Therapy in the time of Trump
November 9, 2016 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Had juggled some interpersonal issues that made me question / lose grip on reality; President Trump has made it bad enough for me to finally seek therapy again. Agent Orange contaminated snowflakes follow (content warning: self-injury)

This was me a little over a year ago.

Since then, I was able to move into my dream job, take a course this year to broaden my skillset so I can advance further in the job area I like, and get to know more friends through hobbies and even managed to find some friends that I can confide my deepest worries to. And while I'm single, I'm now reasonably confident that I should be able to find a boyfriend through slowly knowing people in-person through activities. (And if I don't--at least I'm lucky to have friends who understand the pain of being single when everyone else is happily in relationships.)

Except... this year I've also encountered the following issues, and tried to cope mostly by myself (with some confiding to a few friends only when I feel extremely overwhelmed) without going to therapy:
1) one of my limited-doses friends has hidden me from seeing her Facebook without any reason in May this year. I've considered the reasons for her having done so--perhaps I have ideas that were too liberal for her taste?? But that just reminded me of the time that I got kicked out of Meetup group for no reason last year when I didn't think I did anything wrong. It cut into my confidence in myself and my faith in the world and gave me a sense of learned helplessness when making friends--but in August and October I had overcome this and started joining different Meetup groups and enjoyed myself in the activities... and also avoided the friend in question until now for the sake of avoiding conflict.
2) Many of my friends are getting engaged or in happy relationships. However, in July of this year, when I was taking a course and participating in meetups and conventions that will not likely yield any chances for me romantically, I had felt destructively sad about the situation and that I can't do anything about it. And while I did take some steps forward after I'm done my course in September... comes the Trump election victory, an event that I've felt anxious about since it started, to the point that I injured myself through biting my hand and banged my head against any available surface (which worsened when Trump's victory was finalized).

In addition to the worries and despair about the future the U.S. that everyone has expressed in the main election thread, and unpleasant flashbacks to Jian Ghomeshi, Brock Turner and Brexit (high powered mrn getting away with sexual assault, bigotry, or both)... the reality of President-Elect Trump has made my attempt to heal from my original issues worse by:
1) Further eroding my faith in the state of the world, and further believing that despair drowns out hope and evil will triumph over good, even though for the past 4 years I've learned a lot about inclusiveness and privilege; and
2) Further feeling like I should buy some real estate on Crone Island, live the life of an ascetic and never come back because a) I'd scare away decent, kind men by dwelling upon my nonexistent grip / nonacceptance of reality and shoving my pain down their throat and generally being a needy, lousy, emotional vampire excuse of a girlfriend and b) I'd become paralyzed by the prospect of more men my age being emboldened by Trump's misogynistic rhetoric and start applying it to their interactions with women.
And the worst thing is... I'm actually pretty lucky and I feel like I don't have much of a right to complain about the state of things. I don't think I've encountered sexual harassment when I interact with men, and I actually don't live in the US (where President Trump will directly inflict his rule).

Given the above... I've decided to see my family doctor tomorrow and line up an appointment to see my old therapist. Some questions before I proceed:

1) Would CBT work for unwrapping the topics about which have been bothering me pre-Trump, but Trump was the last straw? Or would something else be better suited for me?
2) Should I present the issues I've described separately to my therapist, or as written? I feel like one issue has an impact on the other
3) When I see my family doctor, should I consider getting any psychiatric diagnoses--given that I've had some episodes of what looks like adjustment disorder that I've tried to recover from, with some degree of success, without therapy.
4) In the meantime, I feel like so many things that impact much of the world is out of my control, and my ability for emotional labour outside of listening, silent hugs and encouragements and cute rabbit gifs is nonexistent... is there anything else that I can do to help?

Thank you so much for reading, and thank you to Metafilter for the amazing election threads--I'm touched by everyone's empathy, support and wishes for a stronger, more together America which has been sadly wrested from us.
posted by Tsukushi to Human Relations (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You aren't responsible for what goes on in the world, no matter how dark things may appear to you at this moment.
Give up the belief that you control and/or are responsible for the world, and the rest of the answers will be so much easier to discover.
posted by jtexman1 at 10:43 AM on November 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

I think that working with a therapist with experience in helping clients recover from trauma could be helpful for you, regardless of their theoretical orientation. And if all that's bothering you, then all that's bothering you, so definitely bring it up with the therapist; one of their jobs should be helping you separate the strings a little bit, so to speak, so you can deal with each of the issues (or so that one isn't so triggered by the others).

I'm not sure getting a diagnosis from your doctor would help with much, unless you want medication? If you do, that's fine, and it's worth talking to your doctor about. If not, it might be easier to talk with your therapist about diagnoses, if that's important to you.
posted by lazuli at 10:52 AM on November 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

It depends on the CBT practioner, but I might focus more on finding a therapist who can help with trauma than their modality. Some CBT can be very "now" focussed, whereas I found a more eclectic therapy approach that was willing to explore past patterns and events more helpful. Really, at this point the best thing to do is to take care of yourself, so getting to the doctor and therapist are most important. If showing them your issues as written is easier for you, do that.
posted by ldthomps at 11:36 AM on November 9, 2016

I found CBT was too "practical" for me, in so much as it seemed to concentrate more on coping with issues rather than actually dealing with them. On the other hand... When my therapist moved more towards person-based therapy and compassion-focused therapy, I felt more that I was actually solving some of my issues.

But mostly I just wanted to echo the other answers - take care of yourself, and remember that none of what's happening in the world is your fault.
posted by A Robot Ninja at 11:39 AM on November 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

You must define yourself. You are letting other people define yourself. You should not be ashamed that you consider yourself part of a community, that you take other people's problems into account, that you practice empathy for humanity in general. You care about real problems that affect society. That is evident, and admirable. You are the human spirit we're trying to protect. But even when you're a nice person, you have to set limits.

What are you doing today? Revel in your identity. Eat food you like regardless of calories. See a dumb movie. Go for a long bike ride. Write a story and edit it until you give up. Read a book that doesn't remind you of a political situation in a country you don't live in. American politics will probably be in the news tomorrow, if you still care to follow. But remember, your incredible identity is not defined by the results of a political competition. If you can't shake this, consider donating to organizations who support your beliefs.

Do not take what you've earned for granted. You have a great job. You have friends. See a therapist, but stop worrying about social media. There is more to your life experience than what you see on Facebook, and you have every moment left to find out what that is.
posted by aralymn at 12:45 PM on November 9, 2016

Hi friend. I am sorry that you're so anxious and fretful, and that this horrorshow has caused self-injury for you. Please do see a therapist. You could likely even call your previous therapist directly if you've seen them before. (Note: therapist here, but I work with the tiny people.) I also suggest that while you're getting the visit to your old therapist in order, Google yourself some support:

Distress tolerance skills (these are really good alternatives to more harmful behaviors)

Crisis Text Line or a crisis hotline in your area (please reach out to a crisis line if you feel like you want to hurt yourself)

Take care of yourself, food, water, try to sleep.

Allow yourself to disconnect from social media at least some of the time.

Please check out distress tolerance, and take care. Memail if you need any other ideas/support. Be well.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 10:21 PM on November 9, 2016

I would like to thank everyone for their warm thoughts and advice in this tough situation.
Since my original post, I have visited my family doctor and she has set me up on a waiting list to see a psychiatrist, as well as put me on 10mg paroxetine.
Meanwhile, I've given my old therapist a call so that I can set up an appointment with her to discuss more.
So far, my recovery has its ups and downs, but I find that if I do something about my emotional challenges instead of continually putting them behind me, then I can stop the negativity from affecting my life and I would have more capacity to help those who need it.

For how I can help people in the U.S. after the election, I've found lots of inspiring threads here on the green that I can try to follow.
I already donate to a local nonprofit providing legal aid and counselling for women who have experienced violence.

Again, I cannot thank everyone enough for your kind words. Thank you so much, and hope that we may continue to be kind to another, especially in such a challenging time.
posted by Tsukushi at 3:44 PM on November 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

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