• Cindy Mundahl

Politics and Mental Health

I found it difficult to be a contemplative, thoughtful and loving human being this past week. I spent several hours over the last two weeks listening to and watching the impeachment hearings. I wanted to understand the case being made for impeachment and felt it my civic duty to witness the evidence and draw my own conclusion about the facts presented. I knew this would be a difficult task given the great division that exists in our country today and I wasn’t wrong. What I didn’t understand at the outset was the toll witnessing the hearings would take on my mental health. By the end of the week, I felt a strong current of anxiety coursing through my body, so much so that I found it very difficult to sit still and focus.

What I witnessed was appalling, maddening, and disheartening. Two very different versions of reality were presented by each political party and I found myself wondering if the Republicans were just outright lying and ignoring the facts being presented, or if they truly believed them. My brain couldn’t process that they might truly believe them, that their version of reality could be so blatantly different from my own. I had to believe they knew they were lying to maintain my own sanity. If they believed their version of reality, then that would mean there is a large swath of people in our government that are mentally ill who hold power and make important decisions that affect people’s lives. If they’re making decisions based on an alternate reality that they truly believe, we have a much larger problem on our hands, how to convince these people that they need mental help. That's too much truth for my brain to handle at the moment.

The collateral damage that’s been wrought by the creation and dissemination of this alternate reality was on full display during the hearings. I saw first hand how the cravenness undertaken to uphold this false reality takes a toll on people’s lives. Career diplomats recounted the destruction of their reputations and careers and eluded to the trauma inflicted on them and their families as a result of this false reality. The ripple effect of the lengths people go to to perpetuate this false narrative is immeasurable. People serving in the government fear for their jobs and their lives, their colleagues and their families are affected, and then their colleagues are affected and so on. Each person brings this damage wrought by this false narrative out into the world with them and lays it at the feet of every person they meet.

If you follow the news or are on social media, you could see this ripple effect in warped speed. Instantly once a legislator began their questioning of witnesses in the hearing, people unleashed their angst and fear. There was name calling and threats being leveled, it was like watching our country self destruct in real time. I found myself both repelled and drawn to what was taking place. It seemed like a collective melt down and I often questioned my own sanity for finding it all absurd and disgraceful while others seemed to be feeding off of the negativity.

I tried hard to sit with all of the emotions I felt as I watched the hearings, but it proved very difficult. I’m trying to be conscious of the energy I put out in the world and I want to have people in my life that exude positive energy. The hearings were all about negative energy and I could feel my own energy wane and grow negative as I watched. I’m disheartened that this is what it has come to for me to be an informed citizen, that my mental health takes a hit and I lose a bit of faith in humanity in the process. I’ve found that the best way for me to rebound from these hits is to be active, to put myself in positions to make positive change and bring positive energy into the world. I don’t want to fight against things or people, I want to work for positive change and for people. It’s the only way I can find a way forward that makes sense to me given this fractured world with two very different versions of reality.

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