“I’m all alone” I hear whispered in my ear. The lie is like an old friend that I’ve long shut out of my life that keeps rapping at the door to my mind. Lately, I’ve found myself feeling increasingly alone. I had a whole other blog written up to catch attention and to bring in readers, and then, when I read today’s post from Melody Beattie’s “Language of Letting Go”, I realized why I go back to her thoughts most days of the week. It’s not because she has 10 reasons why mania makes for better sex or what Star Wars can teach us about parent-child attachments; no, I go to her because she reaches me in the most basic way; she touches my heart. She helps me pause and think of the words of C.S. Lewis in the Four Loves “Friendship is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself” In that moment, we are able to step out of our brokenness and isolation and into the loving arms of compassion, understanding, and connection. The lie of ‘I’m all alone’ is broken and healing enters in. I may use a catchy title from time to time, but overall, I want you to come back because, I too, help you feel connected.
The greatest lie of mental illness is “I’m all alone”. In your worst states you feel as if you’re all alone in your schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression. You may have suicidal thoughts, a plan, have made an attempt and failed but still be too scared to tell anyone. You may feel like nobody knows what it’s like to cry themselves to sleep at night wishing and praying for death to take them quickly and quietly, to have to put make up over the cuts or wear long sleeves all the time because people would mock and scoff at the “emo” person who cuts just to feel they’re alive. Perhaps, you’re the person who cannot put the substance down because they feel it’s the only constant companion that will never say no and always be available even if it comes with a price. Maybe you’re the person who sits and looks at food, disgusted by what you see in the mirror and wants with all of your being to take just one bite, but knows that you cannot because all you see in the mirror is a hideous person who nobody will ever love. The lie continues to coerce your thinking ‘You’re all alone’.
The thoughts continue, “I’m alone, nobody loves me, I’m worthless, disgusting, and nobody will miss me when I’m gone.” The lies play through your mind like a playlist put together in Hell to remind you that you’re a waste of life. But, I’m here to tell you, right here, right now, as a former therapist, a current patient, and man who truly believes the therapeutic words of Irvin Yalom, MD that ‘if you have the courage to face the one thing that people will spend endless amounts of time, money, and effort on to escape—death, then you have the courage and capability to face life!” I repeat, “YOU ARE NOT ALONE”.
The first time I ended up in a psychiatric hospital for suicidal ideations with a plan, I remember believing the lie “You’re all alone and nobody will miss you when you’re gone.” I remember the shame I felt as I sat in my first group and looked around thinking “I could run this damn thing. I’m a therapist, I shouldn’t be here.” But I was. I even stayed willingly after a psychiatrist said ‘Therapist, eh? You guys are the worst! No wonder you’re here!” This is what your therapist wants you to know, by the way. We’re human too. We have problems, hang ups, and sometimes just need someone to talk too, as well. Oh and by the way, some of us may be in therapy too! You’re not alone.
So when I sat in that group and listened I kept thinking ‘Hey, I do that!’ or ‘Man, do I know what that’s like.’ and suddenly, the fog started to lift and I started to feel alive. The lie was started to dissipate with a bit truth. Remember what I said in my first post, “the truth will set you free”. Well, this is a real life example. I learned that day “I am not alone” and still have to be reminded on the bad days, but it’s a truth worth repeating.
So what’s the takeaway from this post? What can you do with these thoughts and words that may have resonated with you? Well, I have a suggestion, but what you do is always up to you. Remember this with any type of care of you receive, you are in control.
I encourage you to reach out and make connections. I will be challenging myself to do this, as well, because this time of year (winter) is particularly rough on my social life. I encourage you to reach out and connect with those who not only can share their time with you, but share a story, a sorrow, a tear, a hug, or a smile. Find those people that help you drop the mask and help you feel connected and break the isolation.
If possible, do this in person. I cannot emphasize this enough. The lie of social media today is that you’re connected, but the reality is that it fosters even more depression and feelings of isolation in those with mental illness. So try to go old school and meet in person. Or, if you don’t have a car like your fearless blog writer, then Skype Sessions and phone calls are always a good second choice.
Maybe for you this is going to church, a Meetup gathering inviting someone out for a cup of coffee, a drink, dinner, or hanging with some friends for game night. You can search for local mental health groups that meet in your area such as DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) or attend a 12 steps meeting.
I encourage you, in whatever way you can, find those people who help you feel not alone because as much as the introverts of the world (myself included) want to live a life of solitude and oneness we have to look in the mirror and come to the realization that the words of British Poet John Donne are true “No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of a continent, a part of the main.’
“But Dan, I’m good. I don’t feel alone.” To that I say “Good, now go and help someone else look at you and utter the words “What, you too? I thought I was the only one..”
After I wrote this, I called the person who helps me not feel alone. Thank you Claire, more times than not, without even realizing it, you’ve reminded me that I’m not alone. I dedicate this post to you.
Comforting a friend photo available from Shutterstock