Friday, March 25, 2016

Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome

It's one of the benefits of aging that one slowly begins to accept their own particular set of eccentricities.

We all have little quirks. Maybe it's a smell that others enjoy but one that you find repellent. Some folks have sounds that drive them batty. Maybe it's a food, that merely requires mentioning to turn your stomach (turnip is what apples taste like in hell, by the way).

Maybe it's a sensation we find intolerable, like the feel of a turtle neck. Some people can't stand saying the word moist (I have a friend who hates the word "Waterloo"). Perhaps it's a color that
makes you uncomfortable.

Maybe you've got a foot fetish. Who knows?

Point being, there are as many weird idiosyncrasies as there are people on this planet of ours. As I've grown older some of my quirks have receded and disappeared into the past while others have emerged.

One of these however, I've had since I can remember and has only worsened since having children. In recent years, it's shot to new heights, or depths depending on your perspective.

It goes like this: I can be doing anything — from the banalities of daily life to enjoying a slice of pizza — and a thought will seep into my brain. It's always a bad thought (we'll get to details later) and it won't go away. Instead it sets up shop at the fore of my consciousness.

Over the course of the next few hours no matter what I do this thought is part of my life. I can't shake it.

It is the absolute opposite of peace.

It's an invasive, terrible thing and the only alleviant is time. Then, after a few days, the thought will pop up again and the pattern repeats itself. I'll go through phases where I'll battle this for a week or two and then it'll disappear before re-emerging months later.

Through the years, the unwanted thoughts change.

Pretty sure he's not suffering with any unwanted thoughts. 
Initially it started off as something bad happening to me. An early incarnation was getting my fingers slammed in door jam and maybe losing a couple of them. (Not a fun thought I know. Hence the use of the word "unwanted."

Then there was another one in which I suffered a compound fracture by getting an arm caught in a revolving door. Yet another one involved an escalator. I'll do us all a favor and omit the details of that one.

At this juncture you likely get the point. I've been fortunate in recent years in that occurrences of these thoughts have diminished considerably.

But, because the world has nothing if not a sense of irony, just when it seemed as though the unwanted thoughts were gone, they returned but with a terrible, terrible twist.

About a year ago, I was walking down the stairs carrying Master Blackwell. His arms were wrapped around my neck, his long skinny legs clutched onto me as I took us down to the family room.

About three steps into the 14-step staircase the thought hit me: "Good God, what if I fell right now?"

I'm holding my son. What would happen? In the split second wherein I was certain I'd fall, what could I possibly do to mitigate the damage or injury to him?

I didn't know then and I don't know now. So, I slowed and my steps became more purposeful, my movements more defined and deliberate.

Now, this one on the other hand...
I made it to the bottom of the staircase but the thought remained, "What if?" And then the thought wouldn't leave.

Now it's one matter when it's you that harm is befalling and the imagery constantly replays itself in your mind's eye. If parenthood has shown me anything it's that I'm surprisingly cool with terrible fates befalling me if it means sparing my kid. In this I know I'm not different than most parents.

The mere consideration of your kid getting hurt is terrible for only a fleeting moment. Having it morph into a thought that dominates one's brain for minutes upon minutes upon minutes is emotionally draining.

Through the last four months the thoughts about Master Blackwell have been paired with thoughts about our new little guy.

Mrs. Blackwell was handing him to me recently and the thought hit me, "Don't drop him!" And so, a new imaginary scenario was born. Both kids now have a place in my "Unwanted Thought Hall of Fame."

And, as they grow older, I know with certainty that this won't change.

There is a clinical definition of this phenomena and it's called Unwelcome Thoughts Syndrome. It falls on the spectrum of obsessive compulsive disorder. So, at least I know I'm not unique in this.

In fact, I know I've got loads of company. I know that whatever unwanted thoughts I had before the boys were born were idiosyncrasies made different simply by virtue of the fact that I couldn't shake them when I wanted.

Now? When I have unwanted thoughts about my two little guys, it's just called worrying which I'm told by every other parent I know I'd better get used to.

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