After a scary diagnosis, a connection with a hairdresser offered this man a lifeline.
True
Extra Chewy Mints

I’d always been an anxious person, but it wasn’t until grad school that I realized something was very, very wrong.

After getting an acceptance letter to my dream school, it felt like everything was finally falling into place. Eager to leave my hometown behind, I crammed everything I could into a single suitcase and embarked on my new life in the San Francisco Bay Area.

But the life I’d pictured — exploring the Bay, hanging out at the beach, making new friends, and trying every single vegetarian restaurant I could find — looked nothing like the life I walked into.


Photo by Camila Rubio Varón on Unsplash

Every time I tried to leave my new apartment by myself … I couldn’t.

At first, I didn’t think much of it. I was in a totally new place, so it made sense that I’d be nervous to venture out on my own. I was lucky to have found an apartment with roommates that were eager to show me around the city, so it was easy to forget that I’d eventually have to navigate this new life alone.

I had no idea how much I’d later come to rely on these connections in my recovery.

When classes began and I had to take public transit to get there, my panic about the outside world took over.

Knowing I’d have to take two busses alone to get to campus left me shaking, dizzy, nauseous, and terrified.

Photo by Andy Mai on Unsplash

What if I needed help and no one was there? What if I got lost? What if I got attacked? What if I had a panic attack in public and humiliated myself? The “what if” became so daunting in my mind that staying home seemed like the only safe and certain option.

I started missing classes.

The more I avoided going out, the more relief I felt, but staying home only worsened my condition, until I stopped leaving entirely — not for groceries, not for medicine, not for anything or anyone.

That’s when my friends encouraged me to get help.

I was diagnosed with Agoraphobia, which is a panic disorder that develops as a response to fear. It’s fueled by avoidance, and can include an avoidance of public transportation, open spaces (like bridges or parking lots), closed-in spaces (like movie theaters), crowds, or in cases like mine, a fear of going anywhere alone.

Agoraphobia can be completely debilitating, leading a person to isolate themselves, even if it means going without basic necessities like food. My disorder actually led me to drop out of graduate school altogether, a wakeup call that made me realize that enough was enough.

While things like therapy and antidepressant medication were an important part of recovery, it was the small acts of kindness that made the biggest difference.

I found this kind of generosity often where I least expected it — like when I met a hairdresser who struggled with the very same disorder that I did.

I had reached out in an online community, desperately looking for a haircut from someone who wouldn’t judge me if I cancelled at the last minute or arrived in tears. That’s how I found Jane.

When I made it to Jane’s salon for the first time, I was greeted by a tattooed woman with a pixie cut, a beaming smile, and her adorable little dog. It was the first time I met someone who knew what I was going through.

“You made it!” she exclaimed. With those three simple words, I immediately felt safe.

We talked about the endless cycle of making plans and cancelling them, stepping outside only to turn right back around, how embarrassed we sometimes felt to be ordering our groceries online, and the frustration of how “simple” tasks — going to the pharmacy, taking the bus, making and keeping friends — were huge obstacles for us.

Photo by Hai Phung on Unsplash

It was an unexpected miracle to not only find a hairdresser who was understanding, but who knew first hand what it was like to live with agoraphobia. That connection motivated me to make the trek to an entirely different city — even when it felt impossible — not just for an awesome haircut, but for that hour in her tiny salon, when I could forget how alone I felt.

It was people like Jane, who refused to give up on me, that kept me connected to the world that I would have otherwise cut myself off from.

It was friends who kept inviting me to brunch, even though they knew I might not make it there. It was loved ones who stayed on the phone with me while I braved public transport. It was roommates who encouraged me to step outside, even when I didn’t believe I could.

I won’t lie — getting my life back was difficult. I started by just trying to make it to a coffee shop down the street. When I finally reached the door, my loved ones were waiting for me, cheering for me. The little things — a study date with a classmate, taking the subway, or just an afternoon of binge-watching Netflix at a friend’s house — became huge victories for me.

One of the best humans + me 💖💖

A post shared by Sam Dylan Finch (@samdylanfinch) on

We might not always understand what someone’s going through. But a little compassion can go such a long way.

Even small gestures, like a morning text cheering a friend on before their big test, a small gift to remind someone that we care, or asking “how can I help” when someone seems to be struggling can go a long way.

In spite of a debilitating disorder, I’m finally getting my life back — and that’s due, in no small part, to these seemingly insignificant acts of kindness.

Photo by Rémi Walle on Unsplash

These small moments of connection can be the lifeline that reminds us there’s something worth holding onto. And every single day is filled with opportunities to offer that lifeline to someone else — to the barista that makes your morning coffee, the cashier at the corner bodega, or the neighbor struggling to carry their groceries up the stairs.

Moments like these offer us a reminder that we should never underestimate the power of a helping hand. You never know who might need it.

via UniversalPicsSweden

Steven Spielberg's "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" is one of the greatest films ever made but it could have easily been a disaster.

Director Steven Spielberg took huge risks with the film betting the house on the relationship between a young boy named Elliott and an oddly-shaped alien.

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
True

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

Keep Reading Show less

I saw this poster today and I was going to just let it go, but then I kept feeling tugged to say something.

Melanie Cholish/Facebook

While this poster is great to bring attention to the issue of child trafficking, it is a "shocking" picture of a young girl tied up. It has that dark gritty feeling. I picture her in a basement tied to a dripping pipe.

While that sounds awful, it's important to know that trafficking children in the US is not all of that. I can't say it never is—I don't know. What I do know is most young trafficked children aren't sitting in a basement tied up. They have families, and someone—usually in their family—is trafficking them.

Keep Reading Show less
via City of Calgary

Graffiti is an underground form of expression that can be seen as anything from criminal destruction of property to art. Most of the time that depends on whether it was your wall that was defaced.

While most graffiti is painted over, some of it is so powerful that it becomes a beloved part of the community. Many of street artist Banksy's pieces are still up and have become popular landmarks throughout the world.

But what about little nuggets of fake history placed on park benches around Canada? Where do we sign up?

Keep Reading Show less