By Nicolle

I just saw a commercial for an anti-aging face cream that also claims to undo sun damage on your face. The ad showed one of those sun-damage-revealing photos of the model’s face, the kind that makes you cringe because it’s clear that although this woman looks beautiful, her skin is broken, dry and in need of some serious mending.

I don’t usually give a second thought to those kinds of commercials; I just turned 23 and though I love the sun, it’s unlikely that my still-youthful skin needs an anti-ager just yet. But the sun-damage photo caught me off guard. Underneath the beauty in the woman’s face was a disaster, one that was completely invisible to the naked eye.

I wish there was a way to take that kind of photograph of a person’s emotional state. A normal photograph only reveals what a subject wants to show the camera. A smile, no matter how fake, is all a digital camera is capable of capturing. Someone can look beautiful, goofy, confident or angry in the moment their image is captured, but all of those expressions can be harboring messy, broken individuals who are emotionally limping through life.

I’m limping right now. And revealing my limp makes me feel weak. Even though I know my closest friends want to support me, the lack of my ability to overcome my current emotional wound causes anxiety, irritation and shame to set up camp in the pit of my stomach. I should be able to handle it, I think to myself. Time is passing, and doesn’t ‘time heal all wounds’?

But because I know that my healing process isn’t coming to an end now, I want to know that I’m not alone. I want to know that there are others who’ve walked my path before, that there are others who are walking it right now and that there are others who will walk it long after my course has changed direction.

Last summer, I heard a well-known speaker talk about pain. To illustrate our shared experiences, he called out to the audience, asking people to stand if they’d been impacted by cancer, by a failed relationship, by addictions, by death. As people stood based on their suffering, he told us to look around. From my standing position, I was overwhelmed and felt my eyes well with tears as I was hit with the gravity of the fact he wanted us to realize: Pain is universal. It doesn’t discriminate. It isn’t picky. But its pervasiveness is what makes it easier to bear, if we can remember that we’re not alone.

So, if you’re hurting, raise your hand. Yep, you. I’m raising mine at my desk right now. We all need to see that there are others in our boat, paddling as frantically as we are, even if our individual streams have different kinds of treacherous rapids.

And now that I know I’m not the only one, I feel better about limping.