Author: Val Berenshtein
During the past couple of weeks…
I have been spending a descent amount of time on social media – perhaps more time than I think is necessary for myself. I have been looking at status updates from my peers, articles and posts that my family shares, and photos that my friends from high school have been posting.
On the latter point, part of me is curious how everyone is doing, what everyone is thinking, what everyone is experiencing as they embark on college. Looking at their photos has given me a lens through which I can peak into their lives – albeit a lens that most surely is fogged.
I am not a judgmental person – not at all. I care tremendously about the people in my life, whether they are my close friends or distant acquaintances, whether they are people I have known my entire life or people I met briefly in passing. My care, however, sometimes may be misinterpreted as judgement because, through the years, I have become fairly adept at differentiating between happiness and pain in the people I see around me and, in this case, the people shot through a camera lens.
I attribute my adeptness to my own experiences, remembering the look I had in photos during my deepest lows of anorexia nervosa, restrictive eating disorder, and the accompanying illnesses of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideations. I distinctly remember the almost-stoic sadness protruding through my eyes and the flattened smile crossing my cheeks.
I would take photos over and over again in order to capture “the perfect one”, yet “the perfect one” never manifested in my lens. There was something wrong in every photo, but at the time, I could not see what it was. Now, I realize it was the deep unhappiness, pain, sorrow and struggle emanating from my soul.
Struggle and pain is all around us…
At least, for me, I see it quite clearly in those who I interact with and those who I see in photographs on my social media. Faces that once radiated with light and hope dwindle into distress. Voices that once rang with joy diminish into silence.
Though I never assume the struggle someone may or may not be going through, I always acknowledge that it exists, for humanity does not come without its voids: everyone has something deep within their soul that may antagonize life and cause pain.
It is important to realize, however, that no matter what that struggle is or how much of it exists, there are always ways to diminish it, there are always people by your side who will care and support and try to understand your pain.
In recent weeks, I have been seeing posts and photographs on my social media that depict people who once scintillated with happiness as people who have the same sadness in their eyes as I did – and often still do – when I was at my weakest and most-ill states of eating disorders and associated illnesses.
Yes, I acknowledge that photos are not the most accurate representations of a person’s life; however, I can see the pain that paints faces once exuberant and alive, and I can see the effort at which those faces try to cover it up.
I want to react to this and help and support and care. I want people who may suffer in any sort of way – whether they see their suffering as just or whether they have not yet come to terms with its existence – to know that there are people in the world who are ready to listen, to care, to support, to love and to try to understand. I say try to understand because nobody can fully understand another’s suffering; however, they can try, and most often, that effort is the most effective approach to grasping a foreign experience.
As someone currently recovering…
from anorexia nervosa and restrictive eating disorder, I recognize the extent to which people in my life have tried to support me and show me that I am loved and cared for. To me, that is the greatest gift anyone could give.
But, I also recognize that much of this support and love comes from the fact that I am vocal about my struggles and recovery, and unlike myself, there are many people who suffer without being vocal, who, instead, suffer in silence.
This is completely OK and understandable, and these people need our support as well.
Whether they openly come out with their struggle or burry it deep within their hearts, the people in our lives deserve to know that if they choose to share their pain, if they choose to reach out for help, that their loved ones – and even their distant acquaintances – will be there every step of the way to provide a ear to listen, a shoulder to lean on, and a heart to love.
Although this post goes out to all of my readers…
I would like it to especially go out to my graduated peers from high school, who now are in their first year of college.
I would like them to know that whatever they are struggling through – something as serious as a physical or mental illness or something of a less tumultuous, though equally valid, nature –, there are people in their lives who are ready to care and support them. There are people in their lives who love them and want to see the happiness, peace, hope and joy that once filled their lives return back to them.
I am one of those people. I care.
Nobody deserves to struggle in solitude. Nobody deserves to experience silent pain. The more that we can spread the message of our one community – a community of people both far apart and close together –, the more we can spread the message that nobody is every alone. The world is their for you and will always be there for you whether you verbally reach out or silently beckon for help.