My older brothers used to call me “Niagara” because they could make me cry almost at will.

The subjects were endless, but their teasing nearly always reduced me to tears.

Other times it took a song on the radio, a passage in a book and I’d break down alone in my room.

crywomanWhen I was diagnosed at 19, the first words out of my rheumatologist’s mouth were, “You cry all the time. You don’t know why. You are sick all the time, and you’ve been accused of being a hypochondriac.”

He was so right. He explained that my body did not relax the way others did, and that crying was my body’s last way to get all the bad stress out. It’s why I felt better after I cried.

It was true for years. No matter what, every so often I would start crying and not be able to stop for quite a while.

When I married my practice husband I had planned the wedding pretty much alone. As the date grew closer, tiny blisters covered my fingertips that made taking my college finals truly hurt.

Oh my wedding day, I held it together until my mother came in and saw her daughter dressed as a bride. Her first tear was all it took. She sternly told me I needed to hold it together until after the wedding.

I made it to the church door. As it opened and the wedding march began, I started crying. As we walked down the aisle, my father told me we could leave and not do this. He didn’t understand I had run out of time and these tears, my own personal Niagara, were flowing no matter what.



I cried all the way through the ceremony and on the walk out. Then I got to sit down and cry it out. I was fine after that, the reception was lovely.

My practice husband learned the only thing he could do was hand me a washcloth and let me cry it out. I always felt better but the poor guy was never sure if he had caused it or not.

I was not alone then and I know I’m not now.

With arthritis and the laundry list of other diseases and syndromes we have, crying is a fact of life

Extreme fatigue, exhaustion, stress and pain put our emotions front and center.

We try to cope in front of extended family members, friends and especially work colleagues. Most of the time we succeed in hiding how we really feel, but when we get home, all bets are off. We will snap at children, give our spouse the look of death, all the time simply wanting to go to bed and try to shut down.

Sometimes we don’t make it. There’s not much worse that crying through dinner, continuing through the evening and going on to bed, but it happens.

If you don’t know this, the chemical makeup of the tears you cry when you’re sad and the ones you cry when you’re exhausted/stressed/in pain are completely different. Your body has dumped out a lot of bad chemicals in those tired tears, and that’s why you feel better when it’s over.

I still cry with little prodding. However, in the years since I quit my high stress job, the outbursts come less and less often.

Perhaps instead of being Niagara, my new nickname might be Cloudburst?