When I was a kid, I had irrational thoughts all the time. I think most kids do. They were harmless – even amusing.
It’s when you’re older that they become problems, or even dangers.
My younger self wouldn’t eat rhubarb because I knew that some part of the plant was poisonous and I didn’t want to take a chance. (I still don’t eat rhubarb. Any vegetable that needs that much sugar to make it palatable hardly seems worth it.) I suppose that could be considered an early OCD-type thought, since it was about potentially toxic food.
Another paranoid idea I had was that when someone threw a cigarette out of a car window, it could cause a major fireball explosion if it just happened to land underneath another car that just happened to have a leaking gas tank. I always looked around and braced for disaster when I saw someone fling a death-stick onto the road. It might as well have been dynamite, as far as I was concerned. (And I was very concerned.)
Yet another irrational fear (looking back, my irrational thoughts were almost all fears) was based on the fact that I had no idea how plumbing really worked. I was afraid that if I flushed the toilet right before I brushed my teeth, the waste water somehow flowed past the tap and could end up on my toothbrush.
(Another plumbing-related misconception dealt with sex (though not conception), but we won’t go into that now. Let’s just say that they never covered it in health class back then. For all I know, they still don’t. I had my mother buy me a copy of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask so I could find the answer.)
In my teen years, my irrational thoughts became more delusional, and more related to my by-then-shaky mental health. At some point it was recommended (I think by the high school, though I don’t remember the circumstances) that I should visit a counselor. And they were right. I certainly should have, although in retrospect, child psychiatry in those days was fairly primitive and I most likely wouldn’t have received a correct diagnosis or treatment. I don’t think bipolar type 2 even existed.
I’ll say this for my parents: They consulted me on whether I wanted to go or not, which was not what I would have expected. I declined.
My “reason”? I somehow thought that having such a thing on my permanent record would keep me from getting into a good – or perhaps any – college. (When I started applying, of course, no one even asked.)
And once I was in college and knew that my sanity was truly on shaky ground, my life goal was to graduate, and then work enough quarters (at pretty much anything) until I qualified for Social Security before I was put away. I was convinced that was likely to be my fate. I’m not sure why I thought that having Social Security would have helped.
None of those irrational fears were ever addressed in a timely manner. Except the sex one. Yay, me! for finding some accurate information on that one and Yay, Mom! for facilitating my enlightenment.
If you’ve noticed a trend of increasing irrationality and increasing potential for sabotaging my own life, you’re not wrong.
*** TRIGGER WARNING ***
The rest of this is tough stuff. You know what’s coming, so stop now if you’re not ready to hear about it.
When I had my major meltdown ten or so years ago, I had the worst irrational thought of all. My mother had just died, so my thought processes were pretty scrambled anyway.
Then my husband did something that I thought was unethical and likely illegal as well. Then he said he’d do it again. I managed to talk our way out of the first instance as a simple mistake, but his statement that he might do it again haunted me.
I catastrophized, of course. This time, however, the potential catastrophe loomed large and to me very real. If he did repeat his actions. there would be no possibility of smoothing things over. He would be culpable. And I would be in the position of needing to report it.
Then he would lose his job – at the very least – which was at the time loosely related to the legal system. They wouldn’t be able to overlook it.
I was unable to work at the time, trying to get disability, and we were barely staying afloat. Without his job, we would sink.
So I thought that, if he did it again, and I reported it, and he lost his job, the only thing left for me to do was kill myself.
Like I said, pretty irrational.
I had a plan, though. In fact, I had three or four different plans and I couldn’t decide among them. Indecision is part of what kept me alive.
As it turns out, my husband did not choose to repeat his actions, and I was spared the necessity of choosing among mine.
Soon thereafter, I got help. I never mentioned the suicidal thoughts till they were long gone, so I never even had to fear the dreaded lock-up that I had anticipated all those years before.
I kept one of the intended means of exit for a while, though. Just in case.
It was a major day in my healing when I finally let that go. That irrational thought had been dismissed and conquered.