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mental health mondays :: we're all crazy now

you're not imagining it: the election is making you crazy. well, not crazy, but according to a study by the american psychological association, the rush to the whitehouse is causing significant levels of stress among the people who are most affected by it [that would be americans, and possibly one canadian blogger who thinks about these things way too much]. and i get that. there are several factors that have contributed to making this election the most stressful thing to happen in politics since the cold war days. nor is it just about the candidates or the struggle in america, but about the country's position in the world. normally, many of us picture americans as more or less immune to what people think of them, but a recent nbc poll revealed that a shocking number- 62%- felt that this election had made them less proud to be an american. no election should ever be an embarrassment.

there are lots of theories about why the election is so particularly stressful. its domination of the news and of social media is chief among them: it has become very difficult to get away from the election while still maintaining a connection with other human beings. the election has invaded everyone's lives and homes, imposed itself on every safe, private space that citizens have tried to construct, so that it's always just there, jabbing at you. as someone who's suffered some pretty acute panic attacks, i know how that feels. a negative thought gets in and starts spinning around, like having two bars of a song stuck in there, the same two bars, for hours. it's in your brain and you can neither stop it nor diminish its presence. it's just this noise that's constantly there, running the psychological show.

another thing is the relentless negativity of every aspect of this campaign. being exposed to negativity absolutely affects our mood, making us both stressed and depressed, either amping our emotions up or deadening them just in order to help us deal with what we're experiencing. other than the early stages of the democratic campaign, which seemed civil and respectful until bernie sanders started to actually string wins together, everything in the last year's political spectacle has been brutal, violent and degrading, no matter which side you're supporting. donald trump eviscerating his republican opposition by calling them names, shouting over them and offering a bullhorn to the anger of poor white america. hillary clinton and the democratic national committee conspiring against bernie sanders, while at the same time desperately trying to court the voters following his movement. ugly, ugly, ugly.

and what's worse, that's all there's been. the entire trump vs. clinton campaign has been nothing but two people bellowing nothing at each other. both have financial plans for improving the country, but those plans just barely qualify as position papers. the only real attention any of their policies have gotten has been the debate over raising or lowering taxes and on whom. while talk of syria and isis has been oozed through the entire campaign, neither candidate has said anything of use on the subject. clinton has said that she wants to establish a no-fly zone over syria to keep refugees safe, which sounds reasonable until you think about what happens when someone violates it. are you going to blow those planes out of the sky? russian planes, perhaps? good luck with that. trump, on the other hand, has offered sweet fuck all, saying that he has a great plan, but that he doesn't want to risk tipping the enemy off as to what it might be. other than that, he's spent his time crapping on every other plan, suggestion or move. he's also shown a lack of knowledge that is flat out dangerous, claiming that isis capturing syria would give iran control over a huge area of western asia. iran is in no way aligned with or even sympathetic to isis and isis hate the shi'ite iranians more than anybody. five years ago, american politicians were referring to syria as a client state of iran [utter bullshit, but all those people have been silenced by trump].

meanwhile, people in the united states are suffering and afraid. they're terrified of being attacked by terrorists, which is greatly exaggerated by both politicians and the media, but they're legitimately scared of losing their homes and security to another financial collapse, because explaining why the damn thing happened to begin with has become a political tug of war. more regulations to keep these people in line! less regulation so they can create jobs! then they turn around and discover their bank is charging them for a bunch of services they never even authorised, which is the sort of thing that bears a mention in an electoral campaign. they're confused, now that realise how concentrated wealth in the country is and how great the disparity is, and no one is trying to explain how to improve that situation. everyone keeps talking about how social security is going to collapse as the giant generation of baby boomers start to retire [spoken about as if it's a problem of the future- many baby boomers are on the cusp of their seventies], but there's very little explanation of how the problem has occurred and what the different plans are to fix it. for that matter, no one is talking [because no presidential candidate ever talks about] how much the president can actually do, versus what congress can do, versus what's the responsibility of the state. [slight caveat: there was one republican town hall event where john kasich addressed this, and very cogently described what he thought he could do to influence things as president, while making it clear that the problem was not within his presidential jurisdiction.]

so voters have been subjected to people blaring criticisms of the other, with precious little else. the result? both have been pretty successful. most people are just angry, because they've been provoked for months, because they've been unable to get quiet, personal time, because no one is talking about things that they actually care about, and because they're being made even more afraid that one candidate or both is going to start a world war iii, either out of overweening hawkishness or blundering stupidity. people who feel like they've been denied a voice, and who feel as if their concerns have fallen on deaf ears for many years are being stifled again, as they're forced to mediate an argument between two people they don't like very much.

and finally despite being reassured that their vote matters [which it does, it's their opinions that don't], americans don't feel empowered to do anything to spur change. their congress- the people's goddamned employees- shut down the government, let it get to the point of not being able to issue cheques, and everyone is supposed to just accept that. again, studies of workplace environments show that empowerment has a direct correlation with happiness and satisfaction. so that feeling of being frozen out after you've voted? yes, that is most definitely making you worse.

but it's all going to be over tomorrow, right? lol. just kidding. after tomorrow, those people don't need you anymore, and things go back to the way they were. or another civil war breaks out. or something else happens. in the meantime, i have a few [hopefully] helpful suggestions for dealing with election and post-election fatigue:

1. knowledge is power, therefore knowledge is empowering. take any time you can get and try to familiarise yourself with what people are saying about issues. also, take time to acquaint yourself with the rules of how things get done.

2. make smaller problems. there is only one body that can deal with very large problems all at once and it's the supreme court. everything else has to be handled bit by bit. so pick a few bits, things that could really help. make noise about them. chase after local and state politicians, because those guys can't hide from you.

3. be a boss. a tough boss keeps track of what they're employees are doing and you are the boss. everything in the news will tell you what the president and congress are doing broadly, but that's one of those "big problems". track your congressman. find out how he or she votes. find out how often find out what they say. use the time that you'd otherwise spend listening to all the hot air blowing from washington. members of congress face election every two years. that's nothing and they know it. so, talk about what they're doing. say it online if you want, but also talk to friends and family and whoever you feel comfortable talking to about things. sure, on the high levels, your individual opinion doesn't really count [sorry], but from congress on down, those people are yours.

4. tell the parties to go fuck themselves. aside from the fact that it's going to feel very good, refusing to give a cent of your money to either of them is a very good way to get through. you know all those stories about how some congressmen miss half the votes, or how they don't read pieces of legislation they do vote on? they look like morons. but you might cut some corners too if you were being forced to work in a telemarketing job rather than doing the work you signed up for. don't reward this sort of disgusting behaviour. talk to your guy if they call, but when the plea for money comes, tell them you want them in the house, doing their job. hell, ask to speak to the person in charge of the phone bank. tell them what a horrible system this is. they called you, it's not like you're imposing this on them.

i can't make things better for you, nor can i make things better for your country, but i want to help. and by help, i mean stop that screeching wheel that's going around in your head, quite literally making you sick.

last time around, i told you not to "eat the septic tank". this time, i feel more sympathetic. you're battered and anxious and depressed and what happens tomorrow isn't going to fix that. but you do have the power. voting is a power, but you have so much more than that. so deal with tomorrow like you would getting an unpleasant inoculation. then look forward to dedicating just a bit of your time to the satisfaction of kicking their asses, because if you kick it hard enough, they'll feel it everywhere.   

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