“You are not alone.”  - The Face of Boe, Doctor Who

You are not alone.

Sometimes you might feel like you’re alone, but you’re not. 

For realsies, you are definitely not alone.

Life can seem especially challenging for those who are queer or have a disability or chronic illness or are part of a minority religion or are maybe just “not like other people.”  Even the most well-adjusted person feels lonely sometimes.  It’s part of the human condition, this existential dread, this sense of foreboding loneliness.  Life is hard, times are tough, and reality sure is weird. 

But even if we’re walking our paths with not another soul in sight, like the Hermit card of the tarot, remember that even the Hermit has a lantern, and a staff, and the wisdom from his own life experiences, and from those who came before.  Though he might not be aware of it, there is a system of support around the Hermit, allowing him to walk safely and securely in his solitude.  (But I’m sure the Hermit knows exactly who his allies are, as the gifts of the Hermit include an intense, deep sense of self- and cosmic-awareness.)

You are not alone, even though the path is indeed long and lonely.  We’re all on our own paths, and some of us have even been on that path before (or at least similar paths.)  We can’t walk the path for you, but maybe we can offer you a cup of water, some words of encouragement, or soothing balm for aching feet, for an aching heart.

Humans are intensely social creatures. (Yes, even introverts are social.  We all have our own ways of socializing and recharging, but everyone needs at least some type of social interaction.)  Overwhelmingly, though it might not seem so, people help one another more than they harm.  People like helping people.  It’s just that certain types of human interactions and stories get told more often than others, so it makes things (people) seem way worse than they (we) we actually are.

In the social work profession, we have little tools that help us help our clients identify their social connections.  Through this process, folks are able to identify supports, or even the lack of supports.  Once identified, it’s easier to know who or where to turn to in a time of need.  Similarly, this helps one to recognize areas in one’s life that might need a little more work, cultivation, and attention.  This process is especially useful if done prior to an emergency.  When we are sad, lonely, hurt, distressed, or angry, it’s hard for us to think clearly and logically, to put things into perspective.  In these dark moments, emotions easily take over, and ruminating, harmful thoughts dominate our perceptions of reality.  When you are in that Dark Place, all you see is the Darkness.  However, when you identify your allies and supports before you go to The Dark Place, then when you are in the Darkness it’s much easier to light your lantern and navigate your way through to the other side.

Humans are social creatures, and socially, we fill different roles for one another.  Some are professional, or natural, or casual, or intensely intimate.  It’s important to know who and what supports you have for various situations, so you know where to turn to when the darkness looms near.  (Awareness of certain roles and boundaries are important, too.  Remember, your therapist is NOT your friend even they do friendly things, and your friends are NOT your therapists, even though they might be therapeutic.) 

Here are some different types of allies or support systems for you to identify while you create your own Y.A.N.A. List:

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Professional Allies - Doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, local law enforcement agencies, local/state/federal government, lawyers, accountants, dentists, mechanics, etc.

How is your physical world at this time?  Physical health impacts all aspects of the individual – mental, emotional, spiritual, etc.  Do you know where to go in the case of a physical emergency?  Do you have trusted medical providers who are in congruence with your own personal values?  Do you know the phone numbers of your local politicians who can advocate for you in the political sphere?  Friends are fine and dandy, but sometimes you need a professional.

Helping/Caring Professionals - Nurses, therapists, ministers, teachers, support groups, therapeutic groups, counselors, social workers, massage therapists, acupuncturists, reiki masters, hair stylists, yoga teachers, etc.

These folks are able to give you more focused attention and are often able to help you within the system rather than just addressing the issues of the system itself.  Make sure you identify people with legitimate, bona fide training.  These folks often have a license or certificate corresponding to their work.

Spiritual Helpers - Ministers, mentors, elders, high priest/esses, Shamans, as well as a magical circle or grove, coven, inspirational texts, ancestors of spirit, mystics and magical folks who came before, etc.

These folks have a sense of the Divine found within all humans, and all things.  They have often walked the path before and can help you identify guideposts along the way.  (A word of caution – DO NOT receive traditional counseling or psychotherapy from someone in this category unless they have actual, professional training in this area.  If they offer such services and have no formal training, then RUN.  This is highly unethical, dangerous, and is illegal in most states.)

Teachers - Mentors, elders, teachers, supervisors, also consider the owners of your local metaphysical shop, or even authors of your favorite books, etc.

Attend workshops or lectures, read wholesome books that challenge you in a good way and speak to your soul, follow blogs or social media, or listen to podcasts.  You usually can’t turn to these folks for one-on-one guidance, but they’re a good, useful, and easy source for direction and solidarity.

Community - Your local metaphysical shop, hanging out with friends, a cozy coffee or tea shop, your favorite bistro or café, a local LGBTQ center, co-workers, gaming shops, festivals or events, bookstores, internet groups (avoid the comment sections and don’t feed the trolls), online covens or training groups, concerts or music venues, film festivals, seasonal festivals, dance parties, sports teams or events, live theater, etc.

Sometimes just being around people can help.  Go out and about, by yourself or with friends.  Join a Meet-Up Group or connect with your community via social media.  As mentioned previously, humans are social creatures.  A lot of our loneliness comes from isolation, and while anxiety can indeed be crippling, just getting out of the house can do wonders for one’s sense of belonging, community, and self-worth.  Sometimes our impulse is to further isolate ourselves when we are feeling Dark, but almost always we regret the things we didn’t do more than the things we actually do.  (Though, of course, there are exceptions to this!)

Neighborhood - Next-door neighbors, the lady down the road, local critters and animal/nature/land spirits, etc.

Do you have friends or acquaintances who live nearby?  Can you ask someone for help who lives in your apartment or on your street?  What if someone needed help from you?  Consider also ways to volunteer or give back to your physical neighborhood.  Clean up trash, plant some flowers, get outside, identify your trees and birds, wave to the lady walking her dog, buy Girl Scout cookies, and be nice to the kids playing basketball.

Friends - People who you hang out with, (some) co-workers, a movie buddy, book club, gaming group, your magical circle, stitch-and-bitch, knitting/craft circle, etc.

These are just the folks you like to be around.  Sometimes it’s just nice to be with people who can just simply make you laugh and smile.  These folks are not quite suited to be doing the heavy, hard work, but sometimes just being around friendly humans is all you need.

Family - You know who they are.  Family of blood, family of spirit, chosen family, bosom buddies, sworn brothers and sisters, lovers, your coven, etc.

These are the people who do the heavy lifting for us, or more importantly, with us.  (Remember, these people are not your therapists, even though they are therapeutic.)  These folks feed us, so make sure you are feeding them in return.  

Other (Si deus, si dea) - Gods, ancestors, allies, elementals, fairies, nature/land spirts and wights, deities, the Shining Ones, angels, spirits, etc. – you know what I mean.

Our relationship with these beings can take on different flavors.  Some work with is, some work us, some require worship and reverence, and some are friends.  As witches, Pagans, and magical folks, identify who your spiritual allies are, in addition to your worldly allies.  Do you have a Mother Goddess who can comfort you?  A deity who can make you laugh?  Who heals you when you are in pain, and who challenges you when you know you can do better?  Having strong relationships with spirits and the Divine is just as important as having connections in this mundane world.  Remember, you’re a magical being.  Turn to magic when other things don’t seem to be working, or even better, when they are.

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Friends, life is hard.  There is no reason to do this alone.  Identify your allies, and who you can turn to in different times of need.  Most of all, make yourself available to others as well.  Maintain good boundaries (for both yourself AND others).  Nourish these relationships, watch them grow, and remember always:  You Are Not Alone.