Jul 14, 2011

Am I Overly Sensitive?

After abruptly bursting into tears today after my mom announced that Trader Joe's no longer carries my favorite chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches, I felt a little silly. I wondered if I perhaps have yet another problem to add to the list: over-sensitivity. Lately I have become a bit of a crybaby as the tears seem to come at the drop of a hat. The only other time I can recall crying over such seemingly insignificant things was senior year of high school when I might have been a bit stressed out/sad after losing my great grandmother.

One night a popular anchor on the 5:00 news callously announced that Keiko the whale, otherwise known as the orca Free Willy, had died. Just like that. She actually used the word "died." Didn't even use a euphemism for it, and then promptly moved on to the next story. Gave his death maybe ten seconds of airtime, at max. The second I heard the news (and the way she delivered it), the tears came shooting out of my eyes involuntarily. And I just couldn't control it. I cried and cried and cried and couldn't even pinpoint why I was crying so much over a whale and couldn't even bring myself to stop. I remember my mom feeling sorry for me, perhaps feeling sorry for how pathetic I was and saying, "Oh Kristina, you're just under so much stress right now. I know that movie meant a lot to you." And truth be told it did. That was my all-time favorite movie growing up. My best friend and I watched it over and over, maybe hundreds of times. We had even memorized the moves to Michael Jackson's music video at the end of the VHS tape. As special as that movie was to me, I remember thinking that no sane person would cry over such a thing.

The next day at school I had a heavy heart but put on my usual happy face. One of the few friends who knew that my real favorite movie was 'Free Willy' asked me if I had heard the news. Of course, some nosy and obnoxious boys who sat behind us asked "what news?" and she responded with "Keiko the whale passed away yesterday." The waterworks exploded from my eyes again. In the middle of material science class. In a room full of boys. I was crying at school, more like sobbing. And there was nothing anyone could do to comfort me. It didn't help that the two boys behind us were now laughing as if my sudden tears were the funniest and most outrageous thing they had ever seen. Embarrassed beyond belief, I excused myself to the bathroom and took a long lunch that afternoon, even arriving late to the latter half of the class. Luckily the teacher was sensitive and didn't say anything to me at all, probably didn't want to ruffle my feathers. Here I was, number one in my class, the president of nearly every club and student organization with a reputation to uphold and I was hysterical, over a whale. A whale I had never even met.

The next few days were even more torturous as the two boys, as luck would have it, shared many classes with me. They began to torment me. Of course, it wouldn't have looked much like tormenting to an outsider. All they did was say the words "Free Willy" or "Keiko the Whale" mockingly in my presence and I burst into tears. This torture went on for about a week. It was like a conditioned response. Anytime I heard the whale's name I cried.

Lately the same kind of thing has been happening to me. Not about any one thing in particular, but just little things that will set me off. For instance last night I opened the fridge to make myself a sandwich and grabbed the pickle jar from the top shelf. Attached to the pickle jar was a sticky (and heavy) jar of caramel that fell smack dab on the top of my left foot, same side I am still recovering from a sprained ankle on. I have a nasty bruise on top of my foot today and it hurts when I touch it but it is really no big deal compared to everything else going on in my life. And in the grand scheme of things it was nothing that should have made me cry. The problem is, it's not any one big bad thing that elicits the tears, but rather a series of little things that happen every single day and the cumulative effect of all this bad luck seems to be me bursting into tears literally at the drop of a jar. Lately it just seems like the universe is against me and dispensing subtle daily reminders of just how powerful and relentless he is. Like a big, fat bully. Mr. Universe is not always kind, as many of us know all too well from dealing with chronic illness on a daily basis for years on end. But does Mr. Universe really have to throw a sprained ankle, mounting medical bills, an excrutiatingly painful 3-month TMJ headache that insurance won't cover, relatives who desperately need to see the shrink, an overheating imac and a broken printer into the mix? Take away the one thing that gives me any solace (TJ's ice cream sandwiches) and it's a recipe for tears. Maybe because it feels like Mr. Universe is launching a personal attack on me.

I feel pathetic when I cry over such minor issues, but I really can't seem to control it lately. Is there something wrong with me? Other than the obvious of course. Do any of you experience moments of extreme and sudden sadness? What do you do to combat these emotions?


  1. I know what that is like... Of course, people will be happy to give you recipes to "fix" it... Realistically though, tears are your bodies relief valve - once the pressure is too high you need a way to release it. Daily life is stressful with chronic illness, add on anything else, and that release valve is going to open. The only thing that has helped me spread out the tears (so that it doesn't feel like such a constant thing), is stopping to take notice of little moments... things to be thankful for. Silly things like Bing Crosby on Pandora, the antics of my cat, the yellow of a buttercup... just little things... it seems to slow life down a bit, and in the process slows down the build up of that "pressure" that eventually leads to tears.

    I hope you're able to find something that works for you... Of course, people will say that exercise is a wonderful outlet for stress... but some of us just aren't capable of doing that.

    hugs from someone who really does understand,

  2. Thanks Nonna, sounds like you understand where I'm coming from all too well...there doesn't seem to be an easy "fix" remedy this time, I simply have to release the tears and let them flow as ridiculous as I may feel. At my best I am capable of some exercise and I think it really does help relieve some of that pent up stress. Lately I haven't been able to do much exercise at all but thanks to you I actually created a Bing Crosby station on my Pandora. :) Excellent idea. I need to start finding joy in the little things again to get through the day. Thanks so much Nonna for getting me. :)