I recently took part in a life changing group therapy session run by Mankind, an organisation aimed at helping male survivors of childhood abuse. The Eureka moment for me was when I realised that I was a member of the group of profoundly damaged men in the room; that they were my colleagues and fellow combatants, suffering from similar wounds. When I had started the sessions I had thought that I was not like them, that I had coped with it, got over it, that it hadn’t damaged me. It was when I realised that none of those things were true that I could start to change. Not only could I start to change but a huge burden was lifted from me: I didn’t have to pretend that I was OK; I could acknowledge the damage. This doesn’t mean that I either fell apart or denied my responsibility for my actions but what it did mean was that I no longer had to act a part and that I no longer had to pretend that I was better, more competent.
I volunteer at a shelter for Rough Sleepers. And I went along with the middle-class motive that I would help these unfortunate people. Then today I realised as I was helping someone fill in an application for a Post Office account that I was the same as this guy; that I was in his cadre and he in mine; that I was a Member of the Legion of the Lost and that I was not alone.
I now see that there is a vast shambling army of us, some out in the open on the streets, some concealed behinds suits and houses and deposit accounts but that we are everywhere
We need to acknowledge to ourselves where we belong and when we do that we can help ourselves and our colleagues within the context of equality as opposed to condescension and we no longer need to suffer in isolation.
I know I’ll never feel alone again.