I thought I was the only one! Terminal uniqueness: My belief that no one else could understand how I felt, surely I am the only person in the world who has ever felt this way. There is an element of reverse arrogance in terminal uniqueness, i.e. I am so special because no one has had it worse than me and no one can possibly understand how I feel. If I believe I am terminally unique then I will separate myself from others and not share my feelings, this is the perfect storm for isolation. No thanks, I’ll just stay here by myself, stare at my belly button and cry.
Today I know that I am not terminally unique and my life is infinitely better because I have been a member of several peer support groups for many years. The miracle is that once I ventured out of my isolation I discovered how we are alike in our humanness . The “support” in support groups comes from this reality: your words are my words, we speak for ourselves and for each other. I have found compassion for others and myself in peer support groups
Why did I wait until my emotional pain was almost unbearable before I sought solace in a community of peers? My little dog Roscoe likes to roll over and beg me for a belly rub: vulnerability be damned! His behavior says “I trust you.” I feed him and take him for walks so I am a good, trustworthy human. Roscoe doesn’t care if I’m old, gray and fat. I however have trust issues. I’m not likely to expose my vulnerability until I can feel relatively certain that I am safe. Finding out if someone is trustworthy is risky behavior, trial and error of the heart. I stick my neck out and share my truth and I’ll be treated with respect and compassion or NOT; it’s the not that scares the shit out of me! But I persevered, kept going one tiny step at a time, and now I can share honestly with fellow members in my support groups.
It’s the shared realities and vulnerabilities that allow people to eventually trust each other. Easier said than done. Your outsides look a lot different from my outsides, but inside we can recognize a fellow soul. I am afraid, you are afraid. I am lost, you are lost. I don’t feel worthy, you don’t feel worthy. We can both laugh so hard our bellies hurt. We can love fiercely, celebrate love and grieve when a loved one leaves us. The tears that fall from your eyes are the same tears that fall from my eyes into the river that flows between us. Your smile is my smile. You bleed the same as I. We need never stand alone. Can you hear the bell tolling?
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee. By John Donne