Not thinking about it seems like a good idea…
Illness can bring fears about the future. People often say ‘don’t think about it’. Why upset yourself? Better just to ignore it all and get on with it.
This may work in the short term. It can also work when you really know what it is that you are not thinking about.
Unfortunately, there are times when it does not work.
It can also have consequences which are worse than whatever it is you are trying not to think about.
If you dont know what ‘it’ is…
Not thinking about a frightening scenario which is evoked every time you try to do something can make it hard to do that thing – or hard to do anything at all.
Thinking itself can become frightening, so you just want to stop thinking entirely.
You may just want to go to bed and cover up your head…
This can have unfortunate consequences if you have responsibilities within the family, for example, or at work.
It can mean you don’t want to go to work
It can mean you ignore everything which is going on within your family.
So decisions may be made without you.
This can leave you feeling worthless and cut off and ignored – which may be worse than (or very similar to) the scenario you are avoiding thinking about. It is also real, and now, where the scenario is still only imaginary and only (perhaps) a possibility.
Partners may get over-stressed – as well as fed up at being left to deal with everything on their own.
Frightening symptoms or future scenarios can seem unbearable. They may be real. But until they have been thought through with other people, the thoughts, fears and anxieties about them are likely to be worse than reality. They often include, for example, fears of being abandoned and forgotten.
While they lurk on the edge of consciousness, frightening thoughts can just cause a kind of paralysis. They can smear out, so they affect every aspect of life, when they could be limited and contained.
There may be something which can be done, to prepare for the frightening scenario, which you are not doing – so a new fear is added: ‘it will be/it is too late…’
There may be nothing which can be done except grieving – and finding ways of living now which are not spoilt by fears of the future.
It is not surprising that people prefer to try ‘not thinking about it’ for as long as they can.
‘Thinking about it’ may be best done first with someone who is not immediate family. Immediate family will have their own fears about the situation which need to be heard and thought through. Immediate family may or may not be able to help each other with fears. They may add to them at first, or make it harder to think about them.
In the long term, relationships may be improved by sharing fears.
In the short term, this may be a frightening thing to do, and people may be very anxious about the consequences.
Sharing fears can also have distressing consequences, both short-term and long-term. Illness itself has consequences which may be unavoidable. These may be similar or different.
The losses caused by not thinking about a frightening aspect of the illness may be considerable.
The fears and the reality caused by not thinking about it may be very similar to the fears which are not being thought about.