Today Nicole and I talk about her journey through a family break-up, eating disorders and a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and what it was that Nicole discovered that helped transform her experience of all of these.
A beautiful conversation.
I hope you get as much from it as I did.
Please note: Nicole’s book is not available yet, but please visit her website to read her blog and find out more about what she does: https://www.nicolebarton.co.uk/
This post is by our guest blogger and A Little Peace of Mind graduate, Amie Joof.
Here Amie shares her story of change – you can find all the posts in this series here: https://alittlepeaceofmind.co.uk/amie
All of my posts until now have been about this understanding completely changing my life due to my relationship with anxiety being completely transformed. However, something else has been completely transformed too.
As I’m sure many of you can relate to, when I was experiencing intense anxiety, I was severely depressed. When I woke up from the little sleep I was getting, I dreaded another day. What was the point? Here we go again. I didn’t feel happy, not even for one second did it leave me (so I thought) and I was adamant that no matter what, I would remain this way. Depressed forever. What a life.
For the first time ever, my depression started manifesting into physical pain in my back and my legs. It’s incredible what the mind can do when we’re so convinced. Some days the pain was so bad I couldn’t stand up from the sofa until it settled. Life was really looking as if there was just no hope.
Something changed when this understanding started to sink in to me, like a truth being revealed and layers of lies and untrustworthy thought being peeled away one by one.
The first few days of this understanding I felt annoyed and confused. Then the first few weeks, suddenly the mornings felt lighter and easier, I felt a new foreign sense of hope, I wonder what today will bring. Then suddenly, the first few months in, and the pain lessened in my legs.
Fast forward to today, not even a year in and I’m free from depression.
One of the biggest insights that completely changed my life was this one…
I was completely and utterly obsessed with my story and my identity. “My name is Amie, I have depression and I have anxiety.” The truth is, no I did not have either of those things. I FELT them. I experienced them. They were never mine, so why did I claim them to be?
It felt as if I was depressed 24 hours a day, but I wasn’t. The thought ALWAYS shifted, even for a few minutes. I just didn’t see that. If I really had depression and it really did belong to me, then where was the depression during the moments I really got hooked into the thought about where my other shoe was? Where was the depression those first 10 seconds of getting into a beautiful hot bath and feeling so warm and relaxed? Even if it’s 10 seconds or 5, during those seconds, the depression didn’t exist, because my thoughts had shifted. I did not have depression, I experienced feelings of depression, just like I did relaxation in my bath. Yet I did not claim to have anxiety and relaxation, but for some reason depression and anxiety became my middle names.
I did not make these names up for myself, they were given to me like a new label. I remember feeling sad over the death of my nephew, and to me that sounds reasonably normal to feel sad over, yet I was taken to the doctors and told I had depression. So instead of feeling normal about feeling sad, I then believed I wasn’t normal and in fact I had depression. The thoughts about my grief went away and I was now obsessing over the fact that I had depression and it became the new most important thing in my life.
If only someone had told me “No, you do not have depression Amie, you’re feeling sadness, a normal and healthy emotion in response to something that has happened in your life. You’ll always miss your loved one and sometimes when you think of him you’ll feel really sad, yet again, completely normal. Just as normal as feeling happy.” I don’t even have to remind myself of this when I feel sad anymore. When I feel sad, that’s it, I feel sad, I might lay in bed and do nothing, I might cry and feel absolutely hopeless, but no matter how I feel in that moment, I don’t label myself with depression, I feel it and I’m okay with feeling it and then off it goes when it’s ready to go, and it always goes. Always.
You can get so attached to an identity that you really do believe you are the feelings you feel. You are not your feelings. You are completely separate. Feelings are something that come and go as a result of thoughts that come and go. When a thought comes, let it, don’t believe that it’s you and don’t ever assume that it’s REAL. When a feeling comes, let it, feel it, do not identify with it. That isn’t you.
It’s no different from when you get spots (or pimples) on your face. When it comes, you think argh, great this isn’t comfortable! But you let it stay and do its thing and then before you know it, off it goes. You don’t see it and think oh no, I am a spot. Have you ever had a spot and started pushing it and trying to pop it and get rid of it and applied creams to it and suddenly you’ve got this giant mess on your face that is now double the size and you wish you would have just left it alone? Because I know I have. That’s what it’s like. Interfering with it and trying to get rid of it doesn’t make it better. Just let it be. You’re separate from it and it always goes.
I woke up at 6am today with all of these thoughts about when I was going through what some of you now are probably going through, I know how real it looks, that’s why I’ll never tell anyone to just “get it” because when you’re in a place of thought looking and feeling real, it’s easier said than done.
So what I will say is, STAY in this conversation. Still have no idea what I’m talking about? No problem. When you look back, which you will, you will see everything like a whole new person, separate from it all just like I do, because you won’t be the victim of your own thoughts anymore, you’ll be the being looking at your thoughts go by as a bystander, separate and okay with what comes and what goes.
Today Jacqueline Hollows and I set out to talk about the work that she does with prisoners and the difference this conversation can make for those who are living in what many of us imagine would be one of the worst possible environments.
And instead, we ended up going somewhere completely different – and incredibly touching.
Was it a disaster that the call didn’t go as we expected? No. And this podcast explains how life shows us how it rarely goes as planned and always takes us somewhere beautiful.
And we’ll be back in a couple of weeks with the episode we meant to record!
You can find out more about Jacqueline and the work that she does here: https://beyond-recovery.co.uk/