Forgive me, friends, for what is likely to be stream-of-consciousness rambling. My fervent hope is that writing it out will somehow help.
I’m awake at 1 am, and I’m too sick to go back to sleep. Jaw permanently clenched. Gut permanently queasy. Feeling ice cold and burning hot at the same time. On the verge of tears at every moment, day or night.
In short, what happened in the U.S. on Tuesday night, November 8, has plunged me into my first deep, full-fledged depression.
I’ve fought Seasonal Affective Disorder for years. And, of course, this is the exact time of year for that malady; the world turns black just after 5 pm. Thing is, my world feels black every moment. This? This is different.
After literal weeping and literal wailing in the wee hours of Nov. 9, I got a few short hours of fitful sleep. I woke at 5 am, sobbing uncontrollably the moment my eyes opened.
Having survived so many years of my husband’s intense depression, I had a pretty good idea what I needed to do in order to manage my emotional state. Full-on self care.
That started with a very deliberate avoidance of all news outlets, social media, and blogs. I was in the midst of an extremely tense and busy work week, so I focused as well as I could on work. Had numerous conversations with others who were struggling – family, friends, co-workers. Exercised. Tried to maintain a normal sleep schedule.
On Friday, I finally felt as if I might be turning a corner when our Oldest and I began making plans for me to join her in the DC area in January for the planned Million Woman March on the White House. I recruited several other women to make the trip with me. I was doing something productive, channeling my anger.
But still, I felt despair. Two days in a row I accidentally caught glimpses of television news reports: One day, my beloved President Obama talking with the person who is profaning the office, right in the White House. The next day, footage of that person, with the caption “President-Elect XXX.” I cannot say or write the name. Both times my stomach lurched, my breath caught, and I was overcome with chills.
Late Friday I cautiously glanced at Facebook, knowing that at least my Panstuit Nation tribe would be some comfort (NOTE: Very little of my depresssion has to do with the defeat of our first female candidate. None of this is about pouting because my team didn’t win the game. I could go on and on about what her defeat means about and for women, however, and that subject contributes heavily.) On FB I saw posts from many about moving forward, taking action, staying positive, not giving up hope. I simply am not there. In my heart right now I truly believe there is very little hope.
Yet I found the energy to harness my grief into action. I donated to Planned Parenthood in the name of Mike Pence, a neanderthal about the agency of women to control their own bodies. I bought tons of safety pins to share at church on Sunday morning. Continued with deliberate self-care: got out for a walk; handled of some long-overdue needs like a haircut and ordering new eye glasses; immersed myself in beautiful music; read a favorite book.
Saturday evening, The Husband tuned into NPR for “Prairie Home Companion” as our beautiful Middle Sister prepared supper. All was well for the moment.
And then, during a station break, I heard an ad from one of my favorite journalists, Ari Shapiro, telling listeners to stay tuned to NPR throughout the coming week as they discussed the election of a new president (that person’s name was mentioned, but again I cannot bring myself to say or write it) and what it means for our nation.
The minor progress I’d made was lost. Back to chills and nausea. Back to uncontrollable tears.
I see no end in sight. Every tiny bit of information I’ve seen about the coming “transition” brings only the most horrific news for our environment, for women, for minorities, for immigrants, for our LGBTQ friends, for justice and civil rights. The most abhorrent public figures (including an intensely disgusting pair from my own state) are being picked or discussed for important positions.
With each of these bits of news I remember that all three branches of the government so carefully crafted by great minds nearly 250 years ago are now in control of dangerous, self-serving, backwards-thinking people who are guaranteed to do great harm.
I know for a fact I have a platform in my own community for working for good in the coming days, months, and years. The question is, will I have the wherewithal to do that work? Can I overcome this crushing despair and affect change right where I am? Right now I’m not convinced that I can.
And I’m furious that, for my own emotional well-being, I can no longer enjoy my lifelong passion for reading and watching the news; for being well-informed and carefully forming opinions through research.
It is dark in this place. And cold.
**Reading back over this post, I am struck by how “me-centered” it is. I am very aware of the irony that “me-centeredness” is what got us all here in the first place. I apologize. I am hurting, and having a hard time looking outward just now.