(Title is, of course, from the song by Live. I’m a 90s child.)
“You’re not alone,” people always say. In your darkest, weakest moments, they’ll offer those three words as some sort of panacea. It’s intended to be a sympathetic gesture, an acknowledgment of your suffering. It’s meant as a comforting truth.
In reality, it’s nothing but another lie.
We, as humans, are alone in many ways. You’re born alone (unless you’re a Siamese twin) and you die alone (unless you’re a member of a cult or something). Whatever awaits us in the hereafter, if you believe in that sort of thing, we must face by ourselves. And the far more pressing concerns and pressures residing within our minds are likewise something no one else can help with.
That’s a simple fact. Nobody knows exactly what I’m thinking, as my words will always convey only a subset of what’s truly going on inside my head. Another person, looking at me from the outside, can’t comprehend that mass of thoughts, emotions, feelings, and concerns. And I can do nothing about that. To quote one of my favorite songs, “Stop saying, ‘I know how you feel.’ How can anyone know how another feels?”
We carry on with the illusion, though, because we’re human. We have a natural need to empathize. In that, emotions are contagious. Whether or not we intend them to spread, they will. The people who don’t feel along with us are rightly seen as abnormal: we call them psychopaths.
But that doesn’t mean those who feel these emotions along with us are facing the same causes we are. Not at all. They only get the effects, and those effects are very often prone to misinterpretation. Is he happy because he got a promotion? Because his wife’s pregnant? Or just because he watched a funny video? We can’t really say for sure. All we, as outsiders not privy to the internal monologue, can say is that he’s happy, but that’s enough for most people to feel their own burst of happiness. The same goes for any other emotion, sadness or anger or whatever you choose.
That’s why “you’re not alone” rings so hollow in my mind. My partner has said it on numerous occasions. So has my boss. In both cases, while I’d like to accept their words at face value, it just isn’t possible. I know that I have to face some things alone. I have to fight some battles alone.
For me, most of those battles are against my inner demons, that multitude I’ve discussed at length here. No one but me can see them, let alone fight them. As I know I’m not strong enough to do that in my current state, it leaves me in a conundrum.
There are battles we can fight together. The fight for freedom, for instance. But those battles are against external foes, people or groups or ideas we can point to as enemies. We can have a war against mandatory vaccinations, or against communism, or against progressives. Those are battles we can (and must) fight en masse.
The war inside my head, however, must be fought by an army of one. I can get advice and aid from others, but they can’t stand in my place. I alone must face my demons, whatever my friends and loved ones might say.