Negative Thinking

Hello, all! It’s been so long! I’m afraid I haven’t been in much a writing mood lately, but I figured I should check in and let people know I’m still alive. 🙂

I wouldn’t call myself an optimist. I like to think of myself as a realist. But, let’s be honest, that’s just a fancy marketing-type term for pessimist, isn’t it?

In the past, I have frequently and compulsively let myself mope and ruminate about all the awful things in life. It’s kind of a chicken and egg thing with the depression; do I feel depressed because of the negative thoughts, or do I think negative thoughts because of the depression?

When I began treating my depression and anxiety, I had to confront my own thinking patterns. The negative thoughts were not helping me. If I wanted to be happy, I had to learn to think more positively, or, at the very least, realistically about things. Instead of telling myself ‘Today is going to be hellish,’ I had to begin telling myself ‘Today might be a good day; I won’t know until I get on with it.’

The change in perspective has helped a little, though it’s not a pancea. There’s a bit of a learning curve to it, but eventually it starts to feel natural to challenge the negative thoughts. I assume the eventual goal is that you don’t have all the negative thoughts to challenge, but that seems like a distant goal at this point.

Now, here’s my confession: sometimes I still let myself mope and ruminate and relish in those terribly negative thoughts. I do this for two reasons.

The first reason is that it allows for a cathartic release. Once in a while, I curl up in bed and think awful things and have a cry. Sometimes I feel better after. Not always. Sometimes I feel worse. But the times that I feel better allow me to justify it in my own mind.

The second reason is to combat anhedonia. I spend a lot time comfortably – or uncomfortably – numb. Sometimes it seems like I don’t feel much of anything. Letting myself think negative thoughts and feel bad for a while serves as a reminder that I do have feelings, no matter how well I manage to push them down most of the time. I wonder if this doesn’t make me a bit like an addict. Perhaps I’m addicted to feeling bad. I’ve spent so much of my life feeling miserable that there’s a certain amount of comfort in it. Still, I know this won’t help me to get better, so I try not to do this too often.

But let’s look on the bright side since that’s what we ought to do: at least I don’t mope all the time anymore. Any progress is good.


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.

Activity: milkmilkmilkmilkmilk

I came across this post the other day. I encourage you to check it out yourself, but I’ll describe the bare bones idea that I wanted to share with you. The suggestion is, that if you repeat a word or phrase over and over and over, it will begin to lose its meaning. Try it with a random word – the post uses ‘milk’ – and say that word as many times as you can for the next minute or so. You’ll notice that the word begins to sound weird and doesn’t really make sense anymore. You can also do this with words that are a little bit closer to your heart, like ‘stupid’, ‘ugly’, ‘worthless’, etc..

I think this could be a great in-the-moment disarming technique! Next time you are in a slump and ruminating on something, why not try repeating that thought ad nauseam? It might just help break the cycle of rumination. I’m going to try it!

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