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: http://alittlepeaceofmind.co.uk/amie
Today’s post is about our families and loved ones “just not getting it.” I was inspired to write this post after a member of the group posted a question about this, so I hope this is helpful for others too.
After reading the post Nicola tagged me in, I really did remember how this felt, I’ve been there. Not anymore, thankfully and I’m going to share with you what I’ve seen around this subject of family and loved ones not getting us.
My family used to tell me I was going to end up never leaving the house again if I didn’t brave it and start going out. They told me that there was absolutely nothing to be afraid of and I need to just go out and live my life. This angered me and upset me every day and I was suffering because of it, some of my thoughts were – “how dare they? They have no idea how this feels! This is real, this isn’t just a little phobia I am absolutely petrified and I can’t go out no matter what. They have no understanding and they’re saying all of this to make me feel 100% worse.”
Now of course, these thoughts led to feelings such as anger, sadness, frustration. I felt misunderstood and lonely. As this understanding started to sink in and started to become more and more clear to me, I saw something huge. My family care about me. My family are not living in a reality of anxiety, so in their reality, how on Earth is going outside of the house scary? This is confusing to my family. My family are worried about me because they love me. They want to see me living my life because they truly think if I don’t go out, I’m doomed. This was coming from a place of love, not hate and not spite.
The minute I saw this, all of those thoughts dropped away, I felt compassion towards them for wanting the absolute best for me, even if that meant believing different thoughts to me. My eldest sister has a huge, huge fear of going out in the dark, it’s something she has never done and I find it a little bit strange that it scares her, because to me, all it means is that the sun has set. Yet she has a whole list of things that the dark mean. Two different realities, I don’t understand her reality because I don’t have the same thoughts as her, the same way our families won’t always understand our reality of anxiety because they don’t have the same thoughts as us.
Your family thinking you should “feel the fear and do it anyway” is just another one of their thoughts. It’s not true. It’s just a thought they believe is true, but it’s not. It’s actually more an opinion. You don’t have to feel the fear and do it anyway, that’s just something that’s been made up from thought. It isn’t a real thing, it doesn’t even exist beyond someone else’s thought. This is your reality you’re living, no one else’s. You are absolutely fine as you are. That’s the most important thing that has set me free.
I want everybody to know that I am not free because I can go out again, I am free because if tomorrow comes and I feel like I can’t leave my house for the next week straight, I am okay with that. I am okay with knowing I am having a thought created experience in the moment, an experience that is ever-changing, an experience that is temporary and an experience that is created by something that isn’t even real. That’s why I am free.
I was free before I stopped being agoraphobic, sounds crazy doesn’t it? I still couldn’t leave the house at one point, yet I felt more free than I had felt my whole life. Knowing that the distance between my front door and the shopping centre was not my freedom, my freedom begins and ends with me. Not my house, not the shops, not flying to another country. I am free sitting on the sofa. I am free being housebound. I am free every single second for the rest of my life because everything I thought that was keeping me trapped was never, ever there.
Now to our families. This may sound bizarre, in fact when I was new to this understanding less than a year ago, I remember Nicola saying it was okay if I couldn’t go out and that I was fine no matter what. I thought what on Earth, how could that be true. I resisted the possibility of it until I tried hearing it again with an open mind instead. It is normal that we feel scared to hear this when our whole lives we are told by our family we must go out otherwise something bad might happen, we are told by health professionals that we have to leave the house otherwise we will get worse and worse. This is not true.
The amount of time you spend in the house does not define your outcome and I think it is really important you know this. Every day that went by I counted. Religiously. Day 64 of not going out, I’m only going to dig myself a deeper hole I thought, but really, time had absolutely nothing to do with it because I was only ever one thought away from the whole experience changing into something else, something different, something new.
What I’ve noticed is, the things we have more thinking about, are the things that often seem the most important and real. For example, my family always go on at me about things such as being more organised and less messy. This isn’t something I have a lot of thinking about at all, so it goes in one ear and out the other admittedly, yet because I used to have so, so much thinking about anxiety and not going out, the minute they mentioned that to me and went on at me about that, suddenly I thought they were right! This is a problem! Yet I never believed them when they said my messiness was a problem.
It’s. All. Just. Thought.
No matter how we try and look at it or how much we try and convince ourselves something is really wrong, its really all just piles and piles of untrustworthy, untrue thought and knowing that, changes everything.