“You Are Not Alone.”

I had an insight last night while I was walking late in the freezing rain (literally in all regards). Most “chronic illness” blogs or Facebook pages or YouTube accounts, &c., use the “catch phrase” “you are not alone.” I use it here as well. I think those of us who have suffered so greatly at the hands of our chronic illness(es) know how incredibly isolating our conditions can be and how lonely that kind of absolute isolation can make one feel. I know the feeling of being “forgotten,” of being “left behind” and not remembered far too intimately – it is something with which I am currently struggling. We try to help others who, we can only assume, have also experienced or continue to experience that feeling of being absolutely ALONE by using the words “you are NOT alone.” It does help, at least in some ways, to know that others have been where we have been – especially when we come across the very rare “examples” who have seen their illnesses through to true remission and to amazing lives.

However, with that said, I will just state my “insight” and keep this post as short as I can. I know that many of us with moderate and severe chronic illness(es) and disabilities are forced to “learn lessons” that we really don’t want to learn; “they” always say the tribulations we face in life make us stronger, but I can guarantee anyone who has faced the kinds of tribulations I have mentally screams “I DON’T WANT TO BE ANY STRONGER!” every time some new “problem” arises. What I am getting at is essentially that the idea that “you are not alone” is really something of a fallacy. Although it is comforting to know others have been where we are and have gotten through to better places, the truth of the human condition – healthy or unhealthy – is that we ARE, ultimately, ALONE. That is a lesson we have learned – if we hadn’t, we wouldn’t feel so compelled to so universally tell each other that we are NOT alone.

Maybe the lesson, the reality, is that WE ARE ALONE. But so is everybody else. We just happen to cross paths with others along our journeys through life and whatever else might exist thereafter. That lesson, that we are ultimately alone, is one that we have just been made to “learn” and so we see it more clearly and feel it more deeply than others, especially others who are surrounded by their spouses and families and friends. However, some of the “loneliest” people I know are people who are very much surrounded by “loving” others – some of the people who have taken their lives had the “world by the ass,” so-to-speak (I think of Anthony Bourdain always with this one), and were loved by countless others. Perhaps it is more difficult to be so obviously surrounded by other people and to simultaneously KNOW that one is alone – I cannot personally speak to that necessarily because I am not a “happy, normal” person who was able to get through school and find and do what I love and find people I love and more and more friends through that process – that was just not in my “hand” at the time it is for the vast majority of people. I cannot say that the loneliness and sense of isolation that we feel when we think of our chronic illnesses and what they have taken from us and how they affect EVERY part of our lives is more or less than the loneliness felt by someone who is surrounded by “loved ones” and yet feels alone – I cannot say that the loneliness that I feel is any greater than that felt by the “average, healthy” person. We cannot know this, necessarily.

The point I am driving at is that those of us who “suffer” severe chronic illnesses and disabilities are are not MORE alone than anyone else – it is just that OUR feeling of isolation has manifested in clear and very quantifiable ways. I think it must be equally difficult to be someone who is surrounded by “loved ones” who feels “lonely” and “isolated” because he or she cannot express himself or herself as he or she really is – and I think that “condition” applies to a large percentage of people in general. We all have to put on some kind of “mask” that hides what it is we are really experiencing in some (or all) area(s) of our lives. But to learn the lesson that we ARE alone might be ultimately beneficial when we look at those who seemingly cannot handle such a realization. With all of that said, I think telling each other that “WE ARE NOT ALONE,” that we do have people to whom we can turn and people with whom we can talk when things get tough is an incredible thing. I don’t want to call it a “defense mechanism,” per se, although it is very much like one, but I think that despite the KNOWLEDGE that we ARE ALONE, it is important for us to keep telling each other that we are not. It is like … *goofy analogy time!* a rainbow that appears after days of horrible devastating rain – the reality of the ravages of the storm is undeniable and the rainbow itself is intangible but there is something about it that just gives us that slight edge of the feeling of hope. And honestly, I truly believe that that feeling of HOPE is absolutely EVERYTHING.

My heart is ALWAYS with YOU!

❤ Always, Beth


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