It seems the most insidious symptoms of depression and anxiety all lead back to negative thoughts stuck on repeat, or creating pathways to new negative thoughts. The smarter or more creative you are, the more varied and complicated your negative thoughts can be, and that leads people to think, erroneously, that most smart people are depressed because they are logical, because they see and understand more about the real “truth of the world” than other people. I’ve heard this many times from friends and acquaintances, and I bought into to the romance of it. It strokes the ego. “Ohhhhhh, I’m so depressed and can’t get out of bed because I’m a genius who can see every nuanced way life sucks.” But that’s bullshit.
“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” – Ernest Hemingway
I think that more intelligent people may sometimes be more prone to depression and anxiety because it’s easier for them to get stuck in these negative feedback loops, and I think that it’s true that the world is a terrible, horrifying place. In fact numerous studies (read here and here) have linked intelligence to depression and anxiety. But there’s a difference between intelligence and wisdom. Enjoying your life, what little seconds you have on this earth is more important than being the smartest person in the room, than discovering something, or creating something great. Sometimes the most beautiful art can be born during times of intense misery, but even is misery is the inspiration for something, it’s often hard to actually create something until you have enough energy, or a clear enough head to do it. When you are the in throes of despair, truly at your lowest, very little can be done.
And just because beautiful things can be born of despair, it’s never the best option, the desirable option, to live your life through a dark veil. It’s easy to romanticize depression, even if you’re going through it yourself. But eventually you realize that darkness and negativity is not your friend. It’s not something to aspire to, and the myth of it’s ability to inspire is a dangerous deception.
But once you realize you truly don’t want to live in a dark place, ruminative thoughts are not something you can just turn off like a faucet or a switch. It sounds so simple to just think positive thoughts, but it isn’t. You can know something intellectually, but that doesn’t mean shit if you don’t know it emotionally.
When i AM stuck in rumination sometimes I literally can’t think outside of the circulating bad thoughts, and sometimes I can’t even think at all. I drown out the voices in my head by just zoning out completely and my mind literally feels white. This also results in primordial terror in my chest that feels almost like drowning. I’m not having literal trouble breathing (although that sometimes DOES happen,) but it’s like the metaphorical “breathing” of my mind has been shut off. It feels like being crushed by a lead blanket. It’s the opposite of being brilliant and creative. It makes you scared and dumb.
Other times, I can THINK of a perfectly logical solution to these seemingly all-important problems coursing through my brainwaves, or at least acknowledge the brilliance of someone else’s solution or logical thinking, but I don’t feel it. It’s like I understand logic, but my body simply isn’t responding to it.
Eventually it does respond, my body, my self, but it’s a process. The best anecdotes for rumination are distraction, and once properly distracted, easing into positive self-reflection.