A few weeks ago, I had what I now know is called an intrusive thought. If you’re not familiar with this term, as I wasn’t, please take a minute to read this.
I’d been feeling a bit flat, a little low, nothing that I would consider as a depression or a depressive episode as such, but it took a lot more energy to get myself going than it normally does. On the day in question, I was lecturing. I love teaching and this full day talking about dental implants was no different.
Nobody wants to hear someone monotonously drone on from 9am till 5pm and so the day becomes a performance, a time for my energy and eccentricities to illuminate the subject and hopefully, this spark can inspire some passion and some quality learning. This takes about as much energy as it sounds and you can easily double the energy input to get the same output when you’re not feeling in the zone.
It got to the end of the day and I was exhausted. The day had gone well, the whole room didn’t see through me leaving a naked imposter (as it still feels sometimes, imposter syndrome is a story for another day), the feedback was all positive and nobody fell asleep.
As I was driving home, leaving the motorway circa 70mph I drove down the slip road and the thought went through my mind that I could just choose not to brake as I hurtled towards the roundabout and just let whatever happens, happen. It was a fleeting moment that lasted probably less than a second, not through any desire to hurt myself or anyone else, but a moment of apathy for everything, including slowing my car at that very moment.
What the heck was that?
This was something that I don’t recall experiencing before and it scared the hell out of me.
What does this mean?
What am I supposed to do now?
I cannot tell you how disturbed I felt at my own state of mind when approaching that junction that evening. My anxiety went through the roof I didn't know why I thought it I didn't want to think it but it happened and I worried that it was going to get worse. This fear this anxiety compounded my existing fatigue.
I’ve never had any suicidal ideations but I worried that this could be the way I was heading. Is this the first step? Is this how it starts?
I told myself that I need to get a grip on this before it gets worse. I need to get back to myself again. I hadn’t been feeling too bad lately, a little tired perhaps but otherwise mostly ok, but this was something else.
It could've easily progressed gone worse left unattended and what I want to say to you right now is that excepting that and speaking to someone (in my case, my wife) made all the difference.
I spoke to Marisa about this that evening and she called it an “intrusive thought”. They’re common, most people get them and they’re not a sign that I’m on a slippery slope to suicide. “You are not your thoughts”.
I’m not ashamed to tell you I cried when she told me this. I am not my thoughts. I’m not always able to control what thoughts run through my mind, but I am far greater than these thoughts. I can’t control the thoughts but I can control my actions. Thinking something doesn’t make it real and it doesn’t mean that anything more will ever be done on the subject of that fleeting moment of the mind.
Marisa told me that even suicidal ideations are common and they don’t mean anything more than my intrusive thought, they are just that, thoughts and ideations. It’s ok to have them and is doesn’t mean you have any desire to fulfil them even in your darker moments, as I don’t.
I am extremely fortunate to be married to such a spectacular person in many ways, but being a psychotherapist in combination with how intimately she knows me, Marisa is able to give me insight on a level that nobody else could. She is someone who has spent years training and studying these thoughts and feelings, and years helping clients to process their own thoughts.
If you don’t feel like you’ve got someone you can talk to so honestly in your life at the moment, it may be worth trying to find someone, whether this is a friend who just seems to get you, or a counsellor who has the advantage of no preconceptions about you and who can be there to listen and help you work through these concerns. Talking is everything.
Since this moment, I’ve spoken with a colleague about this an lo and behold, he’s had the same thing. If he hadn’t opened up to me and I’d not opened up to him then we could both be walking around thinking we’re the only ones with these thoughts, allowing our own solitary mental subjugation. Alone with such thoughts, is not a good place to be.
As with my previous blogs on my own mental health, I’m not writing this for sympathy, support or help. I’m blessed with a wonderful wife, parents, in-laws, siblings and friends who give me more support when I need it than I could ever wish to have. I’m not about to top myself, nor have I ever even considered doing so.
I am writing this because I hope that someone somewhere may benefit from reading it. Someone who’s maybe in that same place I was that evening but doesn’t know where to turn or what to say. Who may be scared or too afraid to admit it. You don’t have to hide this (you also don’t have to post it publicly to the world like me).
“You are not your thoughts”
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