Can it really be 12 days since the election? Are you tired of hearing about it? I certainly feel like I ought to move on but I can’t seem to. I don’t mean to ignore the very real consequences of the election, but I feel that I should by now have moved on from that single emotional moment. I should be able to wake up fresh, no longer haunted by the moment I gave up hope for Hillary. I was sitting on my back stoop with my husband at around 7pm pacific time looking at the New York Times election predictor. Every moment since then is an emotional blur.
I feel like, in that moment, a pin was pulled and ever since I have been trying to fix it. When I feel that pin pulled, I am on a timer. I have to stop the explosion. I have to use my skills–mindfulness, positivity, distraction, gratefulness, meditation, connection, love. I’ve used them all in the last 12 days, and yet I am still struggling to recover. I thought by stopping the grenade from exploding I would be okay. I thought that stopping reading the news and focusing on my health would work. But it’s not a grenade. I am instead a slowly deflating balloon. I didn’t pop on November 8, but I have been getting more and more empty. The more positivity I put out, the less I have left.
The other day I wrote the following:
“I’m trying all kinds of things. But I feel so helpless. My brain is going off the rails. There is so much everywhere and no escape from it. I can do nothing without my mental health but I can do so little with it, and that fact makes me feel terrible and selfish and small. I feel so bad. There is so much pain and divisiveness. Connections feel empty because everything has changed and nothing has changed.
I thought this might happen. That my positive acceptance of the election outcome was my cognitive skills in action. But sometimes skills aren’t enough to stop the onslaught of emotion. I feel tired and drained. I should stay away from media but that feels irresponsible. I should be more outspoken but I am too weak to take the backlash. I should be positive but that feels insensitive. I should be angry but I am too afraid. There is so much that my sick brain is on high alert–tense and scared. But I am safe. I am fine. My brain just can’t get the message. I feel so mercurial. Positive one moment and disgusted the next. I can’t take all of this contrasting info.
God created us so differently. I usually celebrate it but today I am asking “Why?”. Not an angry why just a lost and confused why. What are we supposed to learn? What am I supposed to do? I feel too anxious to just be, and yet I know that that is what this mental crisis calls for. I don’t want to prioritize my mental health. I want to be normal and prioritize the work. I don’t want feel so out of control when I’ve been trying so hard to do the right thing and respond the right way. I feel so sad and helpless.”
I keep pushing back–I keep fighting–but I’m getting small and empty. This is when I feel disabled. This is when this burden feels onerous. Now is the time to work–to love our neighbors actively. Now we must stand up for our friends. This is a time to feel and act. But I am frozen in hopelessness. I am unable to do anything. I cannot read anymore about the hate; I cannot read anymore about what I need to do because I can do nothing.
You don’t know. You don’t know. I can’t control my brain. It’s so frustrating. Everyday is a fight to be hopeful enough to make it to tomorrow. Every day. But what hope is left in this nation? I see you. I hear you. I hate myself for not speaking louder. I hate myself for my fear of my own anger. I can’t express it without the desire to self-harm. This world is making it so hard for me. What is God’s plan for us? Why must I keep going?
I feel all I can do is sit in my room and block it all out. When I can’t see or hear any of you it gets better until I remember that I cannot stay isolated. And I don’t want to stay isolated either. I want to be and do more. I want to save us. But I can’t. Maybe together we can, but there is no promise that progress will win. We do not know what will happen, which seems to make everything scarier.
So what am I going to do? Take care of myself. Step one: put it all on paper–catharsis. Step two: move forward.
Ha! Move forward? I’ve spent this entire post complaining about my inability to do this very thing despite my best efforts. It doesn’t matter. Even if I never recover, I will still fight because this is my biggest potential danger. Without my mental health I am dead. I guarantee it. And my time is not up. I know its not. I’m meant to live a long time even if I suffer. I believe it because I have to.
Its not going to get easier. I’m sure of it. As we enter the next four years, it will get harder. But I can’t stop. I have my daughter. I desire to give her a full life full of happiness and longevity. I set my goal small and close to home because I can’t see much farther without losing control. Likewise, I have to trust that my purpose–my calling–is enough to start. I recently read an interview with Dr. Mark Labberton, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, where he describes a Christian’s calling: “In the most basic sense, Jesus calls us to follow him. This is the calling that frames our daily being and tasks. …Calling helps us recover the groundedness out of which our whole life and community emerges and develops.”
So this is what I’ll do to refind my groundedness–I’ll follow my calling. Jesus has called me to be the wife of an academic, leftist, atheist and the mother of a free-spirited type1 diabetic. He has called me to be a liberal Christian from a conservative evangelical background, and he has called me to be a mental health writer and activist. My calling is small, my purpose is focused, but my commitment is firm nevertheless. I will love my little family and care for their needs. And I will attempt to continue to contribute to mental health awareness. All I know how to do is tell my story–the past and the present. All I can do is share my struggle and persevere. But that is my calling, so I will do it whether it makes a difference or not.
You may be like me–completely overwhelmed and thrown off balance by the news. You may feel the desperate need to disconnect followed by extreme guilt–I feel it, too. You may feel hopeless and helpless. But we aren’t. Those of us with mental illnesses must approach the world carefully and differently. We must always remember that our brains don’t want to cooperate but that we are still not helpless. Focus on your immediate circle–family and friends–and if you know your calling or purpose grab hold and don’t let go. Focus on your calling and do the work you are called to do. Focus, prioritize, and act. You can fight and you can succeed. If you don’t know your calling, if you haven’t found your purpose, let me give you one goal: Survive. You are here on this earth, and you are meant to survive as long as you can.
And lastly, take care of yourself with gentleness. Hell, it’s 12 days out and I’m still a mess. It takes us time to heal. It takes us time to regain control and refind our balance. It’s part of the gig. So, keep pressing forward, keep fighting, and keep surviving. For today that is enough. And tomorrow may hold wonders unknown to you yet. Sending you love and peace today and always.