Feeling the Burn

I talked yesterday about how I was coming off a bit of a depression. A minor depression that really just sapped the energy and enjoyment out of my days. I talked about feeling like I was just watching the day pass me by, or, more accurately, pushing the day past me. During such moments, it can be hard to know what you feel. Except for when you feel the burn. Literally.

It happened while I was cooking dinner. I had several burners on and hadn’t realized how close one of the pan handles was to one of the burners, meaning it got quite hot (honestly, it seems like an incredible design flaw that all pan handles aren’t coated to avoid this problem, but kitchen engineering has to wait for another day). It can be hard to feel much when you experience a depressive episode, but it is much harder to ignore the feeling of a burn on your hand.

And in that moment, in addition to pain, I also felt annoyance and anger with myself for not having been more careful. Obviously, this was a simple, albeit painful mistake that many people have probably made. And I know my annoyance comes out of my anxiety about making mistakes, out of my perfectionism. Yet feeling anything in that moment was different than typical depressions.

I am certainly not recommending you try burning yourself or injuring yourself in any way. If you feel the compulsion to do that, please find a therapist or other treatment option. Burning my hand did not bring any kind of psychic relief, it just brought about annoyance and aggravation.

I write this post not to encourage self-harm, but merely because it was something that stood out amid my recovery. And things that stand out, good or bad, tend to end up here. And while I understand that physical pain may help release emotional pain that a traumatized brain doesn’t know how to process, I even understand that that might be what happened with me, it isn’t a solution. My depression will come back. And if I were to rely on burning my hand or on some other form of self-harm, I would be caught in a vicious downward cycle that would lead me further and further from safety. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t feel the burn in a safe way.

If you are struggling with an anxious or depressive moment, it can be helpful to hold an ice cube in your hand as it melts. The cold “burn” will draw your attention from your own mind, to something uncomfortable, yet ultimately safe, in your hand. It will also allow you the opportunity to practice mindfulness. As the ice cube melts you can feel the texture change slowly in your hand. You can feel how you your hand feels as the cold sets in. You can notice how the mind moves from internal anxieties to external sensations.

And the best part is you won’t be left with a stupid burn mark that makes it hurt to bend your finger for three days.

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