Mental illness?
February 15, 2017 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Depression Is an Unlikely Advantage in the Fight Against Fascism Life under the yoke of depression is frighteningly similar to life in Trump’s America, and knowing one can teach you how to approach the other.
posted by strelitzia (32 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

Oh good.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:42 AM on February 15, 2017 [19 favorites]

Finally I have an advantage.
posted by mrgroweler at 8:48 AM on February 15, 2017 [30 favorites]

I think this piece may have been stretching the analogy well beyond the breaking point. It didn't ring true at all to me.
posted by charred husk at 8:50 AM on February 15, 2017 [9 favorites]

Who knew the greatest weapon we could have against comical narcissism was existential torpor?
posted by wabbittwax at 8:50 AM on February 15, 2017 [31 favorites]

Nah, not really.

I mean, if you already felt deep, existential-level sadness all or some of the time before this went down, you just feel that much more frightened and full of grief. If you were pretty upbeat beforehand, well - it ain't great, but it's not as bad by a long shot.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:51 AM on February 15, 2017 [27 favorites]

OTOH my manic phases have been surprisingly useful for going to protests and town halls, calling congresspeople and just generally being a pain in the ass to the people who would prefer I stay silent.
posted by xthlc at 8:57 AM on February 15, 2017 [25 favorites]

I mean the analogy sort of works. You have to learn to not listen to the insistent voice in your head telling you everything is worthless and there's no point in doing anything ever. The problem is that the whole country needs a very hefty prescription for zoloft to make the negative voices in its head shut the fuck up.
posted by wabbittwax at 8:59 AM on February 15, 2017 [8 favorites]

In a time of slow-burning crisis, depressive realism has significant advantages over optimistic bias.
posted by Doktor Zed at 9:02 AM on February 15, 2017 [7 favorites]

This reminds me of what I said about how straight people feeling estranged from their families because of Trump sounds so much similar to how I felt with (some) family after coming out: just because I've dealt with this bullshit myself, I never wanted more people to have to feel this way too.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:03 AM on February 15, 2017 [18 favorites]

It's not just the fascism from the right; it's the sanctimoniousness and demands of ideological purity and mansplaining--and the attendant gaslighting--from the far left that are ripping my sanity to shreds right now ("What misogyny? It wasn't misogyny! It was all about the emails! And the incrementalism! And that one speech she gave at Goldman Sachs about women and leadership! Yes, we told you you were wrong and to sit down and shut up because you're an irrelevant middle-aged woman who has too much privilege, but now that you're not standing up and speaking out, it's because you're an irrelevant middle-aged woman with too much privilege!")

Or would be, if I let them.

The only cure for my depression that worked from 2004-2008 was to tune out politics altogether. Sorry, but it's likely the only thing that will work this time, too.
posted by tully_monster at 9:12 AM on February 15, 2017 [35 favorites]

I'm thankfully only having to deal with Theresa May and Brexit, rather than DJT, but actively avoiding politics is the only way I can deal with my depression right now too.
posted by A Robot Ninja at 9:34 AM on February 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

(I think a more accurate hed would be "Depression [and/or anxiety] and our ongoing national nightmare require similar coping mechanisms.")
posted by PMdixon at 9:38 AM on February 15, 2017 [12 favorites]

I appreciated the article. I think a good take-home is "knowing how to identify and fight cognitive distortions can be applied to resisting fascism."
posted by giraffe at 9:42 AM on February 15, 2017 [5 favorites]

I fall on the side of "it's a strained analogy" but I like PMDixon's take. As a person with medicated anxiety, who works in social justice & court/government reform, who has a weekly Save The Republic To Do List right now, this is what helps me:

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.
--Reinhold Niebuhr in The Irony of American History (pdf), as quoted at the Atlantic
posted by crush-onastick at 9:50 AM on February 15, 2017 [20 favorites]

The election and Trump era haven't helped my depression and anxiety, but my state of panic and despair are now more socially acceptable and more likely to be shared by others. I'm not sure if it's a good thing, but it's less lonely down in my hole.
posted by quadrilaterals at 9:52 AM on February 15, 2017 [13 favorites]

In a time of slow-burning crisis, depressive realism has significant advantages over optimistic bias.

This makes sense to me. Where I checked out in the article is in the assertion that depression is about lies. That isn't my experience at all. My depression tends to be built on painful realities; knowing I will die, knowing death is probably eternal oblivion (and the terrifying onto/logical conclusions there). Knowing the world is chaotic and mostly unjust. Knowing I am not conventionally attractive. Knowing I am disabled. Knowing I carry around a bunch of scars from past traumas. Knowing most of these things apply to anyone I care about as well. etc. These aren't fictions; they're truths that most humans seem adept at sort of blanking out for solid enough chunks of time to function that I can't.

There is a different article there about how being unable to deny inconvenient, disturbing realities is useful in the current regime of blatant and enormously harmful lies - this is an administration that denies climate change, the usefulness of science, socioeconomic injustices, etc. - but my experience here echoes others' to an extent. Familiarity with panic hasn't made dealing with it on a daily basis easier, necessarily.
posted by byanyothername at 9:54 AM on February 15, 2017 [15 favorites]

For me, it's truly existential despair. I look at how easily vast swathes of people are manipulated, how there is a huge chunk of the population that hates so much that they will vote to hurt themselves just as long as other people, literally people who are Other, are hurt even more and they get to watch. And that this is not some new exploit, that these are things we have seen before, history that we know and yet that gives no defense. And I'm just no longer convince that as a species we can, or even deserve to survive.

Oh, certainly individually there are lovely brilliant compassionate people who do, and many people who do no substantial harm. But as a species, we seem so fundamentally miswired for the world we have built, and we wreak such destruction on it.
posted by tavella at 10:16 AM on February 15, 2017 [20 favorites]

It works – a lot of people I know have been asking our friend group for insight into dealing with depression because they get it on a deeper level now.

And as another person from an abusive family, I remember once wishing that abusiveness were better understood. Y'know how many people used to say "oh gosh no you can't cut off your family, how could you even consider that?" and now it's like a chorus of stuff along the lines of "PLEASE TELL ME HOW TO CUT OFF MY TRUMP-VOTING FAMILY ASAP ALSO WTF ANOTHER FRIEND I THOUGHT WAS TOLERANT IS A RAGING MISOGYNIST RACIST WTF" I did not want people to have to understand it this way.

On the flip side I'm drawing a lot of optimism from childhood experiences as well, because in my friend group there are a few people who had also come out with abusive family experiences and now it's like, woohooo we gots the therapeutic experiences and (for many of us) the knowledge that if you stay true to your values and speak out while balancing with self-care and fulfillment, things are bearable. Where "bearable" is pretty goddamned important. We're in a marathon, not a sprint. (That was a big way I survived my childhood; seeing it as something I knew I had to survive and build my own independence and strength until I could, in that case, GTFO.)
posted by fraula at 10:25 AM on February 15, 2017 [12 favorites]

Our chief weapon is fear. Fear, and self doubt. Our two weapons are self doubt and fear. And a corrosion of sense of self. Our three weapons are fear, self doubt, and a corrosion of sense of self. And mockery. Our four... no, amongst our weapons... amongst our weaponry are such elements as fear, self doubt—

I'll come in again.
posted by Mayor West at 10:28 AM on February 15, 2017 [11 favorites]

Life under the yoke of depression is frighteningly similar to life in Trump’s America

And life under both is hell.
posted by Splunge at 10:33 AM on February 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't know as it's helpful, exactly. I have certainly done more poorly since the election overall, and it is sometimes very difficult to tell the difference between the need for med adjustments and the need for a sense of real safety and stability.

But the bad times have also pushed me into developing fresh tools for coping and analysis, and led me into studying Buddhism. I understand the nature of my negative self-talk much better than I did, and can bear it better. This may sound like a purely internal concern, but Viktor Frankl learned that a livable inner life was the difference between survival and death in a concentration camp.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:42 AM on February 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Yes and no, I guess. I've dealt with depression all my life, and I basically spent two weeks in bed after the election. And while it's true that I'm nowhere near as shocked as a lot of my nears and dears are by the horror and evil that's now being undeniably exposed - well, I just hope it doesn't kill their resilience, because I kind of count on them for that.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:56 AM on February 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

I mean, Eeyore's a valuable member of the team, but you don't want Piglet turning into Eeyore, too. You don't need two Eeyores.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:59 AM on February 15, 2017 [15 favorites]

The other foil to this hypothesis of course is that those of us who deal with mental health issues chronically or under extraordinary life stress rely more on social stability, public programs, the safety net, and other services that Trump's madness has already begun to throw into confusion and dismantle and all signs are he'll only continue to go in that direction. For my part, I feel like what I've learned about coping is highly dependent on having control over how much nuisance shit I have on my plate and having control over my living circumstances. Between Trump's rise to power and my ongoing divorce and financial settlement processes, I've got less control and power over how much shit I've got to handle and what my future life situation is going to be to help me handle it than ever, and I won't lie: that's been scaring the shit out of me lately, especially since my income is connected to political decision-making and funding.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:25 AM on February 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

Articles that contain the words "frighteningly", "horrifying", "terrifying", "scary" etc in the title or subheading are usually clickbait trash.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 12:22 PM on February 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

This resonates. I wrote a letter to a friend last week, explaining how being disabled by chronic illness has proved to be good preparation for dealing with the current administration. Short version: When everything is pretty horrible and cannot be un-horribled, you chip away at it as best you can and try to be kind to yourself about the things you can't, at the moment, fix.
posted by jocelmeow at 3:00 PM on February 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

Sort of related. I knew exactly how to cope with the stunning horror of Election Day, having recently lived through stunning horror of the revelation of the depth of my ex-husband's cruelty. First thing I did the morning after was type up a Facebook post with a brief description of the best grounding technique I know when you're completely, utterly flummoxed: improve, appreciate, connect, protect. I think it got spread prettty far and I heard it helped a lot of folks, including a high school clear across the continent.

Not a lot of upside for having lived through that shitty experience, but if what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, maybe it was good preparation in its own way for the shit to come.
posted by Sublimity at 3:53 PM on February 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh, cool. My mental illness is finally useful... so why don't I feel useful?
posted by ilama at 4:48 PM on February 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Depressive realist here. Actually won $120 betting on Trump. Am I happy about it? No.
posted by Napoleonic Terrier at 5:59 PM on February 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

The thesis, I agree with. I have been consciously grateful dozens of times during the past several months that despair, helplessness, paralytic anxiety, and obliviating fear were familiar companions because when I see people feeling things like this now, I can try to comfort them, and know that I can spare some of myself to do it. It's odd day-to-day to hear people (not metafilter people) whom I know will be practically unaffected suddenly speak so bleakly, but they feel what they feel. If some of it's on others' behalf-- and if that's new for them-- better to feel too much compassion late than go on feeling it only by accident or on approved holidays.

On the other hand, if I still felt as the author reports she does, I don't think I'd be so calm now. And I commend her ability to keeping looking for the rim of the abyss.

On election night, I went out by myself to dinner, trying to feel happy but sitting in the depersonalized haze which for me accompanies periods of deep uncertainty. As the news kept getting worse, I quietly went home and then waited up late until hope for a good outcome was gone. Then I shut everything off and sat in the dark, thinking through what had happened, what was likely to happen next, and facing the fact of it. For me, the election was a death, something no wailing disbelief could change and it was pointless to try to let it feel untrue. It took about an hour to accept it. I went to sleep, got up the next day, went to work and have been in some form resisting every day since.

If a person has developed the skills or at least the minimum tenacity to keep their head above the wave without resorting to self-destructive methods, that's useful now. If not, or if what usually works for them is harder to come by now, then... finding new ways to cope in the midst of a bullshit tsunami is difficult for even those of us who aren't prone to chemical imbalances that tell us nothing will ever be fine. Or that we're useless, or life is useless. Well, no. But a lot of things are uncertain.
posted by notquitemaryann at 6:15 PM on February 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

notquitemaryann, that's basically what I came in to say, but better worded. All the strong systems I've put in place for the next time depression tries to sneak up on me by surprise are turning out to be incredibly useful right now when the problem isn't coming from inside my own head at all.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:11 AM on February 16, 2017

I've been stuck in an increasingly worse depression for about a year. And then things took an INCREDIBLY BAD downturn in November and hasn't really gotten better since. And I don't know how to approach depression OR Trump's regime.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:14 PM on February 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

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