What do I do with all the despair
September 5, 2020 8:12 PM   Subscribe

My life seems to have fallen apart over the last 4 years siNCE Trump was elected. Historically, I’m successful at what I do and in the last 2 years of the Obama admin I was doing great and my business made more into 6 figures than I’d ever gone. And then Trump is elected and the wheels fall off. And then 2 years ago I’m diagnosed with Leukemia. AML which the odds are it’s maybe not curable and the treatment is worse than the disease. I’m not suicidal or anything but depression and anxiety are common daily occurrences. The existential dread and despair just become too much. And Trump does something and the Republicans say no big deal.

My question is this: what are people doing to cope? I’ve been donating money to campaigns during treatment but it’s not easy to join a protest with a shot immune system after chemo during a pandemic. If things go sideways after Nov 3rd I’m prepared to put my health at risk to protest. Between now and then, what are you doing to feel some order of control in all this chaos? The sheer anguish I feel even half reading the news makes me want to just go back to bed. I’m terrified of what comes after if Trump wins. I called a Trump with 4 years ago and the hairs on the back of my neck are all standing up. What do we do?
posted by photoslob to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
How much news are you consuming? Consume less. Especially do not watch the news on TV every day. I read the Economist and the Sunday Times, and that's mostly it.

Stay informed, but don't let it be your steady diet, and consume only quality.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 8:20 PM on September 5, 2020 [13 favorites]

Also, spend less time on social media.

Wishing you well. This has truly been the most awful few years.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 8:25 PM on September 5, 2020 [7 favorites]

I don't know your consumption habits, but in addition to what sevensnowflakes said, stay as far off social media as you can. No Facebook, no Twitter, nothing. Delete them from your phone; they probably add nothing to your life but anguish. Those services do nothing but amplify awfulness, and the less of them you consume, the easier it will be to stay balanced and calm.

Hang in there.
posted by pdb at 8:26 PM on September 5, 2020 [7 favorites]

It sounds like you're under a lot of stress:
- You're stressed about your business
- You're stressed about your health
- You're stressed about COVID and everything that entails
- You're stressed about politics

Though life always involves all of these aspects, you don't need to take all of them in at the same time. Give yourself permission to take some time each day without thinking of these things that are stressful. Short meditation can help with this, as can activities like walking or listening to a song you like or working on a hobby. Set a timer and if you find yourself worrying about one of the above, recognize that you're doing that and guide your thoughts back to the walk or the song or the hobby.
posted by Theiform at 8:31 PM on September 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

Curate and limit media - my news is limited to one service (inkl) which includes a good news tab. I don't use social media regularly at all except for my tumblr which is mainly a stream of curated fandom nonsense and art - you can blacklist news-related keywords to dampen the reality. I've got tiktok because my kids sent me a bunch of links and after about an hour of bothering the algorithm, it is now almost entirely cat and dog videos anytime I think "oh I have five minutes, what's happening" - endless puppies being cute for instant dopamine.

I would focus on strengthening your actual friends contact. Call, text and zoom with more people for casual chats. Revive dormant friendships with a little bit of cultivation so that you hear from more people.

The other research-backed advice is to do a gratitude journal or app so that you get prompted to re-focus on small good things against the symphony of bad.

It is whistling into a hurricane, but it is still better to have music than only hear the storm.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:58 PM on September 5, 2020 [5 favorites]

I appreciate you putting the name despair to this. Some in my life have asked me if I'm depressed, but despair seems much more right for me.

There's no easy answer: the world is legitimately in crisis, and you've had many personal blows as well. Some ideas that might provide a little open-ness, a little relief for you. They aren't revolutionary - probably what you're hearing everyone say, but I think these are the best we've got:

- aerobic exercise
- meditation, mindfulness, prayer, or some sort of quiet reflective practice
- connecting with trusted loved ones and sharing intimacies and laughter with them
- doing the things that soothe you - an escapist book in the bath tub, calming music
- doing something kind for others. You can write postcards or letters to prisoners, or join a local mutual aid group that drops groceries with elders, or volunteer at the local food bank (they still need volunteers and many have good COVID safety protocols)
- taking action that gives you some agency and ability to impact the world: You mentioned giving money and protests - there are more ways! You can phone bank for candidates, join DSA or a local activist group, write letters to the editor. Many groups are doing all their meetings on zoom right now, so safe! Find a specific thing you care about (financial policy, housing, a political campaign) and connect with it. Having agency is what takes away despair.
posted by latkes at 10:25 PM on September 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Turn all the existential dread into action. Even a small action is much better for your mental health than worrying.

I'm phone banking for three hours tomorrow to encourage people who lean to my side to actually turn out and vote. It is much healthier for me to know that I am doing something than to give myself an ulcer reading the news.

Furthermore since you said you were planing to protest after if needed, I strongly urge you to do something now to impact votes in swing states and hopefully avoid having to put your health at risk with protests later.

Here are instructions on how to phone bank from Swing Left You need a phone and computer and they ask for a two hour shift (although I'm sure you can take breaks or end early if your stamina isn't there)

Here is a broader list of actions from the DNC (When I click, it gives me local options first - probably a cookie from visiting the site before)

I'm phone banking with a faith based group so if there is any particular minority that you identify with, you might look for ways to reach out to people who might connect to your message because they share your background.
posted by metahawk at 10:27 PM on September 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

I’m reading some good books on how to change your thoughts and the main point is that when a negative thought enters your mind then you say: okay, thank you brain and then go on with your day... but don’t grab the thought and analyze it just let it go. A lot of people mistakenly Think that you need to deal with thoughts before you let them go in order to stop feeling bad. This is not true and I used to really torture myself endlessly with worry and fear.

The book I’m reading is called “how to be happy no matter what”
posted by pairofshades at 10:35 PM on September 5, 2020 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I am in one of the groups that Republicans and Trump regularly target for discrimination. I was a genuine mess for a week after the 2016 general election.

Eventually, I found my way out of that particular episode of major depression by finding any one thing that I could do that involved fixing something in my life. In my case, getting back on track started with something as mundane as replacing windshield wiper blades on my car.

That sounds stupid, but it was that and other similarly mundane life stuff that got me back to some kind of routine where I could function.

Another thing that I did was that I quit most of social media. I got rid of my Facebook account, and I haven't looked back. I even buttoned a previous Metafilter account. It felt good to take control over these things after my repeated warnings to others went ignored about this person and what he and his enablers would eventually do.

A media diet, generally, has helped me maintain some sanity. The mainstream media has profited handsomely from his installment, and they aided him in getting his position. I felt little reason to continue consuming a diet of media that was largely poisonous. Applying principles of "media hygiene" (quantity, variety, quality) in my life has done a lot for my mental health.

I have found some peace in simply acknowledging reality as it is, trying to share that with others where I can, but coming to accept that there are deliberately difficult people out there, and that's just how it is, as well. This was a hard lesson and one I have to relearn each day.

If Trump wins again, I don't know what I'll do. In the meantime, I'm going to do all I can in my power to get people to stop inadvertently helping him, like they did last time around, by doing what I can to squash and stop petty squabbles, and by supporting all people of good will who are fighting the same fight, with my time and my money, within my means. I also recognize that I can't save the world and that a lot of these behaviors are up to certain people to change on their own, and that I cannot change that for them.

If anything else, I have learned to channel my despair into directed, clean, clear, and purposeful action, with no more time-wasting apologies. I wish you peace and hope you find a path forwards that works for you and brings you similar positive energy.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:02 PM on September 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

For the price of some stamps, paper, and envelopes, you can write letters to Democratic-leaving occasional voters in swing states, encouraging them to vote this year.
posted by DrGail at 8:19 AM on September 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

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