Unable to get past my grief over the election results
December 4, 2016 11:03 AM   Subscribe

I have major depressive disorder, comorbid with anxiety. I have a therapist whom I see weekly. I have a prescriber whom I see monthly. We talk about this. But I still wake up every morning and experience about 20 seconds of normalcy before horrific reality sets in, and all of the grief and fear ratchets up.

I quite literally feel like someone who meant everything to me has died. And not just that, but all of the hopes and dreams for the future that I realize I'd been relying on to get me through the 18 grueling months of the election are dead now too. I'm middle-aged; I won't live to see it get better, but I'm sure going to see it get much, much worse.

I can't read the news, which kills me because I was an avid consumer of news from everywhere before this. I can't look at any of the "fun" sites I used to browse a daily basis to distract me, because they're overrun with this. I can't even read fiction, as it takes too much concentration. I know I asked a similar question recently, but instead of asking for "what are you watching/reading to take your mind off of this," now I'm asking you how you are handling this grief (if you are experiencing it). What soothes you? How do you work to get past it when a) you're already getting mental-health help, and b) it's not something that will "fade with time," since it's going to be ever-present now?
posted by tzikeh to Health & Fitness (39 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
I'm middle-aged; I won't live to see it get better, but I'm sure going to see it get much, much worse.

As a fellow anxious person, I say this gently, but you are catastrophizing. You're middle aged, not 90! This is for sure an extremely dark time in American history, but there is no reason to think that things will still be this dark and dreadful for the rest of your life.

I'm glad you're already working with a therapist and a prescriber. Can you ask your prescriber for an adjustment to your meds? Can you ask your therapist if he/she knows of any post-election therapy groups you could join? (My therapist is running two, with slightly different memberships.)

In addition to these things, would making small monetary donations or volunteering your time for a good cause help you feel more empowered?
posted by schroedingersgirl at 11:12 AM on December 4, 2016 [19 favorites]

I think the most cathartic thing to do is find the method in which you can fight the good fight. Your dread is not without merit, and the things/people you fear for need your protection! Whether its giving money, volunteering, running for office or getting involved with journalism there is a way that you can fight back. It is also the way that you can access the hope and determination of people who feel the exact same way you do.
posted by deadwater at 11:14 AM on December 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

Take control. Do something that will help you fight what's coming. For some people that means volunteering with political organizations or charities, for others that means letter writing and calling representatives, for others protesting... It might be too much for you to go out and do something, and that's ok. Donating money to people who can do something is just as important. We stepped up our donations to the local homeless shelter and food banks after the election, and we started donating to the ACLU and NAACP as well. Public schools are also going to struggle under the new administration; keep an eye on how you can donate supplies or help fund projects (maybe keep and eye specifically for elementary-level social studies and citizenship projects on Donors Choose, for example).

I don't know if this is true for you, but it can also be isolating when it seems everyone else has moved on. If you Facebook there are some very active groups (Pantsuit Nation is the most well known) that are good places to share grief and inspiration.
posted by lilac girl at 11:16 AM on December 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

Robert Fulgham said "Hold hands and stick together." I would encourage you to deepen whatever human connections you have, and focus on those closest to you as sources of hope.
posted by SyraCarol at 11:23 AM on December 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

I know how you feel. It helps me to think of my parents and grandparents who lived through world wars and missile crises where the outcome was uncertain. They survived. I think it's time for us all to find the inner warrior and to stand up and face whatever crap life is about to throw at us. It's our time to be heroes!
posted by night_train at 11:31 AM on December 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

You're the fandom tzikeh, right? If you like (and if this hasn't already happened), memail me and I will send you an invite to a fannish resistance network.
posted by praemunire at 11:33 AM on December 4, 2016 [6 favorites]

I'm middle-aged; I won't live to see it get better, but I'm sure going to see it get much, much worse.

I totally sympathize with you, and with this sentiment at moments, but in my better moments I realize a) it's probably not actually true b) it's not helpful, to me or the situation, because this sentiment lets you fling your hands up and not do anything c) repeating it over and over is not conducive to mental health.

Here is what I'm working on at this point: it's only been a month. Expecting to suddenly feel better is too high an expectation, this is a baby-steps situation, grief takes time. Right now my primary focus is on the most urgent functionality: I must work, I have no choice. I must sleep, in order to be at all functional. There's some other stuff that relates to those things - food needs to happen, basic hygiene - but I really am setting my sights pretty low at this point. I am trying to incorporate one act of resistance a day - and right now this can be done with phone calls, it's the lowest possible effort, eventually I'll start doing more but this is important right now.

If you find yourself in crisis, obviously get intervention for that, but don't make your situation worse by aiming to be perfectly fine right now. It is fine to curb your news consumption, it's fine to deploy some escapism as long as it's not something dangerous, it's fine to give yourself time right now.

Your resilience WILL improve with time. You will get your feet back under you to fight. It just might not be this week. And that's okay, it's going to take a while to fix this.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:40 AM on December 4, 2016 [8 favorites]

I started meditating about 5 weeks ago for other reasons, but I have been shocked at how steady I feel through all this tumult. Usually I would be very wound up and anxious and catastrophizing and a lot of other bad things. But I feel steady. Aware of it all, upset by it all, but steady. This is a decent starting point if you want a book or the Headspace app has nice short guided meditations. There are likely mindfulness-based anxiety therapy groups in your area as well.
posted by sadmadglad at 11:41 AM on December 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

I recently had a big ass safety pin tattooed on my forearm. I feel much as you do but every time I think of throwing in the towel I see that safety pin and remember that I have a job to do. I am only one person, but I believe that, as someone who is not visibly a Trump target, it is my responsibility to be a human shield for those who are.
posted by janey47 at 11:59 AM on December 4, 2016 [11 favorites]

I understand grief. I lost my wife of 62 years just 2 short years ago. I know grief. I came out of it by doing what I always have done. Deal with it. It cannot be denied or undone.

I am not at all surprised that Trump won. I am still in shock that he got the nomination considering some capable people running to be the candidate. I can even recall when FDR was president and have lived through many ups and downs with politics in this country.
I am more saddened by those that simply will not deal with reality. Disappointment is a part of living.

Looking ahead is the only way to survive. Have hope that Trump will listen to advisers and do what is best for all of America. The thing I notice mostly is that so many will not use his name when protesting his election. That is very unhealthy and hiding from this reality will only make things worse for us.
posted by JayRwv at 12:04 PM on December 4, 2016 [36 favorites]

Let's get real.
There are some things that will change that will be long lasting or forever
a. climate change
b. the Supreme Court
There are some things that will be quick changes
a. possibly health care
b. Iran treaty
c. immigration issues
That said, the changed things might well be not done or changed back in a few years
What I do:
I do not watch any tv news nor do i read any news items about politics in the papers or magazines. Why? because they are filled with He Might Do This; He Says He Will Do That, etc.
So: I wait till Trump and the GOP (they will be at odds with each other) actually takes office so I can see what he will do, does do, fails to do, tries but does not do...then he can be judged objectively rather than listening to the babbling class of so called pundits.
get active etc if you think you can and should
meditate, study buddhism, the stoics
posted by Postroad at 12:16 PM on December 4, 2016 [8 favorites]

I've found that what works best for me is to get involved in something that forces me to interact with other people, that feels meaningful, and that gets me away from the internet. Unfortunately, my anxiety makes me isolate myself, and that in turn makes me more anxious. It's a total vicious cycle. So I've found a place that offers literacy and citizenship-test tutoring for immigrants, and I've signed up for an orientation for new volunteers. I'm thinking about joining the local synagogue and seeing if I can get involved in their social justice stuff. What I want to do is cocoon, but I'm trying to remind myself that what I need to do is the opposite.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:34 PM on December 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

For me "grief" isn't the right word. It is more of a fundamental loss of safety and betrayal of how I thought the world (at least the US) worked. Less like the death of a beloved grandmother and more like being raped on the way to work. Naming that has helped me recognize that I am still in the acute stages of a trauma reaction. What I need to cope with this now (totally avoiding news, fierce desire to cocoon and NOT leap up and start fighting the good fight) is OK because i am still in the first 90 days of processing this stuff.

Here are the thoughts that are helping me:
- Nothing has actually changed yet. Many things I care about intensely are still there are and are still OK for now. (Example: no one I love has literally died or acquired a life threatening disease - they are still here and still in my life. My dog is still here to greet me when I get home. etc.)
- People have had it far worse in history (WWII England is one that I can relate to) and today (US is better than Syria). Bad things happen to humans and I have been very privileged that most of those really bad things had never happened to me before. My lucky streak ended but I know people can survive this because that's what people have been doing for millennia . Or they don't survive but they still live their lives for as long as they can as best as they can. If they can do that,I can do that. I can respect their lives and think it had value, no matter how difficult then I can respect my life.
- It is OK to hide for now. When I'm stronger, I'll figure out what to do. Even now, I find myself starting to think "well maybe could I engage in this way or that" - not ready to do it but more able to think about than I was. I trust that I'm not going to be like this forever.
- I'm using my anti anxiety meds more. If I'm suffering for a mild case of acute trauma then it's OK that that's a real disease and it's OK to use modern medicine to help recover, right?
- It matters to me that so many other people feel this way too. I am not alone. You are not alone.

posted by metahawk at 12:39 PM on December 4, 2016 [21 favorites]

When I've posted personal AskMes, no single answer was the way, but every one of them piled up to make me feel buried in a drift of wisdom and brilliance and wit and care. I hope this helps in some small way.

As someone with major depressive disorder and anxiety, I have learned (from CBT? from reading about Buddhism? from both?) that an effective technique is to turn right around to the part of yourself that is making you miserable and say: I see you, I see what you are trying to do, and I honor you.

For example: you're suffering grief and fear right now because you -- you, not those fat bastards with the guns and the framed eagle paintings -- you are a patriot. You are wise. You are intelligent. You are articulate. You are, in short, part of the best America has to offer. And that's just one stranger's stab at honoring your feelings! You can do much better than I did.

Accepting and honoring the grief means living through it. That's not the same as hair-chewing despair. It means, in part, being okay with the greywash of the world for a while. This, oddly, makes it easier to find joy where it's to be found.

I have found some sources of hope in the news recently. I don't mean to argue about whether or not they'll make any difference, just to suggest that there are rays out there. Cutting down on news consumption will not make you a Good German; it will just make it easier to sort signal from noise at the end of the day. Despairing thinkpieces will not stop Trump or help you stop him, if all they do is break your heart. I strongly suggest cutting out Twitter. I have stopped checking my feed, and only look at a few individual accounts now and then. The world has not moved any slower or faster for this.

And, for as long as it lasts, take strength from the fact that, at this very moment, that man is not the president, or in other words: NOT TODAY MOTHERFUCKER.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:04 PM on December 4, 2016 [11 favorites]

It is okay to stop thinking about the long-term future.

What I mean by this is that you absolutely should do things aimed at affecting the long-term future, such as donating, going to meetings, and organizing, but as a thing you think about? The future doesn't exist. You don't actually know what it's going to be like. There is no such thing.

Concentrate as much as you can on today, now, the moment. How are you, physically? Is anything in pain? Are you hungry, cold, hot, tired? If you're not comfortable, try to make yourself comfortable. If you are comfortable, try to be in it, now. You're okay on some level for this moment, and the moment after this, and the moment after that, and that's something.

We have until January 20th to have a President who is a real live caring person who isn't a fascist. I'm trying to enjoy it and appreciate it while it lasts.

As others have suggested, stepping up resistance work may help, because you'll know you're doing what you can-- as long as you don't find yourself perseverating; it's okay to step back if and when you need to because this is a long fight and you don't want to burn out at the beginning. You are a valuable resource and you require care and cultivation.

Talk to your therapist about this situation specifically as trauma and needing post-traumatic treatment solutions.

And if all else fails, keep putting one foot in front of another, remembering that YOUR VERY EXISTENCE is a rebuke to the other side. If you can't live for anything else, live to spite those fuckers. Think about how unhappy they are that you're still here. Rejoice in their unhappiness.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 1:12 PM on December 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

I am in exactly the same place as you, have not read the answers yet, but share your pain in every way, also seeing a psychiatrist and a therapist for anxiety and depression that got much worse after the election, can't watch news or read the paper, can't stand to see that ugly smug face anywhere, and despair for the future. I am older than you, certainly will not live to see it get better. And it is always the worst in the morning when I wake up, along with other intrusive thoughts. Cold comfort surely, but you are not alone in this reaction to the election. An evidently neither am I.
posted by mermayd at 2:17 PM on December 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have just now begun to feel emotionally competent to catch up on all the assignments I missed since the election because I was just too mentally adrift in a deep, deep despair. I have my therapist, and my psychiatrist, and I am compliant with my meds, but it's just been so heavy.

Despite my innate anxiety, I've upped my activism game, and it brings me great strength and comfort. I started a blog (link in my profile) curating links to action plans and places to donate. I've gotten myself involved in local politics. This is my life now, and will be for the next four years. In addition to the political activism, I've made it a point to practice kindness every day. Today is Self-Care Sunday, a newly created tradition, where I practice being kind to myself.

These things push me forward. This is what I get out of bed for.

Also, when these intrusive (but real!) thoughts leave me paralyzed, I have a glitter bottle as a focal point. It's been surprisingly effective in emptying my mind. It's like shiny Zen in a bottle.
posted by Ruki at 4:07 PM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I felt horrible and sick and awful until I started doing something. Donating, attending local meetings of the resistance, marching, and calling my reps. It's okay if you can't do all of these things, but try to do something. And as someone at risk (gay and trans), I certainly don't feel "fine," but being with other people who will fight for me has made me feel a lot stronger. I don't know what will happen. I do know that I will go down swinging.

In between Doing Things, I've been hanging out with the cats and watching LOST on Netflix (not the most uplifting show due to all the death and violence, but it's engrossing escapism and too ridiculous to make me think of the real world).

Take care of your physical health. All the stress of the first few weeks caught up to me and now I have a virus. I drank too much because I was self-medicating, and probably got dehydrated. Don't do that.
posted by AFABulous at 4:20 PM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I want to give you all hugs. You and your stories here are the inspirations that make me want to try harder.
posted by StrawberryPie at 6:13 PM on December 4, 2016

Response by poster: So many of you have responded with actions to take, and while I appreciate the suggestions in theory, I barely have the energy and will-power to make it through a day. I am really looking for how to soothe myself -- how to handle grief so debilitating that I'm unable to leave my bed on the weekends.
posted by tzikeh at 6:40 PM on December 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I am in the same boat as you. I have been making slow progress on my ability to be verbal with friends and loved ones. I add layers of guilt about how i 'should be doing more right this minute and its my own failing that i am not'.

All I can say is that we don't all grieve at the same speed and that all of the things that need to be addressed will still be there needing addressing whenever you feel up to it, and that you are not the only person fighting.

Things that have helped me: Guided meditations. Tara Brach's podcast. Forcing myself to do things outside of the house. Taking myself off of "fun distraction sites" like Facebook and Twitter entirely (I use LeechBlock to prevent my browsers from getting to the sites). Gentle yoga. Doing small kindnesses for others when possible (both friends and strangers, whenever possible).

I'm basically doing my best to double down on self-care with the stated purpose of being a stronger warrior for equality and peace when I feel capable of doing more.
posted by softlord at 6:55 PM on December 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Also those who are out taking action and guilting those who do not feel capable of it just yet are well-meaning but IMHO their strategy is flawed.

Self-care is not the same as burying ones head in the sand. It is about building up resilience.
posted by softlord at 6:57 PM on December 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Two things help me:

1) I remember 2004. Four years of Bush and the country signed up for four more. Not only that, but a whole bunch of horrible anti-gay ballot measures passed that same day. It seemed bleak, like the country was basically done for, and like things were just going to get worse and worse. And then two years later, Democrats took both houses of Congress. And two years after that, we elected our first black president. And then gay marriage became legal. The pendulum is swinging the other way again now, and hard, but there's no reason to believe it's going to stay there.

2) This one's a little more cynical but... look, Donald Trump clearly believes some horrible things - about women, about Muslims, about immigrants, about black people. You know why else believed those same things? Most previous presidents of the United States. Hell, Woodrow Wilson was an avowed white supremacist who purged the white house of non-white employees. The reason this hurts is because we thought we were past all this.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:02 PM on December 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

Keeping yourself alive is an act of resistance. Work on keeping yourself alive. I found this article helpful: How To Help The Cause When You Need Help Yourself. There's a graphic a bit down in that article that suggests actions to take depending on your own feelings, which include reaching out for help yourself.

Keeping yourself alive is an act of resistance.
I have, first and foremost, forced myself to acknowledge this fact: I am sick. I am limited. Even when I’m feeling mentally well, my health is so precarious that I’m one triggering phone call or email away from plunging back into suicidal ideation. It is imperative that I prioritize my mental health, even when the drum calls are banging otherwise.

But when you are mentally ill, prioritizing one’s mental health in the face of calamity can feel like the ultimate form of selfishness, leading to a shame spiral marked by feelings of worthlessness, particularly in times of great need for social action.

I have to ask myself, do I extend the same judgmental attitudes toward others working in the cause whom I admire? Is it reasonable for me to expect others to put their mental health so at risk by being on all the time? And if not, why do I apply this judgement to myself? Would I really want any of my activist friends to drive themselves to suicide? Can I not work on extending the same love and empathy I have for others towards myself?

Realize that active compassion for your illness is a form of resistance.
posted by lazuli at 7:27 PM on December 4, 2016 [6 favorites]

For me, I have a feeling that I was near the end of my rope before this shit went down. My sense is that everyone needs to be engaged in resistance in their own way. I think Iazuli is right - active compassion for your illness is a form of resistance.

I've been talking to my mom about this - she's a Black woman born in in the US in 1935. She's been talking to me about how history's story has been told neatly: linear, progressive, ever moving toward improvement. But her recollection is different - lived it was more messy, more despair, more fighting.

I've moved from NPR to podcasts, from facebook to emailing friends. My psyche can't take more evil shit right now. This election cycle has changed me. What it's changed me to is still to be seen. But on days like this I hear about the pipeline, and I realize that all I did was send a few emails, make a call, and send some money, but it was a collective effort of fellow Americans, where people did what they could and change occurred, at least for today.

So part of what's difficult is that the only way we're going to get through this is depending on each other. That feels scary to me, but I look at the communities that came out to support kids after their school had hateful grafitti, I look at every little safety pin, I look at the pipeline, and I look at the statements of support from the California government, and realize what's frightening about the world is that there are literally so many things I can't understand that happening around me, about how the world I live in works, both good or bad. It's like I've been knocked off my feet. Like others, meditation has helped. I bought 'How to Meditate' by Pema Chodron.

We are living in times that I find frightening and uncharted. Because I'm me, I renewed my passport and connected with international friends. But I'm not ready as of today to leave. But the only thing I would tell someone who is struggling as you are is that I see you. I am grateful that there is another sane person in the world, who is willing to acknowledge that this is not normal. There are so many people engaged in some variation of avoidance of that fact.

Why wouldn't you be in bed? Why wouldn't this truth lay a person low? If you haven't gasped or grieved in the last 3 weeks, and have less that $20 million in your bank account, you haven't been paying attention. And even if you do, and have been applauding the Trump win, climate change will still get your ass.

But as my mom said - not everyone marched across the Bridge to Selma. If they did, that thing would have collapsed. And it wasn't specifically that march, or marches in general that were the tipping point. It was sustained resistance, publicity, relationships and voting that each played their own part in what has culminated in a world where the only way I know about colored vs white water fountains is that I saw an exhibit at the Smithsonian.

There are many of us and we all need are going to need each other if we're going to get through this. Many of us are in shock and frozen, and will need time to grieve and get our bearings.
But as you can see others are already moving and motivated (but not all of us - see Dan Rather, Bernie, Michael Moore, Robert Reich, etc.).

My goal isn't to be them right now, but to be grateful for them, and commit to doing what I can, however little, each day. If what you can do is focus on dragging yourself out of bed each day, then brother/sister, I'm all for it. I'll be thinking of you in the coming months.
posted by anitanita at 8:04 PM on December 4, 2016 [12 favorites]

I meant to say:

But as you can see others are already moving and motivated (see Dan Rather, Bernie, Michael Moore, Robert Reich, etc.).
posted by anitanita at 8:12 PM on December 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

What soothes you? How do you work to get past it when a) you're already getting mental-health help

I strongly recommend setting your alarm to a playlist of your favourite music turned very, very loud, so loud you can't hear yourself think in the morning. And then set a second alarm in a place where you have to physically get out of bed to turn it off.

The night before, decide on a morning routine, write it down, and post it somewhere you can see it from your bed. You can add an affirmation or quote if that works for you (they don't work for me). My list reminds me to start the coffee, do a couple of sun salutations, and then 20 minutes of morning pages. After that, I get dressed.

I used to listen to the BBC or NPR while getting ready, but this past month I've been listening to radio dramas or audio books instead.

I turned off my internet at 8PM on election night, was offline for two weeks, and now I am still spending very little time online. The constant online chatter makes my anxiety worse.

b) it's not something that will "fade with time," since it's going to be ever-present now?

Everything fades with time. Everything. I'm no longer waking up in tears even though the grief needle is still flickering between depression and rage.
posted by betweenthebars at 12:57 AM on December 5, 2016

There is good reason to be terrified and despairing, all the time. But you just can't live like that. There's plenty of sound advice above, and you should do some of those things. You may also want to consider indulging in a certain amount of hedonism and decadence. Nothing too crazy that's gonna ruin your life forever. But if America is sliding into fascism, it's a fine excuse to put on some fishnets and go a little Weimar Republic yourself. (I don't care if you're butch. Everybody needs some fishnets sometimes.)

Dance. Maybe do a certain amount of drinking and/or drugs. Fuck the pain away. If you're middle-aged, who cares? Middle-age is a great time for decadence, when you can be all jaded and husky-voiced and you've got more chub to show off in a corset.

They want us to feel beaten, they want us lonely and afraid and locked away, while they go marching through the streets. Fuck that. Have some fishnet fun, nasty fun, the kind of fun that repressed dickheads hate themselves for fantasizing about. Fight the good fight, and be nasty. Life is a cabaret, old chum!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:55 AM on December 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also those who are out taking action and guilting those who do not feel capable of it just yet are well-meaning but IMHO their strategy is flawed.

No, I'm not guilting anyone. The question was "what are you doing?" so I answered that. On the other hand, if all someone is capable of is lying in bed, then there really is no hope of improving the situation. The only real answer is to do something, even if it's just taking a shower. This would be true if it was grief over the death of a cat or the end of a relationship.

A month is a long time to lay in bed (although I'm sure that was somewhat figurative). Someone in that state is never going to magically wake up happy one day. Feelings follow action, not precede it. We all have to force ourselves to do something. Again, even if it's just a shower. That can start the ball rolling.
posted by AFABulous at 7:40 AM on December 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

As a counterpoint to AFABulous, I had a similar conversation with my therapist last week, and he said, "this is trauma [nb as distinguished from depression]. You keep saying you want to Do Something to feel better but can't make yourself do it. Consider whether you need to just stay where you are right now and feel your feelings rather than trying to move on from them already." This was by no means the answer I wanted from him. The jury is still out about whether it was, in fact, the answer I needed.
posted by instamatic at 9:26 AM on December 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Back in the glorious days of peace and contentment (not) before the election, I was paralyzed with fear about climate change. I would wake at night thinking about intricate sequences of events that would lead to some extinction, engage in long ruminations about the loss of habitats and places I adore. I couldn't look at nature because it reminded me that we might lose it. I was devastated by thoughts about what might happen to whole populations of people. I was horrified by the slow response to this clear crisis.

One of the most painful aspects of this was torturing my introverted self with recriminations about my inability to act. I was convinced that advocacy was the antidote to my misery and flogged myself for my lack of action.

I received some advice from an experienced and passionate environmentalist. He pointed out that my painful worryings wouldn't change anything and quoted Rudolf Abel from the movie Bridge of Spies who was confronted with a trial on spying charges that could result in his execution. He was asked whether he was worried and he replied "Would it help?" I realised that all my pain wasn't changing anything. I had felt like the fact that global warming is an undeniable crisis meant that I would never escape my misery. I am still deeply concerned about the issue but I can get up and I can feed the kids and I can enjoy what's in my life because I realize that worrying isnt helping. Not worrying isn't an abdication of responsibility; I work to make differences large and small within my financial and psychological means. And sometimes I take a holiday from thinking about it at all.

My friend also pointed out that human beings tend to catastrophize. Of course we do: it's a way of thinking about and preparing for an unknown future. But he pointed out that every future he has spent worrying about has turned out different to the one he imagined. Not necessarily better, but definitely different. That freed me from having to anticipate the minute details of the unknown and allowed me to be in the present again.

I was broken after the election. I spent many hours worried about my family's future and the future of this country and the world. I couldn't listen to or read the news, partly because I didn't want to hear Voldertrump's name and partly because it sent me into painful ruminations. I had to remind myself about the uselessness of worrying and catastrophizing. I found a way into being more informed which I think I detailed in an answer to your other question. And sometimes I just don't listen to all that stuff and I feel ok about that. I've found comfort in the fact, if not always the content, of the post election analysis and by sometimes obliquely and sometimes directly looking at how opposition is forming. And I truly understand that I am not alone and I reinforce that by helping other people with their pain. (I'm still surprised that being a Pollyanna works in this situation.) And I'm continuing to remember that worry and misery don't help.

These are shitty times and you have my deepest sympathy.

See you at the mid-terms.
posted by firstdrop at 9:53 AM on December 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

I've been feeling that way too. It feels like grief. It's really hard. I have been trying to follow the advice of Mr. Rogers, whose advice to parents helping kids deal with scary things in the news was "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." For every person who voted for Trump, there's slightly more than one person who voted for Clinton. For every person who feels emboldened to be horrible right now, there are ten people who feel fired up and ready to stand up for what's right, who are looking for ways that they can be helpers too.
posted by beandip at 9:55 AM on December 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'd suggest seeing if anyone in your area (neighborhood group, local politician, etc) is organizing any meetings. I feel a little better when surrounded by people in my community who also want to work for change, on topics from local (neighborhood Muslim-Jewish alliance) to national (phone bank party for Foster Campbell). I think there's a lot to be said for collective action at a time like this, both to remind us we're not alone with our anger and to amplify whatever actions we take. Even just walking to a meeting made me feel more positive--instead of anxiously wondering if some of the other people on the street hated me for who I am, I imagined they might be going to the meeting just like me.
posted by ferret branca at 10:21 AM on December 5, 2016

Do you have a community that you can meet with in person to share your grief? This was the biggest thing for me. And not just to talk about politics and activism, not just to embrace each other and cry and offer a pillar of support, but to do the things you always did and always took joy in. I think there's something really important about community coming together in frightening times.

The other thing that really helps for me is having activities I can do that require intense body-and-mind concentration. For me, that's cooking, semi-strenuous outdoor exercise, playing with pets, and household chores. It might be something different for you, but it should be a physical activity that also involves mental focus.
posted by capricorn at 10:38 AM on December 5, 2016

Yeah, I've been struggling too. Grief is paralyzing. I'd say more about that, but I can't find the words.

Last week my mother sent me a box of my old high school papers and I looked through my 9th grade English journal. We read "To Destroy You Is No Loss", and I was totally gutted by that book. I wrote a long, painful reflection of what it means to live in this world with so much pain (I was 14, so it was angsty), saying that it was each person's responsibility not to turn a blind eye to suffering. Then, the last line was "But then what will happen to joy?"

That was 16 years ago and I feel like I'm just now being faced with grief and fear large enough that I'm forced to answer my own question. (I've been up at night worrying about climate change for several years, but this is a new level.) What WILL happen to joy? How can we be joyful, knowing what we know? I think the answer is that you have to be a fierce advocate for joy. You have to partake of it purposefully. You have to kindle it and keep it alive. Do something kind for somebody else, do something kind for yourself, see how far you can get in this world with kindness. Your joy can be an act of protest, especially when shared.

A few weeks ago I asked some friends for advice on coping with the very same feelings you're describing, and I also got some advice for action, and at first that really hurt. I was already making calls, joining groups, donating money, and I felt like I was doing my duty. I was really hurting and I wanted somebody to care about me. So I totally understand why suggestions for more action can sting.

So I'm not going to tell you to make more phone calls. (I do suggest you make an action plan for yourself, if you haven't already, but I'm guessing you've got that covered.) I think you should do what you love. Start easy: videos that make you laugh, beautiful music, good food, hug the people you love, cuddle a pet, take a walk, give thanks for what you have, tell others you love and appreciate them. Read about people who have kept joy alive in hard times.

My version of this is:
a) make sure I'm continuing to make calls and donations and stay in contact with relevant action groups through low-volume means (digest emails, etc.) that don't require me to be hooked into 24/7 news
b) turn off the radio in the car and listen to music instead
c) focus on playing my own music
d) focus on enjoying my husband and my son, and especially on appreciating my son's joy
e) invite a friend for dinner, or make a gift for a friend, every week (especially important to show appreciation and love for immigrant/Muslim/POC/disabled friends right now)
f) disconnecting from social media for several days at a time when I'm finding myself too overwhelmed to carry on in my own life

Also, keep in mind that your feelings WILL change. I don't know exactly how, but they won't be the same forever, that's for sure.
posted by Cygnet at 11:05 AM on December 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

You say that you suffer from depression and anxiety. In that case, contrary to some suggestions above, you you should not take up meditation at the moment. Now would be a bad time to focus daily on the thoughts come into your head, as it could be seriously disabling to the point of necessary hospitalization (see more of that discussion here). I have horrible anxiety and depression, and I was thinking about meditation recently, but after reading extensively about its effects on people who have these diseases, I've chosen not to pursue it for the foreseeable future, and my doctors agree.

I'm not saying that you can never take up meditation or that nobody should meditate. I'm saying that right now, while you're in such a deep state of grief and pain, is a very bad time for you to try something that requires you to take daily notice of what you are feeling while you sit in silence.

As for soothing yourself, it's a hard question to answer because everyone is different. I think the suggestions of discussing the experience of the election with your therapist by defining it as trauma may lead somewhere productive. You haven't said if you have pets, or family, or close friends. I know that these diseases can keep you isolated and twist your thoughts around so that you avoid everyone and everything. Even if you have one person who you can talk to besides your therapist, maybe try that.

Physical contact with other humans is vital if you have been isolating. Look for someone who can hug you. If there is someone you can trust to hug you while you cry, you may find some relief there. We're taught that asking for this kind of thing is weird, but try to explain the issue to them and ask if they are comfortable with it. Even some therapists are willing to hug or hold patients if the patient is isolated from other people enough that it is affecting them.

Don't feel pressured into being an activist. You don't have to join a committee or a rebellion or a protest or even make phone calls. You've asked for how to soothe yourself. Activism may be empowering for many, and I have noticed that a lot of responses use the word "empowering," but you didn't ask for that. You asked for "soothing." With anxiety and depression, finding ways to soothe yourself is difficult at the best of times, and these are far from the best of times, and I don't think that being around a lot of angry and determined people is going to be soothing for youl.

Someone did mention asking about increasing your medication. I asked a question recently about how to get off of clonazepam because I had become physically dependent on it and wanted to get off. After much discussion with my therapist and psychiatrist during which we originally came up with a plan to wean off of it, we decided that we should actually increase my dose and add diazepam, even in spite of the physical dependency and risk of further physical dependency, because the situation right now for anxious and depressed people is even worse than it is for the mentally healthy who are despairing.

Being able to function has to take priority. Later is when we can look for anything else. Functioning is all you need right now.

Best of luck to you.
posted by chonus at 8:21 AM on December 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

betweenthebars: I strongly recommend setting your alarm to a playlist of your favourite music turned very, very loud, so loud you can't hear yourself think in the morning. And then set a second alarm in a place where you have to physically get out of bed to turn it off

Forgot to add even though I know that I don't need to tell you this I'm sure you know that this is not something that is going to be anything but the worst experience ever for someone who suffers from anxiety. Screamingly loud noises shocking you out of sleep is going to give you the worst anxiety attack ever and there is no reason on earth to do this to yourself. Don't do this.
posted by chonus at 8:27 AM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

What helps me is to turn on a comedy podcast. It's all audio, so it requires less focus than TV, and no real plot, so if you doze off or if your mind wanders for a few minutes it's OK. I listen on my phone, and that way when I'm feeling a bit better I can take the phone with me when I wander out to the kitchen for a snack or into the bathroom for a shower. My favorites when I'm feeling worst are The Flop House; My Brother, My Brother and Me; and Oh No Ross and Carrie. They all have gentle humor between friends and tons of old episodes.

I know what you mean about reading fiction taking too much concentration, and the audio-only format feels easier to me. I know it doesn't fix anything in the real world, but sometimes just getting through the day and feeling OK in my own head is the best I can do. I hope you feel better soon. You're not alone.
posted by beandip at 10:25 AM on December 6, 2016

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