Learning the crying game

Emotion is not something I'm particularly good at. I know I don't smile or laugh enough, even though I know that the very act of smiling or laughing releases hormones which make you feel good; you then find it easier to laugh or smile and it becomes a virtuous circle.

At the other end of the scale, neither do I cry that often. I didn't cry when I found myself lying in the road after my stroke; I didn't cry when I was being rushed into hospital; I haven't cried when Mrs W and I have been sitting in the vets' surgery seeing our pets put to sleep.

I generally consider myself a fairly level-headed person, despite being regularly told by all manner of friends and colleagues that it's good to let out the emotions occasionally. But I cried this morning.

I was speaking to a meeting of the business networking organisation of which I'm a member, telling my story. I've told my story dozens (hundreds?) of times. I no longer get nervous about it and anyway, when you've addressed a room-full of naked people (as I often did when I was editor of British Naturism magazine) you don't get worried about things like that. People new to public speaking are often told to 'imagine that the audience is naked.' Well, when you've been in a situation where the audience is naked and so are you, not a lot fazes you.

Not even the details of my story bother me that much any more. I've recounted them so often that while they will never be routine, they don't have the effect on me that they once did. Until this morning.

My talk lasted about 25 minutes and I was about halfway in when I suddenly felt my throat closing up and tears began to flow; for a moment, I had to stop speaking to compose myself. I don't even recall which part of my story prompted it.

My audience was sympathetic as I took a moment to restore my thoughts, then resumed speaking. A minute later, though, it happened again. Throat closing, tears flowing, unable to get out the words. Again, I stopped for a moment. I knew the feeling would pass. I've spoken about these events plenty of times. Why was it upsetting me now? After all, I've dealt well enough with all the unpleasant things I've had thrown at me by life over the past 52 years.

Strokies do get maudlin and depressed on occasion; it comes with the territory of having a serious brain injury. And I have my bad days as often as the next person. But not until today have I cried about things.

#ā€ˇbreathebalancebeactivatedemilyā€¬ keeps telling me I should get emotional more often. Over the past few weeks, she and I have been working on my ongoing balance issues, with varying degrees of success. She's had me balancing on logs, walking across steps of different sizes and watching me get more and more frustrated and angry with myself as I fall off. It's even more frustrating when a five-year-old comes along and balances perfectly on the step I've just fallen off.

But she says children learn to walk by trying it, falling over and hurting themselves, crying for a few moments, then getting up and trying again.

Now I've cried in front of an audience and the world hasn't ended, maybe I'll give myself permission to do it again.