Monday, February 13, 2012

Stop the Ruminations

Mental Ruminations are distressing and often very unhealthy. If you’re someone like me, you find yourself doing this often.

For all the time spent worrying and creating disastrous scenarios in your mind, how often do you come to a constructive conclusion? Practically never? Hey, me too. Is it just me, or does this seem like a phenomenal waste of time, energy, and emotion?
These aren’t going to stop on their own. The most important thing we need to do in order to stop these is also the hardest thing to do:
Take responsibility for your thoughts and proactively work to change your habits.
Unfortunately there are no quick fixes or easy solutions to this one. Not that I’ve found (unless you’re considering a lobotomy. Please consult a medical professional first. I don’t recommend this. Hah.). If you’re working to heal from Borderline Personality you should be used to this. It doesn’t make it fun, but it’s not something we’ve never heard before.
Why can’t anything be easy? If only……… This. Right here. Is where the problem starts. This is the wrong kind of question. Instead of working to find a productive solution, it is very easy to get caught up in thoughts that push away responsibility and blame the fates.
Step 1. The first thing you NEED to do. With no exception: Realize when you are ruminating. When you see your mind start to run away with it, you need to recognize what you are doing. Say it out loud if that will help, “Hey you, Brain. I see what you’re doing. Right now. You’re ruminating.”
Step 2 can be one of many options, or a combination. But Step 2 is ALWAYS: Be proactive. You need to take responsibility for your mind and do something about it. Fortunately there are a whole lot of things you can do:
1.      Talk it out. I know a lot of us have a very hard time doing this because expressing our inner concerns and fears puts us in an emotionally vulnerable place. We’re afraid that if we let someone in on our thoughts we will get hurt by opening up. Well you know what?  By not expressing our concerns, by allowing our minds to torment us with “what if” scenarios, we’re hurting ourselves and potentially doing more damage to ourselves than anyone else could do. These thoughts are destructive, harmful, often self-abusive, make us fearful, hurt, angry, paranoid… and when we have the destructive emotions building up it makes it all the more easy for us to explode at the very people we’re afraid of losing in the first place. We have two options:
Disordered Thinking Scenario
            1a. Talk to someone, and fear they won’t understand or worse, walk away without caring.
            1b. Don’t talk to someone and potentially hurt ourselves and eventually drive them away anyways.
Lose-lose.
Here’s how this actually tends to work out. Realistic Thinking Scernario
1a. Talk to someone that you can trust. At worst they may not understand. At best they can help you brain storm various ways to come up with a constructive solution or figure out better ways to cope with the situation you’re dealing with. At the very least you will have unburdened some of the weight you’re carrying. But I feel bad dumping my problems on people.  The thing is, while we may feel the weight of our problems, someone else isn’t going to internalize them the way we do. It’s a burden for us. For them it’s often the simple act of caring and providing a few minutes to listen to you.
1b. Don’t talk to someone. Destructive thoughts build up and multiply like mental gremlins fed after midnight and multiplying in water. Stress yourself out, mentally hurt yourself, and potentially misplace your anxiety and pain on the people around you that you care about.
Wait a minute. Both those #1b’s are practically the same thing. Yep. That’s the point. You can do nothing productive and continue to hurt yourself mentally. Or. You can ‘take a chance’ and ask for a little help. If the thing that is stopping you is being afraid that you will lose the people you care about by asking for help, it doesn’t make any sense to not ask for help… and still potentially lose the people you care about. If you talk it out, you have a much greater possibility of finding a healthy solution while strengthening the bond with whomever you’re confiding in. If you don’t, you still risk the thing you fear.  Choose the more productive option.
Sometimes it’s not always possible to talk things through. Maybe no one is around or you’re not in a position where you feel it’s something you can talk about. It happens.
Other things that help me:
2.      Do something else – Sometimes my mind just starts picking fights with itself over nothing in particular, or problems that don’t really exist. These are the least productive ruminations in the entire world. The things that helps me the most with these, are to distract my mind by doing something productive. I’ll go to the gym, make an elaborate dinner, pop in Diablo II on my PC because Blizzard still hasn’t released Diablo III yet even though it’s been like a decade, grrr. I digress. Do something that engages you, which you enjoy, and let yourself focus on something else.  
3.      Schedule some worry time – I’ve mentioned this before. Quite literally pick a day, time, and duration, go someplace quiet and dedicate a small chunk of time to worrying. When the time is up – Stop. Physically leave that space and get on with your life.
4.      Journal. Write it out. – It helps me so much to write down the things on my mind. It makes the real problems seem more tangible. At first this sounds bad, but if they’re just these disembodied free floating forms and thoughts they can seem impossible to tackle because you can’t actually get a grasp on them. If you write them down, see them, they become something you can take action against. On the flip side, sometimes by writing things down you give solidity to your fears and are able to recognize just how absurd some of the things you think are. Writing down your fears and anxieties can also help you find patterns to what bothers you and causes you unnecessary stress. When you increase your awareness of the things that motivate your destructive thoughts, it becomes possible to counteract these.
5.      Become a list person – I worry about a lot of dumb shit sometimes. I worry about a lot of very real problems and issues though as well. When your mental ruminations involves real problems it is very helpful to compile a list of the things you spend time worrying about. Write them down.
5a. Come up with various solutions, or at the very least, ways of interacting with each item on your list. Use a lot of verbs; doing statements. Use affirmative and positive language as well.
Taking concrete, decisive steps to solving your problems with always make you feel better. I promise.
The great thing about doing these things is you have a plan of attack. Start with some #4 during your scheduled #3. Take the real issues and move on to #5. If possible take that list you made in #5 and sit down with #1. Write down a list of things that trouble you. Take that list to someone you trust and work on creating constructive solutions that you can actually implement.
Instead of ruminating endlessly, destructively, and wastefully…. If you’re going to worry, make your mental activity productive. Do something about it.
I feel three thousand times better when I am able to actual DO something about a problem I’m having. I hate, hate, not being in control of things in my life. The uncertainty of ‘potential’ scenarios is just awful. Instead of leaving situations up to the whims of the world, take control. Things in this world do not get better on their own, especially if people don’t realize anything is wrong in the first place and can’t work with you on it. Recognize something is on your mind, figure out what is really bothering you, decide to do something about it, form a list of things you can actually do, and seek out the resources and help you need to make the changes that will actually benefit you.
I know it sounds like a lot of work, but the simple fact of reality, especially a reality with BPD, is that living requires a certain amount of effort.   However the more you do this stuff, the easier it becomes. Until one day you’ll realize you have a problem and instead of wasting massive amounts of time worrying needlessly, you’ll see that you automatically begin fixing your situation without a second thought.
 
Additional thoughts that a lovely Reader brought to my attention in the Comments below, which I believe is valuable for everyone to see:

A friend gave me a helpful tool. When you catch yourself (the sooner the better) say, out loud if no one is around, "do I want to change this?" And answer "Yes" out loud, again if situation permits.

It’s a self-empowerment technique. You have to really feel the word change. Feel it with a positive, powerful connotation. No room for fear of change, here. In this context, change is your very best friend. This question is your awareness that you are not only the captain of your ship, but you are the waves and the stormy skies as well. You have the omnipotent power, through this simple question, to change your mental scenery.

8 comments:

  1. A friend gave me a helpful tool. When you catch yourself (the sooner the better) say, out loud if no one is around, "do I want to change this?" And answer "Yes" out loud, again if situation permits.

    Its a self empowerment technique. You have to really feel the word change. Feel it with a positive, powerful connotation. No room for fear of change, here. In this context, change is your very best friend. This question is yourr awareness that you are not only the captain of your ship, but you are the waves and the stormy skies as well. You have the omnipotent power, through this simple question, to change your mental scenery.

    Ive been lazy lately, and not asking myself this, and as a result, Ive been all stormy seas the last week. Today is a sunnier day. Thanks for the rumination reminder. Hope this trick is another valuable tool in your mental arsenal like it is for me.

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    Replies
    1. I'm adding this to my post as an Edit. This is really great advice!

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    2. Wow cool :) I know I sound like a broken record with my expressions of gratitude towards you, but reading how another persons thoughts and feelings so mirror my own really does make me feel less alone and freakish.

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    3. I don't mind broken records at all. Especially as I have the same thoughts every time someone esle says the same thing haha.

      Random thought: in another generation or two, no one is going to understand what 'sound like a broken record' even means. That's kind of sad. I should start a record/player collection.

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    4. Yeah very right! I used to have a record collection, but Ive lost so much stuff each time Ive moved (a lot). Now Im left with my Tori records.

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    5. Oh I know, how cheezy is that. Tori Amos, patron saint of borderlines lol

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Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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