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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.