The cliffs to the east of Brighton create a dramatic backdrop for what is the edge of the United Kingdom and the other day, as I waited for the bus, they were shrouded in mist as a sea fret drifted in, then out over the chalk precipice and the haunting drone of the fog horn punctuated the stillness.
I stood, half watching for the bus, half out to where I knew there was sea, even though it was lost in dense fog. As I did so a large sign appeared through the cloud. “YOU ARE NOT ALONE” it said, which was not entirely true as I was indeed the only person standing at the bus stop at that point.
“YOU ARE NEVER ALONE”
Of course the sign has been placed there as an aid to anyone who, in the depths of despair, planned to throw themselves off the cliff and onto the roof of ASDA below. Underneath the message there were contact details for organisations such as The Samaritans who can offer help for anyone who genuinely does feel that, not only are they alone, but that in such a state their life is no longer a feasible option.
I’ve never felt that low, but I have felt pretty damn close. Once, in a trough of despair, I called The Samaritans. I wasn’t suicidal, but I did desperately needed to share a problem with someone who was impartial – in that sense I was alone.
A friend had confided in me that she was having an affair with another friend who was married. Why she chose to embroil me in the messy situation was beyond me. I suspect she felt very alone, unable to talk about it, and she chose me to unburden her soul. I was not pleased. It left me with a terrible dilemma. Maybe, knowing that I had once been in a similar but not identical situation, I would be able to offer guidance. I could not.
It left me feeling angry and helpless. Did I confront the friend with whom she was having an affair? Did I warn the friend who was his wife? Did I just keep schtumm? I had no idea.
Late one night, feeling wretched about the whole thing, I called The Samaritans. Simply having someone listen did the trick. It cleared my mind of doubt and, afterwards, I knew exactly what I had to do – and I did it. It wasn’t easy.
It has taken a long time for me to forgive her for putting me in that position. But I did learn then that no matter how hard things might seem you are never alone!
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