There’s More Below the Surface
Submitted by a contributor, who asked to remain anonymous.
You never know what's going on in another person's head; practice patience and understanding towards yourself and others.
I used to assume people's thoughts. Their feelings. Their reasons for doing things. I was one of those people who, if someone didn't show up to an event of mine, would immediately think, "Oh, I guess they don't really care about what I'm doing." I would jump from conclusion to conclusion based on what I thought I knew about this person, believing I was being empathetic and understanding. I didn't take a second to consider that they might not feel comfortable at the event; I didn’t even ask myself, "Maybe they want to be here, but it makes them feel anxious?" It wasn't until recently that I began to see more clearly.
I began experiencing thoughts that I didn’t even know how to explain. I constantly worried about almost everything. I thought and overthought things until my head hurt, and I always felt like my head was a tangled mess. (I still do, but I’m working on it!) I didn’t know how to talk about it in a way that people could understand, so I said nothing. A few times, I did reach out and tell people how I was feeling, and I usually got replies along the lines of: “You need to stop worrying! Just take a deep breath, you’ll be fine.”
I appreciated that they were trying to help, and I usually agreed that I just needed to stop worrying. I thanked them for their advice and even tried to convince myself that it worked. But silently, I struggled. Even though I followed people’s guidance and took walks and breathed and organized my space, nothing really worked. It was more complicated than cause and effect.
It was frustrating. I wanted people to understand that there was more going on inside of my head than what they could see. There was more going on inside of my head than what I could put into words. Sometimes, it would get so bad that everything would go numb. I would freeze. Everything was tangled, and even efforts to help blurred into the knots: “Tell me what’s going on inside your head.” “Tell me what I can do to help.” “Tell me why you’re acting like this.” Breathe. Everything just made it more complicated.
I wanted people to understand that I needed to untie the knot and organize my thoughts and clear my head before I could tell them what was wrong. I needed time and space. There was so much going on that I hid; there was so much that couldn’t possibly be seen, and I realized now that I had become the person that I used to misread.
Suddenly, from my own experiences, I realized that there was way more to people than what they let out. I realized I was wrong to assume that I knew everything about someone else’s life. I realized the importance of empathizing with others, even if I didn’t completely understand them. And most importantly, I realized that understanding myself was a crucial part to understanding others.
So, to all of the readers: continue being patient, kind, and empathetic with everyone you meet. Don’t always jump to conclusions because there’s always more to it than you see. And to those still untying knots: take all the time you need to understand your mind. Then, use that understanding to empathize with others.