I have had a problem with time-contamination. Intrusive thoughts coming at the wrong time and subsequently ruining that day, month or year.
It all revolves around midnight. The moment when a new day starts. Both hands striking 12 isn’t only the beginning of a new day, but can be the start or a fresh week, month, year or decade.
This is when an already frustrating obsession can trigger the worst of anxiety and depression.
The year 2000 was my first memory of this
I remember my teachers scratching ‘1999’ onto the blackboard in school and thinking how cool it would be to enter the year 2000.
2000? How futuristic does that sound?
I was 11 years old when we celebrated the new millennium.
Phones could actually fit in our baggy-jean pockets, even if they were heavy. Video games were getting better and better. The future was looking bright.
I was one of those dorky kids that used to say things like ‘hey, how about we all jump as soon as it hits midnight so we can say we jumped into New Year?!‘
Tragic I know. But this year was going to be different. It wasn’t just the start of a new year, but a new decade.
A new century.
A new millennium.
This made me think hard about what I wanted to be doing at midnight, and how we would remember this moment for a lifetime.
Instead of excitement, I became terrified about thinking the wrong thought. I have always thought of the New Year as a clean slate, but this time I worried about having this clean slate and contaminating it.
I would later learn that this is mental contamination.
In the same way I have had intrusive thoughts contaminate my reading and gaming, I started to notice that intrusive thoughts may begin to ruin other aspects of my life, such as time periods.
I began to constantly remind myself not to have bad thoughts, which of course kept me in a negative frame of mind.
Thoughts that were never an issue on New Years gone, were manifesting. Images of harm coming to my family, whether it be violence, a tragic accident or something else.
Thoughts would occur and I would push them away with better ones. And repeat.
What if a bad thought is my first thought in the year 2000? This isn’t just a whole day it would ruin, it could ruin the whole year.
Every day would be contaminated. Every special occasion, every family trip.
I would have to wait another twelve months just to rectify the mistake, making sure a good thought is my first one on New Years Day, 2001.
But I have to wait until 2010 to start over in a new decade, and I won’t see another century.
It was not worth thinking about. If my very first thought in this new year was one of a family member being harmed, will my life be ruined? I don’t have a time machine to go back and change it, will I just have to live with the guilt forever?
Time-contamination worsened over the years
In all honesty, I cannot remember what that midnight thought was. Either good thoughts won, or enough time has passed for me to be able to forget the intrusive thought that I feared would haunt me forever.
Either way, OCD wins.
I have a very clear memory of the times an intrusive thought has ruined something, so I do believe I was able to push bad thoughts away after midnight in 2000. It sticks with me.
It got to the point where I wasn’t just worried about a bad thought on New Years Eve, but if I was awake on any day up til midnight, I would have to have a good thought after midnight.
If I was asleep, it would have to be the first thought when I wake up.
The pressure to think good things only builds and with that, only leads to more intrusive thoughts.
This is a three-part series documenting a personal account of mental (emotional) contamination. Click here for gaming anxiety (part two) and reading anxiety (part three).