Help! I feel like I’m going crazy. In these months following the presidential election, almost every day seems like I’m slipping further into the pit. Depression, anxiety, fear, inability to cope… and I’m not the only one. Sometimes it seems like everyone around me is going crazy, too. Friends, family members, neighbors—even our mail carrier the other day stopped to express his fear and frustration.
What the hell do we do?
—Sleepless South of Chicago
Recently, I told a friend I was worried. So many people around me seemed to be suffering from depression, addiction, and other serious mental illnesses. “It’s Trump,” my companion said, ordering a third Bloody Mary before lunch. “We’re all falling apart.”
A survey released earlier in the year by the American Psychological Association found that the overall stress level of Americans increased dramatically from August 2016 to January 2017, and nearly half of Americans cited the outcome of the last election as a significant cause. Shrinks say that patients are reporting intense distress over Trump; one says that some days his patients talk about nothing else. This psychic stress is taking a physical toll: We’re suffering from more headaches and even heart disease. Calls to suicide hotlines are up. Bartenders are seeing far more problem drinking, too.
We all feel the apocalyptic terror of having a climate denialist with a bad temper in charge of international relations, and many face the more immediate horror of being deported or losing their health-care coverage. The APA also reports a dramatic increase in the number of people who are stressed about their safety—no wonder, what with the increasing frequency of hate crimes and the alt-right’s organized campus and street violence.
For people with bullying fathers, or survivors of sexual assault, Trump’s persona makes following the news a constant traumatic flashback. For those who have already felt powerless at the hands of cruel and volatile men, having an irrational, violent narcissist in charge of their lives on a geopolitical scale can be almost unbearable.
The glossier side of the feminist Internet urges “self-care.” Indeed, Sleepless, please do eat well, seek therapy, and log off the Internet well before bedtime. But caring for the world can also help. One friend of mine has largely recovered from his (serious) postelection depression; yes, through better meds, but also by avoiding political Twitter, which felt futile and frustrating, and volunteering for his local tenants’ union instead. Because the union builds working-class power, it feels useful and concrete. Depending on where in Illinois you are exactly, you might want to get involved with Hoosier Action, in Indiana (hoosieraction.org). The letter below may also spark some ideas on resistance.