Crying & strength

“Crying doesn’t indicate that you’re weak, it just means that you’ve been strong for too long.”

I think this quote may have been doing the rounds of the internet for a while, but I’ve only just seen it. I don’t know where it came from originally, or I’d credit the author. I saw it here.

It totally knocked me for six.

A lot of the crying I’ve done in my life has been due to depression. So when I read this I see the surface meaning and I also see “Depression doesn’t indicate that you’re weak, it just means that you’ve been strong for too long” and that is true, true, true.

About a decade ago I read Tim Cantopher’s book Depressive illness : the curse of the strong which I thoroughly recommend. If I remember correctly, he wrote that people with depression tend to have been struggling on with massive pressures (be they internal or external) while beating themselves up about not managing better. That strong people are much more likely to get depressed because weaker characters throw up their hands and give up struggling long before their mental health suffers. That it’s not healthy to be so strong it eventually breaks you! That you need to literally give yourself a break and rest rather than battle on.

This was definitely the case for me.


Earlier on today a colleague (previously observed to  have an unhelpful view of mental health issues) was telling me that in former communist countries depression is so rare as to be almost unheard of. Hmm. I thought to myself. Just because a thing’s not public doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Not wishing to be drawn into debate I let that slide. She then proceeded, telling me that if you say you have depression* in countries such as those, there is little or no help from the medical profession unlike in the UK. This I could find a little more believable (although I don’t know if it’s true or not). She concluded from this that people in those countries just have to get on with it.

“Or die,” I said, flippantly, but meaning it.

At my lowest point, had I lived in a situation with no medical support, no support from my employer, with a family & friends who denied the existence of mental heath issues, I would probably have been told to pull myself together. And I would probably have managed pulling myself together just enough to kill myself. And so I wouldn’t be here to disagree with my colleague. I wouldn’t be doing anything. I’d have taken the only way I could see of getting a rest, which would have been to Rest In Peace.


So these days, I don’t stay so strong. I rest after little stresses, little strains. I cry sooner rather than later. But this quote about crying is one that I think the world should see. And they should see my version too.

“Depression doesn’t indicate that you’re weak, it just means that you’ve been strong for too long.”


* Clearly she thinks it is a thing you say you have, rather than a thing you actually have.


6 thoughts on “Crying & strength

  1. The Dancing Rider says:

    Beautiful, well-said, and strong (yes, strong) entry. I do the same, being prone to over-pressuring myself. It’s taken decades for me to learn this. Good for you for not staying so strong! Last, I love that quote.

  2. I grok. I’m still working on the balance between brushing off serious crises and blubbing uncontrollably over comparatively pathetic things, like the thing I was looking for in the supermarket having been moved to a different aisle.

    Incidentally, a friend of mine who is a doctor was once present (during her training) in a secure psychiatric unit when some visiting Chinese medical students were observing the practices. Many of them couldn’t believe the in-patients were even being kept alive. It goes to show how different perceptions of mental illness are around the world.

    • Sparrowgrass says:

      Ah, the eternal quest for balance! On more than one occasion I’ve drafted a post on balance, but I’ve never got further than a draft because it gets all big and sprawling and unbalanced on me 😉

      Very interesting about the medical students. I wonder if any of them changed their views as a result of that part of their training. I guess we’ll never know.

  3. Liz at Libro says:

    Sigh. I’m glad I left that place but not glad that I can’t get your back when you’re faced with stuff like this any more (and vice versa). I know you’re strong and marvellous and have grown in confidence and self-knowledge so much since I’ve known you. I’ve found it useful for some years now to have a list of self-comforting mechanisms ready at hand for if I get overwhelmed, as it’s easy to forget them in the stress of getting things done and pushing through. That’s why, even though I’ve got work in my inbox, I’m going to go and lie down on the bed with the cats and a Very Good Book that I will be recommending to you soon!

    • Sparrowgrass says:

      Mostly these days I can laugh at these office experiences. Debating it with her wouldn’t change her views – she’s too fixed in her opinions, so I just shake my head, walk away, and maybe blog about it. And never, ever, take it personally.

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