I saw an interesting special on TV recently about Andrea Yates, the mother of five who drowned her children in the bathtub. I always wonder what makes people do what they do, especially when what they do is so unbelievable, such as in the case of Ms. Yates, so this show intrigued me.
Apparently she developed post partum psychosis that became worse after the birth of each child. She had hallucinations & heard voices that told her that her children needed to die now so they could go to heaven or else they would grow into evil adults & go to hell. Thankfully, this is quite rare! But one of the most amazing parts of the story to me was that when Ms. Yates & her then husband sought treatment, she received very little treatment. One doctor told her she just needed to “think happy thoughts.”
Think happy thoughts?! Gee, I bet she never thought of that! *facepalm*
Guessing this doctor never heard of “intrusive thoughts.”
Intrusive thoughts come with some mental illness. They are thoughts that come to mind that you can’t distract yourself from. Having C-PTSD, I have experienced them myself. Sometimes, they’ve been in the form of a memory of abuse, other times they are anxiety laden thoughts (what if this doesn’t go right? Then what do I do? What if that doesn’t work either?!) or they are depression related (things aren’t going to get any better, I’m a horrible person, etc). Since getting a concussion last February, mine are much harder to deal with than they used to be.
When intrusive thoughts happen, I’ve found the best way to deal with them is to talk to God. Ask for His help. 1 Corinthians 2:16 states that as children of God, we have the mind of Christ. Although it doesn’t feel like it during painful & frustrating intrusive thoughts, it is still true. What did Jesus do doing His most difficult & painful times? He talked with His Father, & received answers & peace in return. Following Jesus’ example truly helps.
Try to slow down, & deliberately focus on your thoughts. Question them, tell them they are unwelcome, ask God to tell you the truth about what the thoughts are saying- do you have a real reason to be so anxious? Why is this awful memory back in my mind- is it something I need to deal with?
Understand intrusive thoughts. Everyone has them, but to varying degrees. If you’re fortunate, you don’t have them often, & can distract yourself from them. If not, they may be a sign of a mental health issue that needs addressing. It may be a good idea to discuss them with your doctor or a therapist if you find yourself having them often & unable to distract yourself. Intrusive thoughts don’t mean you are crazy or broken beyond repair! Often they are a symptom of anxiety, depression or having experienced trauma.