Whether we like to admit it or not, we all have invisible battles that others may have no idea are happening. As adults we deal with everyday responsibilities like bills, work, and our households. We ebb and flow with relationships, from our love interests to family and friends, and sort through the healthy and the toxic. We look back on our childhoods with fondness and nostalgia or find a path to recover from injustices.
Our struggles could be mental health, like anxiety, depression, or intrusive thoughts. Maybe self-harm to cope with a past trauma, which is another battle all on it’s own. Marital and relationship issues can not only be an invisible battle but isolating as well…we often feel shame and embarrassment when our relationships are not “highlight” worthy. Who wants to admit to co-workers, friends, and family that their marriage or relationship has problems? It shouldn’t be something we are afraid to ask for help with but it just is.
Wouldn’t it be easier to ask for help or to even talk about our own struggles if we knew the person listening would have empathy? Think about your own life for a moment. It is unique to your existence, your struggles and triumphs all mashed together. You have ups, downs, and everything in between. As complicated as our own lives are, we sometimes forget that every person in the world is living a life just as complex as our own.
When someone comes to school or work, they cannot leave their personal lives and experiences at the door. They carry everything with them, and sometimes those experiences are burdensome. But it’s possible that an environment like school or work provides respite from their struggles. That the socialization, camaraderie, and atmosphere of common goals enhances their lives and eases the weight of their burdens. But the problem is…we sometimes forget that others, just like ourselves, are experiencing traumas outside of work and school. We are so often only seeing a piece of their experience, and forget that things happen behind closed doors.
A few years back I came across a term: Sonder. This is the profound feeling of realizing that everyone, including strangers passed in the street, have a life as complex as your own, which they are constantly living despite their personal lack of awareness of it.
Every person on this planet is living their own unique and complicated life, just like you and just like me. They face struggles and we may never be privy to the details. We are all trying our hardest to be the most true and authentic version of ourselves, and sometimes the only safe place to do that is at school or work. When people only look at our surface and do not see the whole picture of our lives, we feel boxed in. If we want others to have empathy for our invisible battles, we must extend that same courtesy to those around us. We must learn to have empathy and patience, for we never truly know what others are going through when they are out of our sight.
FULL TRANSCRIPT (The following is the full transcript of this episode of The Be Seen and Heard Journey. Please note that this episode, like all BSH Journey episodes, features Victor speaking extemporaneously–he is unscripted and unedited.)
Hey, it’s Victor. I want to welcome you to another Be Seen and Heard© Journey. Thank you for being here with me today. I think empathy is a really important way to help people. When you can be empathetic with somebody, you’re putting yourself in their situation, maybe you’ve experienced what they’re going through, and you can connect and you can reach out and you can get to a point where that person is connecting back to you, and you can help that person. You know, every time a child has the courage to privately raise that hand and come to me or come to a social worker and share that someone is abusing them in their life, I can connect. I can empathize with that child. And people always ask me, Victor, how does it feel when someone comes forward and you’ve had that impact on that child?
I say, well, first of all, I put the curriculum out there. It’s up to the child to privately raise their hand. So they’re are empowering themselves. And maybe if I have a little help in that, that’s great. But I always say I feel very bittersweet. I feel sad because I believe with all my heart, no child should ever be abused. But I also can empathize because I know what that’s like. So I’m sad, I’m really sad. But on the other hand, I’m so happy and I’m so grateful now that the child can get the help that they deserve. They don’t have to live in silence for years with their invisible battles. We have invisible battles that we’re dealing with every day. And so many people that are surrounding us have no clue. My parents, my closest friends had no clue of my that I was dealing with sexual abuse for 11 years of my life.
Most of the people surrounding me outside my family had no idea of the invisible battle of my father’s alcoholism, what it was doing to me inside. I mean I wish I would have known what my dad’s invisible battles were. Maybe I could’ve helped him, but I couldn’t connect. I was too young. I wasn’t at that place in his life. And so what I’m saying today, and I’m really talking from my heart, is we have to be more empathetic. We have to be more aware of people that are having a tough time. We have to learn to judge less and empathize more.
I want to thank you for listening in today, whether you’re watching the video, listening to the podcast or reading the transcript or the weekly blog, please share this with your friends and family because I think it’s all about us taking care of each other. And if we can just raise our awareness each day, then maybe we can help those people with those invisible battles. So with that being said, thank you so much for joining me today. And remember, every child, every person has the right to be seen and heard. Have a great day. Thanks.