Over the years I have had a problem with time-contamination. Intrusive thoughts coming at the wrong time and subsequently ruining that day, month or year. I will need a little time to explain this one.
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 OCD
I was 11 years old when we celebrated the end of the 20th century. I vaguely remember my teachers scribbling 1998/99 on the blackboard in school in the months prior and thinking how cool it will be to see 2000.
2000? How futuristic does that sound? With mobile phones that actually fit in our pockets and 3D video games, the future looked bright.
But as the countdown to Y2K began, I started feeling a sense of anxiety come over me.
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. Century. 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 suddenly 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 immediately.
I would later learn that this is mental contamination.
A wave of negative thoughts flooded over me
I was now constantly reminding myself to not have bad thoughts, which of course kept me in a negative frame of mind.
Thoughts that were never an issue on New Years previously 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 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.
New Years Eve 2005, I failed. On vacation to New York City in 2008, I failed. Although the latter wasn’t so much time- contamination, it was more special-event contamination.
It got to the point when 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.
If this was on Tuesday 2nd March, fine. It would only affect that day as it wasn’t the start of the week. Nor the start of the month. I would do better at midnight and hopefully have a better Wednesday.
However, any plans on Tuesday were contaminated. If I was going to a party I would go, but it wouldn’t be as fun. I would feel dirty. If I was planning to buy a new game with my savings, I would have to wait until the next day.
As you can see, the pressure to think good things only builds and with that, only leads to more intrusive thoughts.