When Two Worlds Collide
Like many people in this country, I am breathing a big sigh of relief that much of the chaos, cruelty and gaslighting that’s consumed our lives for the past four years is nearing its end. I’m feeling as though I’ve suffered from low-grade PTSD for the last four years and now that our country appears to be headed for a turn toward the positive, I’m looking forward to better mental health. The last few days I’ve been reflecting on how the personal and political worlds often collide and how events that unfold outside of our control in the world affect our personal lives in deep and meaningful ways.
I was just coming out of the fog of my breakdown when Trump was elected in November 2016. My physical and mental strength were returning and I was looking forward to rebuilding my life in a way that allowed me to live more mindfully. I had made a list of the things I wanted to change in my life and near the top of that list was the desire to be more involved in social justice causes. Little did I know that I would get ample opportunity to join movements for social justice just as our country started to crumble and oppressed communities were targeted. I can see with hindsight that our country’s quick descent into cruelty, indecency and targeted oppression enabled me to accelerate many of the changes I wanted for myself. I was able to find my voice for the first time in my life as I spoke out and wrote letters to elected leaders. I learned to ask for what I wanted and needed and I learned to create boundaries around my time and energy so as not to be swallowed up by my drive to help make change in the world.
It was not without a personal cost, however. By getting involved in social justice causes and politics, I often felt myself slipping toward another breakdown. I could feel my sense of reality teetering and my mental stability falter and I’d have to step away from the work I wanted to do to make sure I could maintain my mental health. There were times I had to close myself off to the outer world so I could heal mentally and re-enter it in the right frame of mind. I’d come back determined to make a difference, only to be met with more chaos that once again strained my mental health. This seesaw went on for the entire four years and not until the election was called yesterday, did I truly begin to feel the toll of living this way for so long. The exhaustion that’s settled into my bones seems unwilling to leave me soon.
If nothing else, the last four years helped me develop strong self care routines, carefully constructed boundaries and a great appreciation and reverence for mental health. It often feels to me that we are a nation on the verge of a massive nervous breakdown. My hope is that we can now take a collective breath and begin again to build a country with more humane policies. Living on the mental health seesaw is no fun and I believe we can create a world where no one needs to make a choice between their mental health and being an active and engaged citizen.