Poke the wound | Rumination

I can make a day take a bad turn with the power of my mind. Some super power, right? I bet you can do it, too. Maybe you’re having an okay day when you start to think about things – the bad things, the things that worry you – and suddenly, you’re pulling yourself into this terrible depression with your rumination. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve done this; I don’t have enough fingers and toes!

It’s like having a sore in your mouth. You keep poking at it with your tongue. It hurts and it’s unpleasant. You tell yourself to stop it. You do it again. Still hurts. You do it again. Still hurts. Repeat ad infinitum.

The thoughts are a lot like open wounds. Here’s one: “I’m worthless.” Ouch, hurts to think about. Let’s put that away. But your mind wanders back to it without your permission – tongue touching the sore. Yup, still hurts. Poke it some more. Really hurts. Okay day doesn’t feel so okay anymore.

I won’t lie, there is a certain satisfaction in poking the wound. At least, there is for me. I think it’s the pleasure of ‘knowing’ something. I feel like I know to my very core that I am worthless (or whatever thought I am ruminating on). Ruminating lets me turn the thought about and admire it like it’s a precious antique. Maybe I’m worthless, but at least I know this.

Sometimes rumination might feel like problem solving. If I think about how I’m worthless, maybe I can come up with a way to not be worthless. I can’t speak for anybody else, but I’ve never actually healed any of my wounds or solved any of my problems with rumination.

And now I’m ruminating on ruminating.

I’ve not quite figured out how to stop the rumination. I can distract myself sometimes. I’ll have a shower, or work on a craft, or watch a video, or read a book – anything that will break the cycle. If I catch myself early enough in the process, I might be able to stop myself from turning my day into a bad one. It doesn’t always work, but I’m grateful when it does.


Michelle is now accepting your anti-rumination tips.

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It goes on.

I know a number of people who find comfort in the phrase “This too shall pass.” I appreciate the idea behind it; I think it’s beautiful. Yet, it never rang true for me. I can’t forge a connection with the saying because it doesn’t line-up with my experience very well.

Perhaps I’m impatient. I feel like many things in my life don’t really pass, but maybe I’ve just not waited long enough. I’ll be the first to admit that my level of patience really depends on how long I have to wait!

But then I think of my dysthymia – my chronic depression. Will it, too, pass? Maybe. Maybe if I wait long enough. But maybe not, too. Maybe this shall not pass [insert your own Gandalf reference here]. So when people say “This too shall pass.”, I’m a bit skeptical.

Eventually I found my own phrase to use. Something I could find some comfort in. It is from a Robert Frost quote:

Robert Frost quote

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.

It goes on. That’s something that does line up with my experience. No matter what has happened in my life, whether it has passed or stuck around, life has gone on.

I suppose, in a certain light, it might sound terrible. If you are suffering incredibly, life carrying on might seem to prolong that pain. Wouldn’t you rather the pain pass rather than go on?

But, for me, it is also a reminder that life is bigger than me and my suffering. Despite suffering, life goes on around me. I think that’s part of the reason why the quote resonates with me; it pulls me from my self-involved misery and reminds me of the world.

It goes on. The world goes on. I go on.

What about you? Do you have a phrase or a motto that helps you? I’d love to hear it!

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