We Could Tell You That You’re Not Alone
The standard response to ‘I’m alone’ is ‘no you’re not’. We know how frustrating this can be. Often, we’ve heard ‘you’re not alone’ so many times that it has lost all meaning.
When we feel isolated, being told that we’re not alone doesn’t usually fix the situation. It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve been told it, the issue is often that we don’t believe it. Sometimes it feels like it’s a sentence used to stop us talking, rather than giving us the space we need to feel and talk about the stuff we’re going through.
Rather than telling you that you’re not alone, we’re going to say that we hear you.
We Could Tell You That Others Feel Alone, Too
Sometimes the knowledge that others feel the way we do can offer some comfort. It can show us that we’re not alone in feeling alone.
But often, our experience is that when people tell say that ‘it’s not just us’, they’re sometimes doing so as a way of minimising our feelings or ending the conversation. Occasionally, they’ll start with ‘you’re not alone’ and end with ‘others have it worse’ which is wholly unhelpful and invalidating of our experiences.
These phrases can also feel like totally irrelevant pieces of information. Sometimes they leave us feeling even more alone and misunderstood. Not only do we not want to feel like this but we don’t want anyone else to feel this way, either, and we certainly don’t want them to feel even worse than we do right now. It’s a rubbish way to feel and we wouldn’t wish it on our worst enemy.
Our internal response may well be along the lines of ‘great… so not only do I feel abysmal but there are others all over the world feeling totally abysmal too… how is that supposed to make me feel any better?!’.
So instead of saying that, we’ll sit alongside you, and simply offer a knowing nod. We hear you.
How Did We End Up Here?
Often, when ruminating, one of the questions that circles around our mind is ‘how did I end up here?’.
Reflection can be useful if it serves a purpose. Sometimes it’s helpful to reflect on, and learn from, the past. But obsessing over what did or didn’t happen and what we did or didn’t do or say isn’t helpful. It just makes us miserable.
Above all else, what matters right now, is where we go from here.
What Do We Need To Stop Feeling Alone?
When we’ve totally run out of ‘oomph’, people might ask us what we need and what they can do.
As well-intentioned as this is, these questions can pile on the pressure. It often feels like the world expects too much from us, and questions about the help we need can feel like another expectation. Our loved ones are expecting an answer; they’re expecting us to tell them what to do.
One of the problems with these questions is that we don’t always know the answer. We might have absolutely no idea what we need or what anyone can do. All we know is that we’re exhausted and we need something.
This can lead to frustration on both sides. Our loved ones become frustrated because they want to help us. We become frustrated because we want to help them help us. Our loved ones might stop contacting us often, leaving us even more isolated.
It’s okay to have no idea what we need. To answer ‘what can I do’ with ‘I don’t know’, or ‘here’s a link to a site that supports those with similar problems to me, maybe they have an idea’. We could say ‘I don’t need anything right now, there’s not really anything you can do’. Or ‘I don’t need anything specific, I just need you to sit here’. Counter-intuitively, it’s even okay to say ‘I need to be alone right now, I need you to stop asking me questions, but please keep checking in sometimes.’.
No Matter How Alone We Feel, We’re Loved
We are loved. This is something that we don’t always believe. In fact, these two words can prompt a flare of anger. Thoughts such as ‘by who?!’, ‘you don’t know me’, and ‘even if I am I can’t feel it so it doesn’t matter’ can run through our mind.
Those who love us could repeat ‘I love you’ 24/7 and we still wouldn’t necessarily believe them. We might still think that they’re faking it, making it up, or ‘just saying it because they think they have to’.
People don’t tell us that they love us unless they do. Our current inability to feel that love doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. It means that we can’t feel it right now. We might not be able to feel it for all sorts of reasons, but it’s still there waiting for us whenever we’re ready, and hopefully, at some point, we will be able to feel it again.
It’s Okay To Crave Empathy
Empathy and sympathy are not the same thing. When someone is sympathetic, they tend to feel bad that we feel alone and may pity us. They’re likely to be compassionate, to care, and to want to help, but cannot fully understand how we feel.
An empathetic person shares our experiences and emotions; connecting with us, rather than pitying us. They sit alongside us, understanding our pain and alone-ness as if they were feeling it themselves.
If people are being sympathetic, we might feel frustrated or annoyed. Sometimes it can feel almost patronising. But these negative feelings can leave us feeling guilty and ungrateful because we know that they’re just trying to help.
Craving empathy can stir up all sorts of difficult emotions. Being with someone who genuinely understands can be comforting. But at the same time, our empathy cravings can come laden with guilt, because we don’t want anyone else to feel, or to have felt, the way we do.
These conflicting ideas, thoughts, and feelings can be distressing. They can become a cacophony of noise, deafening us, making it hard to breathe.
Craving empathy doesn’t make us a ‘bad person’. It’s natural to want someone to understand how we feel; shared connections are a basic human need. If we think about it, we crave connections in all sorts of situations. When starting a new job we often look for an ally. If we’re pregnant, we might hope to meet others who are also pregnant. After a bereavement, we naturally seek out others who’ve been bereaved, too.
We don’t look for others who ‘get it’ because we’re bad people. We crave empathy because we’re human.
Even if we feel as though we have nothing to offer, we don’t matter, and we’re totally alone, we’re still an incredibly valuable person. Thankfully, our opinion of our worth has no bearing on our actual worth.
At times, hearing ‘you matter’ can make us want to scream. When we see ourselves as worthless, being told that we matter can feel like a big misunderstanding. It can feel like we’re not being listened to or believed, and that’s not only frustrating but can also widen the gap between ‘us’ and ‘them.
It’s helpful to remember that someone else’s belief in us doesn’t mean that they’re deliberately misunderstanding us or not listening to us. Nor are they ignoring our feelings. If their judgement of how much we matter, and our judgment of how much we matter don’t line up, it’s simply a difference of opinion. Agreeing to disagree for the time being can help to restore a sense of peace, and to keep the lines of communication open between us.
Feeling Alone Is Not Our Fault
Feeling alone is not our fault. It really isn’t. There are no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ with this. No matter how many times that pesky, negative, voice pops up, how many times we’ve pushed others away, or how many times we’ve ignored messages, this isn’t our fault.
We can’t ‘switch’ emotions on or off (unfortunately!). We don’t choose to become unwell. Feeling this way isn’t our fault.
We Deserve To Feel Better
We deserve to feel better. Whoever we are, and whatever we’ve done, we deserve to feel loved.
We don’t deserve to feel alone. Nobody does.
Things Will Get Better
Though this is often impossible to believe when in the depths of depression, it won’t always be this way.
Maybe that doesn’t offer much comfort at 2 am when the world is deafeningly silent. In fact, we might be sick of hearing it, unable to believe it, and tired of asking ‘how’ and ‘when’.
Unfortunately, we can’t say how or when. All we can say is that at some point, things will feel better. The weight of the world will feel a little lighter. It will be slightly easier to breathe. Mornings will feel ever-so-slightly more doable. Nights will feel a little less hopeless.
An Impossible Dream
If you have no hope or belief that things will get better right now, then let us carry that hope and belief for you. Because we know that one day you will be able to feel the warmth of the sun again. You will be able to hug a loved one and feel that hug. We know, that one day, you will surprise yourself by making a plan for tomorrow. We know that one day this painful black-hole of aloneness will begin to shrink.
And we know that all these things might feel like an impossible dream right now. So please know that we’re standing by your side. Take as much time as you need.
Please help us to help others and share this post, you never know who might need it.