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When Someone Walked in on Me Crying in the Elevator After Therapy

November 25 2019, 2:15 p.m.

I just had such an odd, but refreshingly beautiful, truly human experience.

I was leaving a particularly difficult therapy session where I cried most of the way through. As I was leaving my therapist’s office, I bolted to the elevator because of my puffy, red eyes and the potential that I was going to burst into tears and shatter into pieces was happening. I wanted to get out of there as soon as I could, so if I broke down it wouldn’t be in the lobby and I could just get outside. I clicked the button to go from the fifth floor to the lobby while I stood alone in the elevator. Then the elevator stopped one floor below me — a different floor of the therapy center I was at.

A young 20-something female-presenting human came into the elevator and stood slightly in front of me. I heard sniffling and realized she was silently, bravely trying to contain her crying. Her faux fur coat hood obstructed my view of their face, but I could hear the restraint. As we stood there descending in the elevator, I just thought to myself very mindfully, “Here are two people who are hurting in the same space, each going through something different but feeling pain and yet we stay silent.”

For a moment I had the urge to reach out and hug her. I felt the same way as I walked half a block down the busy New York City street behind her, with her cries still being stifled the whole time, but audibly getting a bit louder.

I chose not to touch her because some people have trauma and would be startled if you touch them, so I didn’t. But that’s not the only reason I didn’t do anything, as I suspected she might be startled by my well-intentioned, loving and empathetic touch.

But to have two humans together in a box descend three floors and not acknowledge each other was powerful. I don’t know if she noticed me, or if she knew it was OK to cry in front of me because internally I was still crying.

The silence of two people hurting was ear-shattering. Painful. Sad. But it was also the most visceral human experience I’ve ever had.

My eyes are open; I saw another person’s humanity and we were linked in one way or another. We stood in silent solidarity. Resilient, we stood in tandem in our hurt.

I hope they are OK. I hope they have someone that can hug them in the way that they need. In the way I need right now. But instead, I sit here on my hour ride home on the train now filled with curiosity, heaviness and sadness, but also peace. I hope they know they were seen and they don’t feel invisible.

Image via Rilen Taylor.