the National on repeat, “Baby We’ll Be Fine” or “Start a War” causing the damn to burst, leaving me wondering if all these tears were really over what I was consuming at the moment or just a release of the crying I never did as a child, the crying I couldn’t call up as an adult in funeral homes and churches.

I lost control of my emotions. I raged as much as I cried and I never knew when either was coming. I was prescribed Abilify to help with my mood swings and depression and Trintellix for my anxiety and I gobbled them up every morning, eager to rein in my tears, my anger, my manic episodes.

Michele Catalano

Writer, civil servant, dog lover