Please Read This if You are Feeling Alone.
Dear fierce ones,
I think the word alone is one of the worst words in the world. Not the word itself, but the meaning of the word. The feeling of being isolated.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word alone as:
1. separated from others
2. exclusive of anyone or anything else
I was alone for the first time in my life when I divorced.
I had wild imaginations about a rapist breaking in...I was alone.
I would check the locks. The windows. I would close the blinds.
I would...question myself. I would have doubts. I would feel overwhelmed by the simplest decisions. I would feel panic and anxiety. I would feel so bad and so sad about everything and I would cry.
EVERYTHING FELT HEAVY.
The air was hard to breathe. It was thick and heavy and my chest felt tight. It was like learning to swim by trying not to drown. I felt a thick blanket of hopelessness and depression crushing my heart. Nothing helped. I was struggling. Emotionally, I was at the lowest point I had ever been. Simultaneously, I began to have physical health problems.
I almost died.
I had been having heavy bleeding for quite some time. My doctor recommended an IUD.
It didn't work.
I got USED to it.
I got so used to it that I stopped being alarmed at the amount of blood I saw every time I went to the bathroom, and it just became NORMAL.
This is what happens in our lives all the time. We get used to things that are terribly wrong and they don't alarm us anymore. Things that are unhealthy in our bodies. Things that are unhealthy in our relationships. Things that are unhealthy in our lives. We lose perspective. It just becomes "Normal" but it isn't normal at all.
One day I collapsed at work. I was in shock. I was tachycardic and felt AWFUL. Everyone sounded so far away even though they were right next to me. I asked for help and moments later, I was on a stretcher and on my way to the ED. (I am lucky because I work in a hospital) I was admitted straight to the ED and I required 2 emergent blood transfusions.
One of my best friends came to see me while I was lying there in my hospital bed. As I watched the first drops of blood flow through the tubing and drip into my body, I was internally freaking out. It felt very surreal. She seemed to know, even though I said nothing. She sat with me and took my hand and said "It's going to be okay" and I knew it was true. I love her so much because she was there for me, she held my hand, and she supported me in my time of need.
A couple of weeks before I collapsed...I knew my Hematocrit was at a dangerously low level and I needed a blood transfusion but...I did not want to have a blood transfusion. I was more terrified of having a blood transfusion than I was of dying from blood loss. (I realize that is totally messed up) but I was completely convinced that I could handle it because I was "strong and healthy"
This is not my proudest moment...especially as a health professional. Yet, I know others will completely relate to it. It is for these same reasons that many of us have denied or refused help until we have been forced to accept it. We are afraid of what will happen (Fear), we keep thinking it will get better (Denial), or we think that we are strong enough to manage (Pride). I absolutely hated admitting that I needed anything. I would almost rather DIE than ask for any sort of help, or admit that I had needs, or allow myself to become vulnerable in any way. I had also convinced myself that it "wasn't that bad".
I never understood my dysfunctional patterns until I read The Sacred Enneagram and realized that I found it very shameful to admit that I had needs. I was a master at Self-Abnegation. (more about that in a future blog post)
Physically, I recovered rather quickly from the blood loss. After a couple of units of blood, I felt so much better I can hardly describe it. Once the blood began entering my body...I felt like a blood-thirsty vampire, and I could not get enough! I am not kidding. The effect was immediate. It felt wonderful. I felt myself revive. Life-saving blood was transfused into my body. Without the blood, I would have died. It was no joke. I was STILL bleeding.
Eventually, I needed a hysterectomy. It was a bloody ordeal, (couldn't resist that pun) but I fully recovered.
Emotionally, it was a different story.
My heart was bleeding too. It ached all the time. Physically ached in my chest.
I was separated from my family.
I was alone in my heart all the time. Even when I was with other people, I felt alone and emotionally isolated. The pain and heartache that my kids experienced was especially hard for me to see. I could see it in their sorrow-filled eyes every time they looked at me. It was a brutal, awful time. I wanted to fix it but I couldn't.
It took love and time for me to become healed emotionally. Loving myself. This love is still growing over time. I had to become patient and kind with myself. Those messages of insignificance and inadequacy and hopelessness only became quelled when I fully loved myself with compassion and grace. They stopped when I crossed over from feeling lost and alone to a place of belonging to myself.
I want to make the distinction between being alone and feeling alone because it is important.
Being alone is sometimes necessary and welcomed. It was necessary for me to be alone for a period of time in order to do the work on myself that I needed to do. I needed the stillness and the solitude and the silence. Many parts of my emotional healing could only be accomplished by being alone. But, feeling alone...feeling alone is an awful feeling of ache and longing and hopelessness.
The lonely feeling.
The feeling that we don't fit in or belong. The feeling that we aren't good enough. The feeling that the world would be better off without us because we have messed up so bad. The feeling that no one cares as much as you do. The feeling that there is no escape from the pain and heartache that we feel.
It isn't the physical part of being alone that breaks our hearts. It is the feeling of being alone that shatters our souls. The feeling that you don't matter. That you can't change anything because you are too insignificant. That everything is hopeless. That there is no point. That it is too hard. That you don't belong. That the world is too much...too much misery to deal with. Too full of pain and suffering. I feel it sometimes and I too want to escape from it. Just close my eyes and go to sleep. Forever. This temptation exists for everyone but it isn't the answer. The answer lies within each of us. It lies in knowing the truth about ourselves. In knowing and understanding that each one of us has tremendous power and value and impact to make the world a better place. To make a change. To make a difference. To reach out.
You may think you can't do anything to make the world a better place, but you actually can.
These things actually saved my heart, body and soul.
Emotionally, (my heart) What saved me during this time was having a really good friend who listened, supported, told me it was going to be ok, and who was there in my time of need. She reached out and loved me, and her presence ensured that I was not alone. She wasn't the only one. Many other friends and family members reached out to me and showed me love and grace, acceptance and support. I was someone who would rather die than accept help from anyone and I proved it. Congratulations. In the end, I needed all the things I never wanted and was very afraid to receive. An incredibly humbling experience. I have reached deeply within myself in order to now be able to reach out. Paradoxically, perhaps ironically...I now need and desire a lot of alone time in order to reach out through writing. This is why I also made the distinction between being alone and feeling alone or lonely.
Physically, (my body) what saved me was a blood transfusion. I needed it. I was in shock. Thank-you to all the wonderful blood donors in the world. You are giving the gift of life to people like me. You make the world a better place. I love you!
Spiritually, (my soul) is saved by Jesus.
Thank-you Jesus! Without you in my life, my soul would be lost and alone. I live in awe of your wonderful amazing love and grace. I want to be more like you.
This week a young man I had never met before came along the road, sat on the end of my driveway and cried out desperately "I just wish the world was a better place"...The police and medics arrived and took him away, but 2 days later we received the unfortunate news that he had killed himself. He was in his early 20's. My dear friend who sat with me and held my hand during my time in the hospital lost her brother to suicide. Another friend of mine deals with a suicidal daughter. The emotional recovery for the friends and family of those who have passed is a life-long journey.
We are physical, emotional and spiritual beings, and these components of ourselves are inextricably connected. Fear, denial and pride only bring us closer to death. Our emotional wounds are killing us. Suicide has become the eighth leading cause of death in the United States. It has reached epidemic proportions. People today feel more alone and disconnected than ever before. In the book, Braving the Wilderness by Brene' Brown, she provides research and statistics on the health risk of many leading causes of death. I was amazed to read that loneliness increases your chance of an early death by 40%. Even though many of us aren't technically alone, it is the feeling of isolation that hurts so bad.
My experiences have taught me that each of us can make each other feel less alone. It can be so simple. You can be there for a friend. You can give someone a hug. You can smile at a random stranger. It is such a small and simple gesture, but it made a huge difference in my life when I was feeling depressed. I clearly remember walking down the hall at work when a guy walking past me gave me a BIG smile for no reason. His smile was huge and lit up his whole face. It felt amazing. So warm. So joyful. So full of life. It was like the sun came out and shone right in my face after a thousand days of rain. I needed that smile. I remember that smile, and even if I wanted to forget...facebook will remind me for the rest of my life because I posted "Never underestimate the power of a big smile" and every year they send me a reminder. In a very emotionally depressive time in my life, that smile gave me hope.
To those of you who feel alone...
I want you to know that you bring meaning and purpose to my life. I hope you feel less alone as I share my personal experiences with you. Thank you for honoring my words by reading them. So much of our reality is hard and painful and we experience times where we feel devastated by our circumstances. We feel betrayed or disappointed or deeply wounded emotionally by our friends, our workplaces, our marriages, our kids, our parents, ourselves, our lives. We struggle. We all do. I write about the hard stuff to let you know that you are not alone in it. I write to let you know that you matter. You really do. You have more to give than you can imagine. Don't give up.
Reach in and love yourself.
Reach out and love others.
Find your fierce
Take the journey