Samantha Gervais Anchor Staff Writer
Going into new classes and socializing is already hard enough on the student body. With the way mental health has been these days, we’ve seen a climb in social anxiety, and thankfully, a rise in people’s willingness to lend a helping hand or an ear when necessary. We’ve gained and we’ve lost many social aspects within the past few years.
This is my first fall semester at RIC, and it’s pretty intimidating to come to campus not knowing anyone. Naturally, I stick to the people I know like they’re a life raft. As much as I want to, I have my limitations that make it a little difficult to, frustratingly enough, walk and keep pace with others without feeling atrociously fatigued.
For anyone experiencing any kind of daily symptoms of chronic pain and disabilities, finding anyone that can relate is like winning a lottery ticket — and scoring huge.
This semester, I have had the honor to meet people who can relate to a handful of the struggles I face everyday. As I reflected on the fact that I had done the once unthinkable to me, I realized that I don’t have to necessarily meet someone that is suffering the exact same illness as me to feel understood. The friends I have made can understand me through symptoms. Most of my disabilities leave me fatigued and in enough pain where I must cancel plans. I have such specific aches and pains, but that’s another can of worms for later. The point is that finding people that can relate to a similar pain or symptom I have, feels relieving and lifts a sort of pressure I never expected to find — especially in college. Even while we talk about symptoms, we learn from one another in the disability community and our friend circles how others take care of their symptoms. I have personally learned so many unique techniques; whether they be something spiritual or something in physical therapy someone else learned and it happened to work for me, as well.
Feeling accepted and like I’ve found my community also comes with the darkened voice that makes me feel almost guilty for the happiness and comfort I feel for meeting these friends. For me, a kind of staggering feeling of guilt washes over me. Just to know that someone else must go about their day, knowing what some of their pain is like, or what a certain disease feels like, etc., it makes me feel sad all over again.
But those thoughts never linger. They’re always fought off rather quickly, thankfully. I’m reminded that at the end of the day, we seem to have the same goal. Typically, it is about spreading awareness to our peers. We are reminded each and every day how precious life is. Each day, our community continues to grow and learn. We are teachers and students every day to one another as we meet and learn new ways to advocate for one another.
Will you let us be your teachers and let us teach you how to be our advocates?