Depression and Anxiety in the Age of Trump

by Bill Brenner on November 18, 2016

This post isn’t to endorse or condemn either of this year’s presidential candidates. It IS acknowledgement that people are shaken by the election of Donald Trump as president. For many, the uncertainty and fear translates into depression and anxiety.

If Hillary Clinton had won, there’d be a lot of Trump supporters suffering in similar fashion. So I would have been writing this post anyway.

The big question is how to move forward if the election has left you in a state of darkness. What follows are my suggestions. They are not scientific and I’m certainly no doctor. It is simply based on what I’ve learned in my own journey through the darkness and light.

Mood music:

For me, the fate of the world used to seem to hang on the next election.

In 1994, I was a lot more liberal than I am today. (I’ve gone from slightly left of center to dead center politically over time.) That year, the GOP swept both chambers of Congress and I was devastated. Two years before that, when Bill Clinton was elected president, I thought all would be right with the world. A lot of people had the same emotional jolt eight years ago when Obama was elected, while folks on the other side of the spectrum were as depressed in 2008 as those now dismayed by Trump’s rise.

As I got older and did a lot of work to manage my demons, I found that my personal happiness wasn’t tied to which way the political winds blow. What says it all are the lyrics from the Avett Brothers song I started this post with:

When nothing is owed, deserved or expected
And you’re life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If your loved by someone you’re never rejected.
Decide what to be and go be it.

My life has taken turns for the better and worse regardless of who is in office. Government can’t change me. Only I can.

But that’s where my journey has taken me. It would be unfair and unrealistic to ask people in the throes of election-induced depression to simply flip a switch and approach it like me. So I’m going to point out a few things that might make you feel better in the short term. Some of it is serious, and some of it not so much.

  1. His time is limited. People looking at the next four years with a sense of doom should remember that there’s a mid-term congressional election in two years. Given how divided the electorate is, it wouldn’t take much for a wave of voter discontent to change the balance of power in Congress. That happened to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama early in their presidencies, and it happened to George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan halfway through their second terms. The voters have a habit of balancing the scales when Washington goes too far in the wrong direction.
  2. A burning forest gives way to new life. It’s been said that a lot of people were willing to vote for Trump despite his racist, sexist comments because they saw him as a Molotov cocktail they could throw at a capitol rife with corruption. Indeed, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have failed the American people badly these last 15-plus years. Trump doesn’t have many friends among them and that could have a burning effect on the establishment that forces both parties to change their ways.
  3. He may not be so bad. If you look at his history, Trump has put women in high positions. He relies heavily on the counsel of a son-in-law who is devout in his Jewish faith, and he has said that same-sex marriage rights are settled law. He’s also backtracked on his talk about killing Obamacare, instead talking more about reforming it than replacing it. The healthcare law is certainly in need of fixing. Maybe he’ll turn out to be pretty middle-of-the-road, and the worst-case scenarios won’t materialize. All that could be wishful thinking on my part, but one never knows.
  4. New Star Wars films are coming. No matter how bad things may get, Disney has ensured that we’ll have a new Star Wars movie for each of the next four years. Star Wars always makes things better.

Whatever happens, we need to take care of ourselves. If you are prone to depression and anxiety, seek out your friends and family. Talk to someone. I’m always happy to lend an ear. If you have a therapist, keep your appointments. If you think you might need medication, talk to your doctors.

All this may seem like the obvious, but we need constant reminders — especially when we’re down.

As long as we work to be the best individuals we can be, and as long as we keep the things beyond our control in perspective, we will survive and even prosper.

donald trump by gage skidmore 12

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy carafa November 18, 2016 at 11:27 am

I appreciate that you’re trying to help people out here. but I have a different perspective to offer and I’d like to address each of your points:

1. His time may be limited but the affect of his management and philosophy will endure well beyond his years in office. The Supreme Court (which by any reasonable measure should have 9 justices right now but who cares about a functioning democracy!) will have an impact for at least a generation. If 2 justices are appointed it is enough to REVERSE prior decisions… including gay marriage and abortion (regardless of his opinion). Furthermore, if you privatize medicare as is the current plan being floated by Paul Ryan, it’s gone forever. Once you move a government program to the private sector it never returns to government control. So some company will try to increase profit by reducing pay-outs and stiffing employees in plenty of time before we hit our golden years. That’s just how that works. Worse – the Paris treaty was /is the world’s last best chance to combat climate change. If we pull out of that treaty we are actually physically hurting the world. When the crops are either dying in dust or underneath the floodwaters, nobody will remember it was because they voted for the guy who thinks reality is a hoax.

2. There is currently no mechanism for this to happen. One party is in control of every branch of government. It is a blank check not an opportunity to come together. Some people thought he would “drain the swamp” but we have a long line of climate-deniers, lobbyists from both the financial industry and foreign governments, homophobes, and outright racists who are being appointed to help him guide the country. I do not see a reasonable basis to conclude that this will result in positive change. This was a molotov cocktail alright…. I wonder how many of us will get burned.

3. Isn’t this called “bargaining”? I mean, it would be great if you were right but the fact is he has never held a consistent position on anything. He makes a statement that he thinks people want to hear, he pulls back in the face of criticism, then re-states that position when it suits him. Then he lies about his position. It is one of the features that makes him completely unqualified to work in the public sector. (He also does not seem to understand that the words of a President can send the markets into a tailspin) The more important part is – his advisors are very consistent in their beliefs, those beliefs are bigoted and dangerous… and he listens to them. I am actually quite struck by Trump supporters who tell me he will not follow-through with his promises. These are the same people who told me – directly – that it was about getting a guy in who is a ‘straight-talker’ who was ‘more honest’ than Hillary, someone who is “not a politician”. So if this wasn’t about straight-talk, if people are telling me now – ‘Oh he just said that stuff to get elected’ – how can these people say they voted for honesty? Or was it something else? Again, we have one party – a very ideologically driven party- in control of the entire government. This is not a recipe for balance or a move to the center.

4. I’m sorry I just don’t care about #4. But it looks like ‘Steven Universe’ is getting renewed so I can look forward to that.

Personally, my biggest source of anxiety, next to the actual policies that will be proposed, is the fact that people I love and respect sided with the most disgusting bigot and bully in modern American politics… a guy who demonstrated over and over again that he did not have the temperament or experience to lead a democracy, a guy who attacked the disabled and gold star families and non-Christians and minorities and women. And these people who I used to respect buried their heads in the sand and DISMISSED all of this as if it didn’t matter. A vote is not an expression of your personality – that’s what your hairstyle is for. A vote is not an opinion – it is an action – it is a verb. It is the one time in a democracy we are each called-upon to do our civic duty – with and for our fellow citizens, as a community. There was a racist choice and a non-racist choice, there was a stable choice and a non-stable choice, there was a choice for experience or a choice for amateurism. Americans – my friends and neighbors – made the most reckless and dangerous choice in modern politics. I’m confused by someone who does this and tells me that I’m the one who should be patient because I’ll get another shot in a few years. So they couldn’t wait a few years for a qualified individual? Where is their patience? I feel utterly betrayed by these people . They don’t want ME to be the object of bigotry but they have no problem endorsing bigotry. They stuck-up for a bully.

Finally – I take no comfort in the notion that ‘it might not be that bad’ because none of that Obama stuff came true. I’ve probably mentioned my issues with false equivalence. Myths cannot be compared to reality. The fear that Obama was a secret non-American who was going to engineer a Muslim take-over after he took away all of the guns was an exercise in paranoia. There was no stated policy, no proposed legislation, nothing to ever support those arguments. I am reacting to the actual statements of the candidate and his policy advisors and the legislation those people have proposed in the past and state that they plan to pass in the near future. I’m reacting to reality.

Thanks for letting me respond here. I hope I’m wrong.

jonee November 19, 2016 at 7:06 pm

I don’t understand how anyone could vote for a candidate who is always involved in scandals and still under investigation and ……. would bring with her Bill, a pervert/rapist to reside in the west wing of the white house. OMG

jonee November 19, 2016 at 7:46 pm

No, I don’t think you would have been writing this article if Clinton won. The way the school children, etc are reacting is obscene – I just watched them on TV, everyday, in the streets smashing car windows, doing damage, disrespecting authority – Their liberal teachers and doting parents must be proud.

Bill Brenner November 21, 2016 at 10:06 am

Yes, had Hillary been elected, I would have written the post. I hope you are right about Trump. If he mishandles the conflict-of-interest issues that await him, I’ll be back to get your take on that. But I suspect your answer will be based on your preconceived notions. As for the “blah, blah, blah” comment, feel free to stop reading at any time.

jonee November 21, 2016 at 11:30 am

blah, blah, blah was meant to convey my tiredness of, it seems, everyone being labeled an ist …..rascist, etc. Unfortunately, I am not a talented writer like you and have problem conveying my thoughts on paper. Anyway, I’m rather flattered to get a direct response from you! Love your columns. I used to be a Dem, but I’d rather give Trump a chance than continue with the corruption and opaqness (non-transparency) of the Dem administration.

Bill Brenner November 30, 2016 at 1:22 pm

I’ve always been an independent. I detested both Hillary and Trump, though if Trump defies the expectations of his critics, no one will be happier than me. I’m not holding my breath, though.

jonee November 21, 2016 at 2:21 pm

I was just pondering…can’t help it…..but wondering why you’d be concerned over POSSIBLE Trump conflict-of-interests, when Hillary was/is knee deep in conflicts of interest- beginning with her so-called charity corp. (and still under investigation for criminal acts).

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