You Are Not Alone - By Nicole Fofonoff
It never ceases to amaze me that there are such commonalities woven in and amongst our stories as human beings. Throughout everything that happens to us, especially the devastating or challenging, it seems to be an innate part of our lived experience to think “This is my burden to bear, alone.” This completely isolates us from reaching out to others during these times as we think our experiences and reactions to them are so uniquely complex that no one could possibly understand us. Engulfed in shame, our often toughest experiences stay under lock and key, void of acceptance, compassion or release. How grim.
As a counsellor, I have been given a uniquely precious opportunity to observe snapshots of many peoples lives, including these more challenging moments. What an honour it is to bear witness to these lives, and be let in ever so slightly to see the inner workings we have built such reinforced walls around. In my work I have had no trouble noticing reoccurring themes across stories told to me by my clients. The real spark I hope to ignite for you is that most of us are tenderly disclosing all the same feelings as our neighbours, yet we are assuming we are the first wretched being to ever say such things. Through clenched jaws and shallow breath, we recount how awful it is to resent our mothers as we celebrate the birth of our own first child. The frog in our throats stays stuck while we admit jealousy of our partners' coworkers. “What is wrong with me?” is the follow up to this, usually. How many times over I have been asked this heartbreaking question.
My position often makes me the first person that any of us disclose these struggles to. I extend my deepest gratitude for the work it takes to articulate these feelings. My hope is you feel safe as I turn towards you with compassionate inquiry instead of running away in fear of what you have laid before us. When I hear you share something you’re ashamed of feeling, that a handful of others had already disclosed to me that day, all I want to do is lift you up and say “I promise you are not alone! Someone who loves you has felt the same way!” Of course I cannot do that. Shame is what keeps us isolated. Isolation is what keeps us sick. The dilemma I am sitting with is that I don’t exactly know how to shine a light up to the patterns I am witnessing in a way that is helpful for the masses. Hence this little blurb.
My hope for us: that we stop assuming we are alone in our struggles. We lean into the idea that humans are all facing life together and although our paths may look different, the emotions that come along with them are all felt collectively. The beauty in sharing these with trusted others is the melting away of the isolation we have placed ourselves in, and the opportunity to see that we are heard, accepted and loved despite how unworthy we may feel. In coming together to share these feelings we decrease self-disgust and in turn amplify our connectedness to the common experiences of humanity that are messy, unbalanced and difficult. That is, to feel it all is to be human. As someone hearing these stories interwoven with shame and fear over and over again, I truly believe the hopeful cure is disclosing these harder bits with more of those we trust. Even if it is just one other person, therapist or loved one. More often than not, our neighbours will admire the strength in you for sharing, feel less inclined to hold up their own facade of perfection, and feel equally as encouraged to disclose their own experiences you may share.