Depression and Democracy

Trying to sort through my emotions over the past couple of days has been so difficult. Initially when I heard the news about Donald Trump, I was in disbelief. Then disbelief transitioned into shock, then anger, then rage, then sadness, then acceptance, then back through the cycle all over again. The emotions have yet to stop spinning.

I am intentionally trying to be more open about who I am as a person. The good parts, but also the scary, seemingly shameful parts. A big piece of that is being able to admit honestly that I am a person prone to mental instability. And not all my days are good. Yesterday was a bad day.

 On the drive home from work I was overcome with a mess of feelings–too many of them to identify or sort through. Triggered by the election, but rooted in so much more. As on so many other bad days, I struggled to push back the suicidal feelings that came creeping up in the darkest corners of myself. On occasion, the burden of being is so much to handle that the desire to live floats away from me like the morning fog rising from the pavement. (Though to be clear, those feelings have NEVER been accompanied by a desire to follow through on them)

I felt nothing but that familiar ache of anxiety and hopelessness as I sped down the highway, gasping for air through a choking of tears. A cacophony of desperation, frustration, grief, pain…each emotion flying past me like the trees on the side of the road, blurring into each other as I drove past.
This is what depression is for me. It’s crushing. It’s being a sponge to the pain of the world and bearing it all so brutally without choice. It’s being unable to separate myself from my emotions, and being equally unable to control them. It’s feeling entirely helpless in the face of the relentless, daily struggle for hope and sanity.

And today, I think half of America feels that with me.

It’s a familiar feeling in a brand new context. A feeling with an identifiable cause for once. So what do we do? In the face of such extreme negativity surrounding us, such overwhelming hate, a reality so defeating it threatens to drag us to our knees in desperation. How do we cope? How do we heal? How do we pull ourselves out from under the breakdown?

When I got home from work yesterday, my eyes red-rimmed and my chest still aching, I went straight upstairs to my friend Lexi’s room. I spent a few minutes venting my frustrations and listening to hers. I turned down the offer of a therapeutic beer, and returned to my room. I sorted through my piles of unwashed laundry, fished out a pair of clean-ish running shorts, and went straight to the gym. And I ran. I ran through my frustration, my grief, my hatred of running. I ran through the uncertainty, the desperation, the hopelessness. And in my running, I found a little bit of hope.

I used to think that I was a burden to this world because of my depression. A big part of the reason I’ve spent so much of my time volunteering is because I felt I had to balance out all the negativity I was adding to the world by just existing. Because the world was good, and I wasn’t. The world was positive, and I was negative. The world was happy, and I was sad.

It took me a long time to be comfortable in the fact that I fit perfectly in the world, just as I am. It took Lexi saying that directly before I ever really considered it to be true. But the world isn’t this serene place full of goodness, plagued by a smattering of bad and negative people. The universe is a constant mix of good and bad and none of it is black and white. In nature, in humanity, in the animal kingdom–all of it. It’s not good vs. bad, it never has been. It’s a mix of beauty and roughness, love and disdain, joy and despair, all swirled together in a balanced broth we call life. And it is so incredible.

So this is how we will cope with a Trump presidency and the knowledge that half our country endorsed a man who embodies such hatred and intolerance. By clinging to the glimmer of good we find in those we resent. By embracing it. By throwing love at it. By enduring and fighting even when we are at our lowest. Nothing is all good or all bad. Trump, Hillary, you, me…we’re all just terribly flawed humans. We try, we fail, we break, we learn, we grow.

When offered hatred, we respond with love. When faced with hopelessness, we respond with hope. Because we are incredible, amazing, relentless fighters for good. In the personal struggle for sanity, in the global struggle for peace. We fight because we are capable of it, and because life is so goddamned worth it.

Be brave enough to face your demons, kind enough to embrace the world with decency, and so wholly loving that we become a nation ruled by love, not by Trump. And maybe that’ll be our legacy.


 

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3 thoughts on “Depression and Democracy

  1. Hugs, sweetie. If your roil of feelings is the result of mental illness, then half the U.S. is mentally ill with you today.

    There are couple of spheres that we inhabit. There is the big one loaded with a bajillion people of all sorts — good and bad swirling around together. This one is largely shaped by leaders and visionaries — presidents, kings and queens, dictators, warlords, Mother Teresas, Martin Luther Kings, Mahatma Gandhis — and with few exceptions, such as elections, we don’t impact it much. We are, instead, impacted by it. I personally feel that we’ve chosen the wrong leader for our portion of this sphere, but looking at the populist vote, approximately 50% of the voters disagree with me. Trump will shape the world in ways that I will not like, but I can endure this, as can we all.

    Another sphere is a tinier one inhabited by tiny ramblers and those whom they love and influence. Within this sphere, we love, serve, give, teach, shape and impact tiny worlds. Within these spheres, we raise children, plan and implement projects to better our families and communities, plant gardens, create beauty, hold the hands of the sick, the dying, and the downtrodden, demonstrate the principles by which we have chosen to live, rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. In friendship, we can join the tiny spheres of others whom we admire and respect. We can make the world a better place from the bottom up rather than the top down. Hope and love, as you said, are the keys to making both spheres better places.

    As the returns came in, I raged, did dishes, swept floors and scrubbed toilets. I voted, and that was my impact on the larger world. Although chaos raged without, within my tiny kingdom there was order, cleanliness, warmth and love. I plan to keep it that way.

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  2. You have such immense worth dear friend, and these are good words. Always know that there is an unending place for you in my/our world and a huge hole with you so far away. Love you!

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