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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  1. jennymarie4

     /  June 22, 2015

    I can relate to this. I sometimes wonder, or blame it on my hormones acting crazy as I’m getting older. But sometimes I just can’t shake the “I’m stupid, I can’t do anything right, etc…” But eventually it goes away, and I’m my happy self again. Distraction is a great idea.

    • It wouldn’t surprise me at all if hormones affected rumination, so you may be right about that!

    • Brian

       /  June 25, 2015

      Here’s an article summarizing biological responses to depression based on gender: http://www.yale.edu/snhlab/Gender%20Differences_files/Nolen-Hoeksema,%202001.pdf

      Essentially, what I got out of the summary was that there is no evidence that ovarian hormones play a role in depression, but there is evidence that stress hormones do. I wonder if the stresses that result from the menstrual cycle plays a role. I assume the menstrual cycle is stressful, but I obviously have no clue. So, please forgive my ignorance.

      Here’s an abstract about the effects of cortisol on cognitive function: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19709646

      Seems cortisol impacts the hippocampus. The hippocampus plays a major role in short-term memory. So cortisol seems to be a likely culprit.

      • Interesting! I’ve seen some conflicting info about cortisol and menstruation, so I’m not quite sure what to think, but stress and menstruation do seem to be linked somehow.

      • jennymarie4

         /  June 26, 2015

        That is interesting, Brian. While I’m definitely not an expert on the technical medical info, I do know I have ups and downs, and they seem to coincide withe the menstrual cycle.

  2. Kelly

     /  June 23, 2015

    Have you tried keeping a journal? I know that can be hard when you’re low on energy and problems are preoccupying you. But it can be a sporadic journal. That’s OK! Writing things down sometimes can help you get them out of your system. It can spur you to think more creatively and analytically about what’s happening and what you can or should do about it. And it’s incredibly helpful to go back a few days or weeks later and read what you wrote with new eyes.

    • This blog is more or less my journal (though I do a little offline journalling), and you’re right, it can be very helpful – especially when ruminating 🙂

  3. This hits me at night,and it can pull me right down and usually about the past.I try to focus on something else,like writing to someone in my head,but that also just gets me anxious !

    • It hits me at night much of the time as well. Rumination is a very good way of ruining the chance of a good night of rest!

  4. Depression is so very sneaky, catches you off guard,but we have no choice but to push through the haze and find some peace.For each of us different things help,walking,talking,sharing,writing and telling ourselves it’s ok,we will get through this day,we do not need more guilt added!

  5. Brian

     /  June 25, 2015

    There is some evidence that pessimism can actually be channeled in a way to increase productivity. See this blog post: https://blog.todoist.com/2014/07/22/the-productivity-paradox-pessimism-vs-optimism/

    With that said, rumination can get out of hand. I beat myself up every day. My ruminating really kills my motivation. I feel as if there is no point in doing anything. I wish I had an artistic outlet. I loved the paintings you have done. I wish I could paint like that. Unfortunately, I have hand dexterity issues which would make it challenging to improve my painting/drawing skills. I never was able to quite get a handle on the 3rd dimension. I am considering maybe trying to learn photography. I read a little about it and was floored about the concepts of ISO, aperture, and fluttering. You can do some amazing stuff. However, learning photography requires energy which therein lies a problem. Plus I don’t really have the equipment. I just have my phone which limits what I can capture. So it remains a dream for now.

    • If only I could learn to channel my depression into creative energy! I’m more like you, I lose all motivation.

      I think having a creative hobby can be useful, if for no other reason than the sense of accomplishment you can get.

      I’ve seen some pretty impressive photos taken with cell phones; I’d say dive in with you camera phone, and upgrade when you get the chance. It could be a good way to practice framing, composition, etc. If you take any awesome photos, feel free to share 🙂

  6. lifeofmiblog

     /  June 26, 2015

    Yeah you got to love rumination. They tell me this is the reason for my long long stretches of depression…I won’t practice CBT or any of the othe methods, I just love to bury myself in my misery, and if it’s not miserable enough, I just ruminate some more! Apparently it’s because I am comfortable there since it is where I have spent most of my life. Go figure!

    • Yeah, we get pretty good at rumination after all those years of practice, don’t we?! Just putting our skills to use…

  7. Hi bro, i know your feeling, sometimes I feel it too
    But in my case, in my social life, I always think that how that person will get bored or maybe hate to have consversation with me
    It feel very hurt dude
    But, nothing wrong with it, we have our way of life and it made us different 🙂
    Keep going and do the best 🙂


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