The day after the election results came in announcing a fresh new terrifying America, I stayed in bed feeling scared, hopeless and melted into inaction. I think that’s how most of us processed that day. I wish I could say it’s something I rarely do, stay in my bed when it’s too hard to do anything else. But I stayed in bed the day before the election too. I also stayed in bed the day before that, and the day before that. In fact, I’ve pretty much stayed in bed all year long. When the election results came in, it had already been a month since I gave up on trying to fix my own mental health issues. And so it turned out that the worst day of our generation collided with my own personal low. I hate that it took something so ugly and urgent to finally get me out of bed. But here I am.
I wish I could say that after the election, I got out of bed and drove straight to a psychiatrist who gave me the perfect pill to fix everything. In reality, I already tried going to the doctor for depression twice, and ended up not responding to either medication I was prescribed. That’s the cruelest joke about depression medication: when it takes a year just to find the strength to get out of bed and get help, it feels impossible to try again if the first medication you’re prescribed doesn’t work after you’ve endured a month of tough side effects. When I tried another medication for another month with even worse side effects and no results, I gave up. Cue the endless days in the bed and the hope that my mattress would swallow me whole.
I also wish I could say that after the election, I found the motivation to call a psychiatrist again after feeling an immediate glimmer of some general “I need to be better for this world” kind of urgency. How it actually happened is much worse. One night I got a call from one of my closest friends, someone who was on the list of people I had distanced myself from — a list that included every single person I knew. I can’t go into detail for sake of anonymity, but he’s the kind of person that Trump’s America hates for existing. He told me that one night while he walking home, a group of young white supremacist men targeted him, attacked him and injured him badly. He didn’t have any idea how to deal with the trauma of a hate crime. But in that moment, when he most needed support, I didn’t have the strength to offer him anything but: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
I was so fucking angry at my brain for not letting me be the kind of friend he needed in that moment. So I got out of bed. I called every psychiatrist I could find and begged for someone to see me. Places that took insurance were booked for months. After many frustrating calls, I eventually found a psychiatrist who takes same-day appointments without insurance. It was very expensive and it was legal, but barely. Surprisingly, this new psychiatrist asked the right questions and found out that the root of my depression — not being able to focus or get anything done — is actually ADHD, which often goes undiagnosed in women. And as it turns out, ADHD medication doesn’t take a month to work, it takes about an hour. So after months of searching for something that would help, I took a pill and finally felt all the missing jigsaw puzzle parts of my brain melt into their matching pieces. I called my friend and told him what I couldn’t say for months: “I’m here for you.”
Getting out of bed right now is hard, especially when we’re so tired of fighting. I got out of bed when I realized that for months, the only words I could offer my friends who needed my support — many who are Gay, Trans, Mexican, Muslim, or Undocumented was, “I’m sorry, but I can’t be here for you right now.” I got out of bed when I realized that I have no choice but to be here right now. I got out of bed because there are only two things I can be right now: either scared into silence for fear of my life and friends’ lives, or here. And because I can be here, I have to be strong. I have to take care of myself so that I can be fully and actively engaged in resistance, with all the of the focus and determination and strength I have to offer. And no matter how many times I try to short cut my way around it, I know that the road to my own strength starts with prioritizing my own mental health.