I Could Only Cry At Target Until Quarantine — Why I'm Finally Able To Sob At Home

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I Could Only Cry At Target Until Quarantine — Why I'm Finally Able To Sob At Home

Work was terrible. Our former president was creating chaos. Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. I clicked to Twitter and saw all the painful things you’d expect to see on Twitter. I’d had it. I needed a cry, but the tears just wouldn’t come. 

This was new to me.

When a guy broke up with me on the corner of 6th and 18th in Manhattan, I easily cried the 85-block train ride home. After I left the hospital where my beloved aunt was dying, I wandered the aisles of a Target store sobbing and adding random kitchen gadgets to my basket without shame.

How can I cry in public places but am completely incapable of shedding a single tear at home during a pandemic?

This time, I’m not the only one hurting from a breakup or mourning a death. We are all processing incredibly painful circumstances. One after another after another. We all had to say awkward goodbyes to coworkers one March day (“I … hope you don’t get it.”).

We all watched an insurrection on TV. We all had to accept a life where we wear masks every time we step out our doors.

I don’t feel like my problems are any worse than anyone else’s. In fact, I have it pretty good, so I don’t want to trouble anyone with my tears. I’m an empath. I like being the one who takes care of everyone else.

I remember once hearing a little boy tell his mom, “You can’t cry, Mommy. You’re the Mommy.” The child was distressed at the sight of his mom crying and didn’t know how to handle it. I felt for her because when she needed to manage her feelings, she had to put them on hold to comfort her child.

RELATED: I Have High-Functioning Depression & Crying Helps Me Get Through The Day

I didn’t want anyone to have to tend to my feelings. And I didn’t want to have to tend to theirs. After months of underlying stress and fear, I didn’t have any support to offer anyone who might be distressed by my tears. I also didn’t need pity or concern. I just needed a release valve for all the emotions I’d stored up.

Plus, I struggled to answer the obvious follow-up question, “Are you OK?” Because no, I’m not OK. None of us are OK. But, I do know I’ll be OK again.

Unable to cry, I just swallowed my feelings.

I talked to my therapist Caley Philipps about it. She assured me everyone who lives with another human right now is having the same problem. It’s hard to vent sadness or frustration when we can’t get a minute alone and our usual outlets are closed.

She suggested asking my partner for what I need — whether it’s an hour to myself or for him to clear the room.

“We’re feeling more like kids right now because someone else is telling us when we can leave and where we can go,” Philipps said. “We’re still adults and it’s valid and healthy to ask for what we need. Just like it was before quarantine.”

As you remember from 2020, things got worse. My job situation became unbearable, COVID-19 was mutating, and more Black lives were brutally taken.

RELATED: 6 Reasons You Cry Easily & Get Overly Emotional (Sometimes For No Reason)

To cope, I tried asking my partner what I needed. It felt awkward at first, but my loving partner was totally fine when I said “I need a minute.

Please don’t come in here,” and closed the bedroom door behind me. I put on my headphones and listened to moody music. Before long, my tears were flowing, and I was finally getting the relief I needed.

When I opened the door, I was ready to move forward, no longer hampered with heavy emotions. I realized that it was OK to ask for what I needed. And my partner was happy to give it to me.

The experience taught me to ask for what I need before I’m at my breaking point.

Now I frequently ask for the room to take a call, to order takeout because I can’t deal with cooking, or for him to make the coffee so I can sleep longer.

And it’s always OK.

RELATED: Why People Who Cry During Movies Are The Strongest People Of All

Candace Nelson is a licensed nutritionist, journalist, and advocate for mental health. Her love languages are quality time and pizza. Read more at