One year as a consolation prize for hunting down the afikomen* at Passover I received a wind-up toy in the form of a mouse in a wheel. The mouse churns itself in circles on hardwood floors, and it tires every twenty seconds or so. I’ve noticed that when I crank the little sucker up and let ‘er rip, the wheel does all the work. The plump pink mouse maintains its plump plastic hovering a few inches off the ground while the green wheel spins and spins and drives the toy in neon circles. And this is what my anxiety feels like: I’m a little mouse unmoving with an overhanging wheel dipping beneath my feet and back up behind me and over my head, pushing me forward in circles in any case, even as I lay in bed and remember how to breathe. More literally, sometimes it feels like there actually is a wind-up toy stuck in my chest. It’s the mouse in the wheel. The one I got as a consolation prize during the Jewish holidays. Ok, I’m going in circles again. I will digress.
I realize now that no one else can see the plastic toy I have lodged somewhere in or around my heart. And I can’t see if anyone else has any other thing in their heart either. And I’m worried about that in part because it is in my psychology to worry about anything and everything. But I’m more concerned that anxiety and depression and more can be quite invisible on this college campus even though I know that the pain is there and prevalent. How am I to help? What are we to do?
Let me offer one way of looking. The next time you look at a friend, see if you can look through and through. Can you spot the demons within? I’m not encouraging you to search for flaws; I’m asking you to try and understand the pain they may be going through and be compassionate towards every part of them. It is hard, but it is worth it. Maybe one day the churning in their hearts will quiet and you’ll realize the churning in your heart has quieted, too.
Know your resources. CAPS is here for you. Your professors are here for you. Your fellow students are here for you. Please be there for your peers, I beg of you. I am betting that they are silently begging, too.
* The afikomen is a piece of matzah that is traditionally hidden for children to search for after the Passover meal. Typically, the child who finds the afikomen is awarded a prize. I’ve never found the afikomen, but once I got a cute wind-up toy for trying anyway. And that last sentence encapsulates a whole ‘nother metaphor for a whole ‘nother article…
Shneyder is a member of the class of 2017.