I thought I was the only one?

There’s a song by Dar Williams, “What Do You Hear In These Sounds” that I recommend. It’s about what it’s like to be in therapy. It’s cute and it’s light and it’s a whole lot of truth wrapped up in metaphors and analogies because:

It’s scary to come right out and say things.

Williams breaks through toward the end of the song with the simple truth:

” I had this wall and what I knew of the free world
Was that I could see their fireworks
And I could hear their radio
And I thought that if we met, I would only start confessing
And they’d know that I was scared
They’d would know that I was guessing
But the wall came down and there they stood before me
With their stumbling and their mumbling
And their calling out just like me,”

It was incredible to find out that there are people who are F’d up like me. Finding my tribe meant acceptance and love – not from the people I’d always wanted it from – but from people who have it to give.

The thing about misfits like me is that we are very good at hiding our true selves. We learned it was necessary to do so because we were taught that we are inherently deficient. We were/are “too sensitive” and “too emotional.” We were told that we were not  smart/pretty/athletic/good enough. They “just don’t understand what’s wrong with” us.

No one ever really sits a kid down and explains, “Look, this family is kinda nuts. While you were at school today, we worked it out – we’d like for you to believe that everything is your fault. You’re to blame for everything and it’s your responsibility to fix everything. We’d like you to have very low self worth and work endlessly to earn our approval. Oh, and we’d like you to feel endlessly obligated to us even though we treat you poorly.

Nobody tells a kid that. We learned it by how they treated us. Truth: bones heal, bruises fade, words stay forever.

And then, when you can’t stand it anymore (usually a lot of years later), if you have the guts and the means, you go to therapy.

The therapist is a kind person and s/he tells you that what you were taught isn’t true. But you tell yourself they’re just being nice and you remind yourself that they get paid and it’s their job and would they really tell you if you weren’t a good person?

The best therapists will tell you. I learned that from my brothers and sisters in NA and AA. The best thing I can do for misfits like me is speak the truth as I see it in no uncertain terms. Whether it makes you feel amazing or like shit, that’s what we do because otherwise, how are you supposed to know?

Plus, you may pay me, but you don’t pay me enough to lie.

I’ve met an awful/wonderful lot of people who are screwed up like me. What really saddens me is when folks wander around this world not knowing that there are others like them. That’s as lonely as it gets.

If the misfit I’m talking with is an addict or alcoholic- it’s easy to help them find their tribe: just head on over to the BARN for a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or Codependents Anonymous. If they’re someone who loves an addict/alcoholic their tribe is likely waiting for them at a local Al Anon meeting or with the folks I love in Nar Anon.

But if you don’t have an addiction and the biggest problem you’re looking at isn’t an addict you love, where do you find your tribe?

The best place I’ve found is group therapy. Simply by showing up, we’re acknowledging that we’re all there because we’re not all there.

I’ve been doing groups for a lot of years. The two most spiritual words I have heard in all my time in them is, “Me too.”

Identifying and relating. The joy of discovering that not only are there people who carry the same burdens and scars, but that a lot of them are getting better and if they can, maybe I can too.

Stop pretending. It’s lonely and it’s damned depressing. Find your tribe. You’ll discover the beautiful truth: misfits and freaks are the best kind of people. Nobody loves like we do and nobody is better at helping us than us.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.