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  • Writer's pictureClaire Sandys

You're not the only one

My Why audio version of this blog available here.

Do you realise this? Do you really, and truly, know that you’re not alone in what you’re going through?

You might say ‘Yeah yeah, I know I’m not the only one that’s been through this…’ but have you really stopped to think about it?

Because acknowledging that you’re not the only one, knowing you’re not alone in feeling the way you do, facing the challenges you are facing, fighting the battles you have, can bring healing, encouragement, recognition, motivation, and comfort.

When Chris and I first walked into a room full of people going through infertility there was a weird initial sense of - ‘this is odd, everyone here knows exactly what our situation is with trying to have children’ - but that lasted just seconds before another feeling kicked in, a sense of relief, of feeling understood, of being known, and most of all, of not feeling alone anymore.

There’s a reason why support groups, sharing over a coffee, meeting people who have been through the same grief, same cancer, same pain, have a healing effect on people. 

Studies have shown that a large percentage of those who develop symptoms of prolonged grief disorder did not seek or obtain support. Group grief counselling can help reduce depression symptoms. Stress levels decrease significantly after support group participation, and group participation can lessen the likelihood of developing complicated grief (including risks of mental health problems, like depression and anxiety).

As the famous saying goes, and these only really stick around through the centuries if there’s an element of truth to them:  ‘A burden shared is a burden halved.’ 

So, do you know you’re not alone? And if you’re not alone that means there are others going through the same thing, and that means there are people you can talk to who know exactly what you’re feeling, and can share with you how they’re feeling and coping. To use another old saying ‘There is nothing new under the sun’. You might feel the acute grief of something you believe only you are going through, but that’s not the case, and acknowledging that can be a powerful way to break down some of the walls that are hemming you in with those unhelpful thoughts - “no one understands”, “I’m alone”, “I’ll never get through this”, “there’s no way out”, “I’ve ruined everything”, “I’ll never be happy again” etc etc.

Night air, good conversation, and a sky full of stars can heal almost any wound. Beau Taplin

Feeling alone in a situation can make it so much worse, so I thought I'd help you know some truths today and maybe one, or a few will stand out to you, to help you really know, you’re not alone.

You're not alone if you wanted to have found someone to share your life with by now, but you haven’t. 

You're not alone if your marriage is struggling to stay afloat.

You’re not alone if you’re scared of your spouse.

You're not alone if your sex life isn't what you hoped it would be.

You’re not alone if physical intimacy feels impossible for you.

You're not alone if you have to work hard at your marriage to keep it together.

You’re not alone if loyalty is all there is left.

You’re not alone if your marriage ended and you feel like you failed.

You're not alone if you don't have children.

You’re not alone if you can’t have children.

You’re not alone if you shouldn’t have children.

You’re not alone if you don't have the children you grew up dreaming about.

You're not alone if you're wondering if it's ok to say no to IVF, even though you want a child. 

You’re not alone if you’re pregnant and scared, and it doesn’t make you happy.

You’re not alone if you’re pregnant and there’s no one else around to help you.

You’re not alone if you’re at the point of letting go of the dream of a family.

You're not alone if you think you're failing at parenting.

You’re not alone if you regret having children.

You’re not alone if you’re not the parent you wanted to be.

You’re not alone if your children’s decisions are breaking your heart.

You’re not alone if you don’t know if you love your parents, siblings, children.

You’re not alone if you’ve been separated from your family because of bad decisions you or they made.

You're not alone if ill-health has robbed you of dreams. 

You're not alone if your life hasn't turned out like you hoped or imagined. 

You're not alone if your grief feels completely overwhelming. 

You're not alone if you can't see a way out of your current situation and feel trapped.

You're not alone if you’re drowning in debt or the effects of bad financial decisions.

You’re not alone if addiction has you by the neck and you can’t get free.

You're not alone if you're terrified to do the right thing. 

You're not alone if you've balls up in life - big time. 

You're not alone if you've made a huge mistake. 

You’re not alone if you cry at night and no one else knows.

You're not alone if you've badly hurt those around you. 

You’re not alone if you need to come clean about something that will hurt others.

You're not alone if you've been mocked and persecuted for your beliefs. 

You're not alone if you wonder if there's more to life than this.

You’re not alone if you’re in a country that has taken your freedom.

You’re not alone if you’re in a warzone and life feels more fragile than ever.

You’re not alone if providing food and water for your family every day is hard. 

You’re not alone if you’ve had to leave your home just to stay safe.

You're not alone if you've considered ending your life to escape. 

You’re not alone if you’ve already made a plan to leave this earth.

You’re not alone if you have doubts about your faith.

You're not alone if you feel so misunderstood you can’t imagine anyone ever understanding. 

You're not alone if you've been abused by people you should have been able to trust.

You’re not alone if someone else placed you in a dangerous situation that hurt you. 

You're not alone if you don't know who you are any more. 

You're not alone if it scares you to look in a mirror. 

You’re not alone if it makes you sad when you look in a mirror.

You’re not alone if you can’t look in a mirror.

You're not alone if you're just struggling to get through life. 

You're not alone if other people and social situations confuse you.

You’re not alone if you live in fear of finding another lump.

You’re not alone if you just don’t want to go back to the hospital for any more appointments.

You’re not alone if you live in physical pain every single day.

You're not alone if happy things make you sad.

You’re not alone if mental illness means you don’t know who you are any more.

You’re not alone if you fight daily just to feel ‘normal’ like other people.

You’re not alone if you want to talk to someone for help but can’t.

You’re not alone if unexpectedly you find tears springing to your eyes sometimes.

You're not alone if you're angry with the world and the hand you’ve been dealt.

You’re not alone if you look at the world and it breaks your heart.

You're not alone if you miss someone so deeply you’re always a little sad inside.

You're not alone if your smiles aren’t always genuine.

You’re not alone if you send laughing emoji’s when you can’t seem to raise a smile

You’re not alone if you feel different from everyone else.

You're not alone if your best friend is an animal.

You're not alone if you walk in nature to try and escape humans.

You're not alone if watching happy relationships makes your heart hurt.

You're not alone if there are parts of your body you're ashamed of or can’t look at.

You're not alone if you do things in secret you're not proud of.

You're not alone if you do the things you don't want to, and don't do the things you should.

You're not alone if the past makes you sad.

You're not alone if the present wasn't what you ordered.

You're not alone if the future terrifies you.

Now I haven't even touched the surface of all the ways people can feel alone, and yet I bet, even if I haven’t specifically mentioned your situation, at least one of those stood out as feeling true to you. So there's also one thing that joins all of us together - we all feel alone and misunderstood sometimes. 

Whatever it is, whichever statement or statements feel true to you (and there may be many), I want you to really think about the fact that others are thinking the exact same thoughts, going through the exact same feelings, and if you could find each other, you might actually be able to offer help. Consider finding help or talking to someone about it. You might be thinking, ‘no one can help me’, or ‘no one understands’, or ‘there’s no way I could talk about what I’ve done or am feeling’, or ‘people will judge me, laugh, condemn me’. But those kinds of thoughts are exactly what stops you from receiving all the good stuff that might be able to help you get past those thoughts. Plus, those thoughts just prove you think you’re the only one going through what you’re going through, because if you accepted you’re not the only one then you would know others can help you, others do understand because they’ve been there too, that you can talk about it because others want to hear, that they won’t judge you, won’t laugh at you, won’t condemn you, because they’ve been there themselves. 

The truth is, there is nothing you’re going through right now that others aren’t also going through right now. Even if the details of your situation are different - how you are feeling, who you have hurt and what you have lost, will be the same as what someone else is facing or has faced. It’s only by swallowing your pride and speaking to someone else, that you’ll start to find that tight grip you’ve got on your right now, start to ease. I don’t know if you believe in good and bad, God and the devil, right and wrong, but I believe there are forces in this world that are desperate to keep you locked up alone with your shame and pain and grief, and there are also forces that want you to be free, but that freedom starts by talking about it. 

The same goes for anything you fear, like phobias (though I don’t generally use that word, I believe a phobia sounds like you can’t do anything about it and it controls you, whereas to say it’s a fear - feels like something you can conquer and work with - and in my view everything is workable), but talking about your fears as you’re facing them has the same effect, locking the fear inside and never talking about it only allows it the power to grow.

Now, I know it’s not easy, I’m preaching to myself as much as anyone, but I do have experience of the power of sharing and the amazing feeling that comes afterwards. If you haven’t tried it, take my word for it, the moment you voice how you feel to another person you will feel the control it has over you start to break, and suddenly it’s not as bad as you thought, you can start to see ways out of it, and hope appears. Everything feels worse/bigger/more threatening/more controlling/more inescapable when you keep it to yourself - because it slowly gathers power and momentum and makes it feel too big to talk about.

Now you do have to find the right person to speak to. If you need to tell someone you’ve been unfaithful to your spouse, pick someone with wisdom, discretion and a good heart. Not someone that gossips, will congratulate you, run to your spouse, laugh, or get too upset to help you. And sometimes this means not choosing your closest friends, but someone a little more detached from the situation.

It doesn’t have to cost money, just talk to one other person and I guarantee you, no matter how hard that is to do, you will feel the hold of your situation ease because someone else knows and is now with you in it. Talk to a friend or neighbour, call a helpline, find a support group, or get professional therapy if you can. At the very least, message me. If you’ve got something you need to say, confess, talk about, and you can’t do anything other than type it into an email or write it into a journal - start th at way.

Helping people feel less alone has been the number one objective of The Silent Why podcast since the start. Finding a way for you to tell others they’re not alone is the number one objective of The Herman Company. When I did my Core Gift session with the lovely Katie Elliott (former podcast guest), my Core Gift Statement came out as: My core gift is helping others know they are not alone. That blows my mind looking at everything I’d already been working in! 

My ears prick up every time I see something on TV or hear something on a podcast or read something in a book that talks about how in grief, so often, people feel alone, but also the ways people have been helped to feel less alone.

You might be feeling alone in what you’re going through, but I guarantee you most days you’ll meet or pass by someone else who feels the same way. 

Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters. Margaret Wheatley

Let’s not be people that skirt around the tough subjects, too often I see death, grief, infertility, cancer, disability or sadness come up in a conversation and people fall silent. Silence makes people feel very alone, especially if they’re trying to talk about something that matters. And I know this isn’t as easy for others as it might be for me, but socialising isn’t as easy for me as it is for others, exercise isn’t, being around children I don’t know well, having to say ‘no’ to people, having to say ‘no’ to marzipan, there are so many things I find hard, awkward or difficult because of who I am, or what I’m going through in that moment, but it doesn’t mean I don’t do them. 

If we’re not here to help each other, live in community and want to help those around us feel loved, cherished and part of something, then what are we here for?

And if you know someone else that comes to mind who you think might need to know they’re not alone more than you need it right now, why not be brave enough to offer them the space to chat about whatever it is they might need to open up about. They might not want to, and that’s fine, but at least you offered them that opportunity. 

And if you have someone that’s already opened up but you know they’re still struggling, then you know who you need to send them. Herman. He’s excellent at helping people feel less alone, it’s literally what he’s handmade for.

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