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When Your 'Irrational' Fears Come True

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I woke up yesterday with swollen eyes, hair matted to my forehead and cheek, my pillow still drying from many, many tears shed Tuesday night. I’m shell-shocked. I’m utterly devastated. My hope is at an all-time low. Grief stricken, with trembling lips, I got up and washed my face. I hoped the cold water would wash away the remnants of Tuesday night’s panic attack.

My skin still felt hot and the pit of my stomach rock hard. The lump in my throat was choking me. I put my makeup on, only to cry it all away, not once, but twice. I grasped my bathroom counter for support, breathed deeply and looked in the mirror. I saw a broken person’s reflection, nearly unrecognizable. Anxiety and depression has come calling loudly today, but for once, it feels warranted.

I wrote a few weeks ago about how difficult this election has been as a person who has anxiety and depression. I drifted between extreme worry, incessantly checking the polls and extreme apathy, turning everything off in disgust. My emotions ebbed and flowed with the headlines of the day. Now, it seems like my anxious half was absolutely right, surprisingly rational and very appropriate given the outcome. I am deeply resentful of that.

You see, I go to a therapist weekly, a psychiatrist monthly and have been doing so for the better part of three years since my Dad died in 2013. Losing him dropped the Earth from beneath my feet, and I felt like I was in total free fall. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, in part due to my unhealthy obsession of thinking and fearing things like losing other loved ones, illness or even simple things like any hint of change. It has not been an easy road. I’ve spent the past three years identifying irrational worry, and using every tool I’ve learned to quell the fears and shun the panic.

But everything is changed now. My anxiety has been devastatingly emboldened. The election of Donald Trump, in spite of his divisive rhetoric and arguable misogyny and bigotry, has given my anxiety a footing I’m not sure it ever fully had until now. I feared a day like today would come, and he would be elected, but I banked on those fears being irrational. I banked on them being just another anxious day.

How wrong I was. How right my anxiety was. And how lost I am now. I think a lot of people are feeling anxiety and profound sadness today, but for those of us who knew those feelings before today, it makes the shocking election results nearly unbearable. I’m crying at work while writing this.

I anticipate quite a few more panic attacks in the future for me. My anxiety feels totally
justified. My worst fears have come true, and I am helpless to resolve them.

My depression feels totally justified. On my “side of the fence” of what appears to be a deeply divided country, there seems to be so little to hope for in terms of the future.  But after listening to Hillary Clinton’s incredibly articulate and inspiring concession speech today, I can’t help but think that is the last thing she wants from women (or anyone for that matter) like me. Rather than stew in gloom, and let it destroy me emotionally, I think the most honorable tribute to her, to show her my deep admiration of all she represents, would be to take this emotional pain, anxiety and depression, harness it’s power, and use it as strength to help shape a future of which I can be proud. I’ll start this difficult, yet valuable process by quoting another two of the most graceful and eloquent women:

“When they go low, we go high.” – Michelle Obama

“We may encounter defeats, but we must not be defeated.” – Maya Angelou

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Originally published: November 10, 2016
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