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Everybody is fighting battles that we know not of— do we need to see a problem before we act as a catalyst for kindness?
Recently, there was a video that gained a lot of attention on TikTok. Edi Prasetyo Nugraho, an Indonesia lecturer, gained much sympathy after a video exposing his condition went viral.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, most classes in Indonesia (and many parts of the world) are held virtually. Similarly, Edi has been conducting virtual classes since the start of the school term.
However, unlike other lecturers, Edi is rarely seen on camera by his students as it is always turned off. He would be teaching the students throughout the whole lesson without showing his face until one day, he accidentally turned his camera on.
When his camera turned on, students were shocked to realise that there were oxygen tubes coming out of Edi’s nose.
Subsequently, it was found out that Edi had been suffering from a kidney disease for the past 11 years and needs an oxygen tank to breathe sometimes. Edi did not want to worry his students and wanted them to focus on their studies, which is why he remained silent in regards to his condition.
In the TikTok that was posted, @eccediary said “Had a university teacher that rarely turned on his camera since the start of virtual classes. In actuality, we did not know that Edi was sick as he never complained to us regarding his condition and still managed to teach the classes.
Some viewers gave their well wishes to Edi in the comments:
@abhptr5 said “ Even though I do not know him personally, I am sure he is a good person! Wishing for a speedy recovery Pak Edi!
@katashea said: “ I can’t stand it. I want to hug the lecturer… I really want to! Speedy recovery Pak Edi!
Edi’s case serves as a reminder that we do not know what others may be going through.
However, unlike him, who kept his condition secret to avoid worrying his students, others who mask their problems and emotions may do it for different reasons.
Why do we hide our feelings and problems?
There are many reasons why people don’t talk about problems. It could be anything from social conditioning to denial or sometimes even plain ignorance! It is important to identify these reasons because it determines how we approach them.
Some of us do it out of pride, to avoid showing any form of weakness. Showing emotion can make us vulnerable, and not everyone is comfortable with that.
Many of us feel that expressing certain emotions will lead others to judge us and think badly of us. As a result, we hide our sadness, fear, irritation, and other negative emotions. Some even go to the other extreme, showing toxic positivity in all situations to hide their real feelings.
Fear is part of this, and it also appears when we are trained from a young age to hide our emotions.
This often happens when parents or caregivers criticise children for expressing their emotions — this can apply to positive feelings too.
Some parents would reprimand their children for any outburst, negative or positive. Eventually, these kids may no longer feel safe expressing their opinions and feelings, and grow up believing that they should hide them.
While all genders experience such conditioning, young men in particular have to deal with issues of toxic masculinity, which can lead to serious mental wellness issues.
Some of us hide our feelings to protect relationships.
When someone we care about does something that upsets us , we might prefer to hide our feelings instead of being straightforward about it.
This may be done out of love — to avoid hurting someone that you care for. Or out of fear of triggering an even more painful conflict.
This desire to avoid pain often stems from an underlying lack of trust in yourself and others.
While relationships are difficult and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to our issues, communication, sensitivity and empathy are keys to unpacking such situations.
Unseen problems and mental health issues
Many of us still find it difficult to open up and discuss mental health difficulties.
For someone that has first-hand experience with mental health issues, I was unsure about speaking up. I was concerned that my friends would not see me in the same light, and whether they could separate my struggles from my abilities. I was also afraid that they would find me emotionally exhausting and distance themselves.
I grew up as an anxious kid, which might be surprising to anyone that knows me, mainly because I got really good at hiding it.
When you grow up being told you’re the extrovert, the life of the party, the friend, the role model, the emotional support and the one who always has it together, there is a subconscious expectation placed on you and you’re no longer allowed to show any cracks in the foundation — or so I convinced myself.
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Looking back, most of the pent-up stress and pressure I went through was due to my inability to communicate with others. I did not want to show a weaker side of myself for fear that it may ruin the relationship and the view they had of me.
Because of this, I was battling myself internally while others around me had this positive image of me etched in their minds. No one could see anything wrong with me because there is nothing to see. But I was struggling.
Thankfully, I realised the importance of having someone who is willing to listen to your problems. Fortunately, most of my close friends were very appreciative when I finally mustered up the courage to talk to them as it showed trust in our relationship.
Importance of having a listening ear
Everyone feels pressure from time to time — it is a part of life.
No one is immune. There is no easy way to eliminate pressure from your life. Everybody has to learn to handle it – that means learning to navigate the expectations of school or work, our family, friends, and ourselves.
But there is good news! It is not something we need to handle alone. The best option for handling pressure is to find a trusted listener or mentor to help us through difficult periods in your life.
We all need that special person (or people!) who is willing to listen and talk to you in confidence, and provide you with needed insights.
A five-year study by Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada suggested that finding a mentor can not only help you through daily pressures, but can also help turn difficult years into some of the best.
The study found that youths with a mentor – someone to talk to from time to time – were more confident and got into less trouble than those without.
We never outgrow our need for a valued listener. No matter how old we are or what stage of life we’re in, each of us can benefit from having someone we can turn to.
This may not be the same person throughout our lifetime, but you’ll always benefit from having someone who will listen and provide necessary advice along the way.
Be a listening ear to others
Mentor is a big word. Sometimes, all we need to do is to do our part to create a trusted space where friends are not afraid of ranting and opening up.
Although it may just be a small act, sometimes all people need is a little connection, a listening ear from our friends and family whom we trust and care about.
The value of listening and being a pillar of support should not be underestimated. Instead of waiting for people in our lives to open up, or a problem to manifest itself, or for someone to forget to turn off their Zoom video, we should also be willing to reach out to our loved ones.
Sometimes, a simple “How are you doing? Are you doing okay?” may work wonders.