Given the early date, this post is obviously not for Advent. It is, however, for people with depression and/or anxiety. Right now in America, there are a lot of people with both.
When I was in fifth grade, I was having one of my frequent arguments with a girl I’ll call Public Frenemy Number One. I was in my room on the night of this argument, fuming and stewing and just generally cursing Public Frenemy’s name. My dad came into my room and, through sobs and snorts, I managed to convey my anger toward Public Frenemy.
“So,” said my dad, “look how awful she’s making you feel. Don’t give her that kind of power over your emotions.”
That idea of not giving anyone power over my emotions has stuck with me to this day.
And on this day, we are dealing with a president-elect who is stirring up a lot of negative emotions for a lot of people.
We’re angry. We’re stunned. We cry. We worry.
I’ve been on this terrifying emotional rollercoaster since the election, and it’s likely you have, too. One minute you’re in shock, the next you start to feel a little hopeful about the idea that we’ll get through this with love and fighting and loving fighting … and then you read something on social media or hear some bit of breaking news, and you’re right back to angry and hopeless again.
So many of us, myself included, are extremely emotional right now. But throughout it all, I cling to one manifesto:
I will be angry. I will be sad. I will experience a wide variety of negative emotions. But, above all else, no matter what, I will not give Donald Trump the power of ruining my mental health.
Notice I did not say that I wouldn’t feel any emotions about the election of Donald Trump. It is never a healthy practice to deny your emotions.
But I am going to fight like hell to keep my negative emotions from driving me to full-blown depression. Donald Trump doesn’t get the power to make me depressed.
This kind of mind-over-matter goal is challenging to achieve. If I sit around feeling sad long enough, I will become officially depressed. And, make no mistake, I am sad right now (and also angry, anxious, and insert-negative-emotion-here).
But, I understand, perhaps for the first time ever, the importance of self-care. It isn’t selfish, it’s necessary. What good are you to anybody if you’re incapacitated by depression and/or anxiety? What good are you to your family, to your community, to the cause at large?
I can’t tell you how to stave off depression. We all have our own coping mechanisms.
For most of us, those coping mechanisms differ day-by-day or minute-by-minute. Sometimes I need to escape: I go for a walk, I pet my cats, I watch mindless TV, or I play games on my phone. Sometimes my coping mechanisms are far less constructive, and usually involve eating a lot of sugar and carbohydrates. Sometimes I have to turn away from Facebook and news media. As I say, it is wrong to bury your head in the sand, but it is also wrong to stare directly at the sun.
Sometimes I feel like fighting. I fight the way we are told to—with phone calls and letters to my elected officials—and sometimes I fight by injecting just a little more kindness into the world. I give to charity. I pick up litter. I try to be nicer to everyone I encounter, even though recent events make me feel angry at the whole world.
And sometimes I let myself wallow in it. I cry. I get angry. And I tell myself it’s okay to feel everything I’m feeling.
Some of us will need to cope through those more conventional mental health care methods we’re all so familiar with—we’ll need to see doctors and therapists, to combat our emotions with exercise and adequate sleep. Those who recognize the need for these interventions are to be commended. However you fight mental illness, you FIGHT.
But my hope is that we will all keep fighting. Don’t give Donald Trump the power of ruining your mental health.
All my love,