How to Protect Your Mental Health In This Depressing Time of Trump

I know the title of this post is very controversial.  I meant it to be.

I've been mostly quiet on the professional side about my thoughts and feelings on the current state of our country.  But I say a lot personally, on social media and in person.

I believe our greatest leaders would be (and are, as some of them are alive) holding their heads in shame at what is happening in America today.

But perhaps most importantly: what is happening in our civil discourse is what is most troubling.  And our current president, with the way he has comported himself - from the day he announced his presidency - has unleashed the worst of many other's instincts.

I won't get into a discussion as to whether the electoral college is 'fair' or if the fact three million more people voted AGAINST Trump shows the election was 'rigged'. The bottom line is: we are stuck with this depressing time in our history.

But it's 2020 and it's not too late to do something about Trump, before he has four more years to sully our great democracy even further.

Yes, I said it.  Because it needs to be said.  I believe as a mental health professional, it is even my duty to speak up when there is such danger.

There is no joy in Mudville with this man and who he is and what he does.  I don't even have much empathy for him, like a more spiritually advanced democratic friend of mine does when she considers how he got to be how he is.

I don't care.  What I do care about is the hate he's infected many I care about.  The disrespect.  The open craven-ness.  And even worse: how those who are captivated by him then visit those crude and 'lesser angel' selves on those of us who are still trying to hold the line on love and respect and being our 'better selves'.

And who is even more frustrating to those of us who value respect and care?  Those who stay neutral.  Who say each 'side' is playing politics and the free press is playing to the 'liberal' side.  Those weaker than you and I who see the democrats as 'no better than' or equal to what Trump and his henchmen have done.  Who I naively thought believed in mutual respect but who refuse to call 'foul' when it's right there in front of them.

It's also unbelievable to see how those who believe they are the 'best' Christians - the fundamentalists - have sold their souls to this man. Says a lot doesn't it?

Mental Health Professionals and Others Who Are Speaking Up

I'm not just venting.  And I'm far from alone.  But there is still a fragmentation of those of us who know better.  A lack of a 'coming together' to become a more powerful voice.  Take humanitarian physician Skip Burkle, from Johns Hopkins University, who has termed what is happening to America on a broader scale as a "very subtle, smoldering, pervasive and serious condition that people in autocratic countries chronically live with."

Burkle is not a politician or a journalist.  He is, like me, a learned person who has spent his entire career studying human behavior, serving others and being thoughtful about humanity.  We are the people Trump hates, because we see through his cruel and crude mannerisms.  

Burkle, who has called Trump the 'schoolyard bully', is the exact opposite of the Trumpian way - which lacks introspection, learning from experience, is the 'strong man'/primal, uninterested in cooperation, sharing resources or education.  For those of us who treat depression a word comes to word: isolative.  Kind of fits Trump's foreign policy as well, doesn't it?

And Burkle gets it: he notes that people like you and I - who aren't personality disordered - tend to internalize our negative emotions and urges.  But not the personality disordered, no, they thrust them out, by externalizing, onto the rest of us.

Oh, there's so much more, if you are willing to listen and learn.  There are plenty of introspective, really smart people amongst us we can trust who are sounding alarms about Trump.  One author, Elizabeth Mika, has written 'The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump'.  Why should we trust Mika?  Isn't she just another 'tool' of the liberal media (as FOX News might say)?  Well, if you can suspend your judgment a minute and read more about her opinions, perhaps you would see she has quite a possible theory or two as to what is really going on.

Mika says our culture was weak before Trump and Trump has taken advantage.  

As far as how these bigger issues are effecting many of us on an individual level, well, if you are honest with yourself, look around.  Many of us, for example, have had to unfriend republican (or pro-Trump) friends on our social media, because of the way they comport themselves in discussions.  Now, yes, there are people on the left as guilty as going to extremes.  But, most of the hate and crude way of discussion online I've seen is from my republican colleagues and friends.  Who seem so angered and hateful.  Hundreds of times, for example, I would lead a rational discussion on my wall and republican friends were unable to participate because they'd only post fake news ideas or talking points versus thinking for themselves and responding thoughtfully.

I do know I've been more down since the election.  And it's not that I'm a 'big baby' as Trumpee's would assert.  I believe I am having a normal reaction to difficult, toxic circumstances.  And my emotional problems in life have been mild.  But what about those that struggle more? Those with a higher genetic loading for brain disease?  How are they faring in this environment?

How do you think those who are poor feel when Trump crows that 'African American' unemployment is the lowest ever?  How do you think transgender military professionals are feeling right now?  How about those who need to depend on 'Obamacare' and worry, what will Trump do to my insurance if he is re-elected?  Many groups - especially those already oppressed such as LGBTQ's, women and youth and young adults - are suffering greater levels of anxiety and depression since Trump was elected.

These and, many more, are concerns of the people.  The people Trump is supposed to represent. All American citizens, not just the ones who vote for him.

So how well are you taking care of your mental health during these trying times?

Here are some suggestions for keeping your cool and living in your sweet spot, even in the midst of these depressing times:

1)  Take Care of Yourself.  Remember first and foremost to take good care of yourself.  Sometimes, when we are upset, we forget to do basic things like eat well, get enough sleep and exercise.  Especially if you tend towards depression, keeping active right now is vitally important.  What is your favorite exercise activity?  Do it, even if just for a few minutes each day.

If you've become much more negative, seek professional help.  It's not a sign of weakness to admit you need help.  The current environment IS very emotionally toxic for many of us.  It's nothing to be ashamed of.  It's a thing, as they say.  It's a real thing.  

2)  Find your tribe(s).  Don't suffer alone, find those who feel similarly to you and, connect.  If you've been quiet and haven't shared publicly with anyone that you are concerned about this Trump administration, it's time to speak up.  Don't keep it inside. But do it in a safe manner.  Share with those who will respect you in your 'coming out'.  There are many out there who feel the same as you do and are open about it. Like me!  Reach out to me, I'll help you get connected to your 'kin'.

3)  Keep the faith.  Check your thought patterns.  Make sure that, even though it is truthful for you to think negative about Trump (after all you're 'normal'), don't get mired in those thoughts.  Instead, look at the glass half full: There ARE things you can do to take control of this hapless situation.  Keep reading...

4)  Get active to decrease feelings of helplessness.  For example: once you've begun to find (and/or build) your tribe, find ways to work together with the forces out there that are already working to elect a better president in November.  Work with an organization such as Swing Left, which is actively working on a strategy for overcoming the bias of the electoral college and the swing states.

5)  Don't talk with Trumpees.  Do yourself a favor: just don't engage with anyone who is bought and sold by Trump at this time. You will be wasting your breath and making yourself crazy.  'Nuff said.  If a Trumpee tries to 'bait' you (because that's usually what they do versus engaging in a 'real', educated, reasonable, worthwhile discussion), change the subject or excuse yourself. Don't give them the pleasure of upsetting you.  Sadly, this is their personality weakness; don't make it yours too by stooping to it.

6)  Keep talking when and where you can make a difference.  Call all the republican senators you can and insist they hold a fair trial, with RELEVANT witnesses and documents.  Talk to those friends and family who are 'on the fence'.  Ask them to please register to vote if they haven't yet and be sure to vote this year.