My Mental Health In The Wake of 11/08

CW: suicidal ideation, self-harm

Much to my dismay, I keep waking up. I’m not being dramatic, I’m ill. I don’t remember when I had my first suicidal ideation. It may have been shortly after my parents separated. I certainly had many in middle and high school. They occasionally popped up in college, got much worse when I tried birth control, and all but disappeared when I moved to Spain.

I never felt the need to tell anyone about these thoughts until recently. They had never been true impulses, but more of a passive desire to not be alive. Occasionally while driving I’d think, “I could drive off of this bridge,” but I never believed this was something I would actually do. I kept these to myself in part because I was ashamed, and in part because I never truly believed I would act on them. It seemed unnecessary to cause my family and friends such worry. Then I moved back to the States and started suffering frequent crying spells for no discernible reason. I endured my first (and to date, only) panic attack, and those passing thoughts became a real desire to cut myself. While I’ve never taken a blade to my flesh, on a daily basis I’m bombarded with images of opening the skin on my wrist, or cutting my own throat. These thoughts are frightening, yes, at times even immobilizing, but I let them remain unspoken because they felt separate from me. They felt like a mere distraction rather than a real threat.

About a month ago, in a period of calm, I was able to get myself into therapy. Life started feeling less overwhelming and uncertain. I started writing again. I was working a wonderful job with wonderful people and was beginning to find my place in my new city. The thoughts of self-harm disappeared.

Then Trump won.

Every morning since I’ve woken up with a tight chest and a headache from dehydration. I can’t seem to replace the water I’ve lost from crying. Yesterday I called a suicide hotline for the first time in my life. I don’t owe my current state entirely to the outcome of the election, but it certainly delivered a tremendous blow to my mental well-being.

I am terrified and I know I’m not alone. I feel guilty for taking Clinton’s loss this hard. As a white cishetero I don’t have as much at stake as many of my friends. But I am terrified for my loved ones who are PoC/queer/trans/Jewish/disabled/otherwise marginalized.

And here I would like to pause and openly apologize to my friends who are members of marginalized groups. As a person who is more degrees removed from the epicenter of this collective pain and trauma, it’s not right for me to lean on you right now. But over the last few days I have unloaded my grief on you when your grief is even less bearable than mine. I’ll save my tears for the shoulders of cishetero white men and women.

I am terrified and overwhelmed at the work that is in front of me. I’m terrified and wracked with guilt for not having done enough to combat white supremacy. And yes, white supremacy is the reason this country elected an autocrat.

Like me, much of the country is in mourning. This grief is real but the grief is not easy to process when about a half of the country is in celebration, and a good chunk of the other half (the ones around me, anyway) has shrugged their shoulders and said, “oh well, life goes on, sometimes you don’t win.”

This election was not a three-legged-race at an elementary school field day. We’re not talking about a sporting event. People’s rights and lives are in danger on a MICRO level. Folks mourning and resisting this outcome are not sore losers, we aren’t being dramatic—we’re in danger.

This was not a normal election cycle, and Donald Trump was not a normal candidate nor is he a normal President-elect. He is a demagogue who ran a racist/misogynistic/xenophobic/homophobic campaign. We have no choice right now but to assume he and his running mate will make good on their promises to repeal the ACA (leaving 20 million Americans without health insurance), deport millions of immigrants, and ban an entire religion from entering a country.

This man is a symptom of white supremacy in this nation and what we have now is a diagnosis. Is everyone who voted for him a KKK-level racist? I don’t believe that. I can’t believe that for my own sanity. But everyone who voted for him decided racism, hatred, and bragging about sexual assault were not deal breakers. That means we failed. When I say we, I mean white people. We fucked up big time. White people voted him into office and now it’s on us to mitigate the potential damage he will do.

If you are not terrified, if you are not grieving, if you are not prepared to work, if you are not part of the resistance, history will not be kind to you or your memory. If you have ever said to yourself that you would have resisted the Nazis, or that you would have fought slavery, or that you would have marched on Washington, now is the time to prove it.

I want to promise that we’ll be ok, but I can’t. I don’t know that. But I can promise I will do my best to keep myself healthy and to keep fighting.