Depression And The Donald: A Cautionary Tale

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

In the past 60 minutes alone, I made a spinach and Craisin salad, rearranged my sock drawer according to color and watched an infomercial called Hello, Erections! It might seem like a completely wasted hour but the truth is I welcome any distraction to keep from focusing on the connection between my depression and the emotional tire fire that is Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

I’m not talking about a “they’re making another Transformers movie?” kind of depression. I’m talking serious, clinical, psychiatrist-approved, meds-involved depression. Trust me, this is something I don’t bring up lightly – at least not anymore – courtesy of my own diagnosis. It wasn’t exactly welcome news but at the same time, at least I understood why I’ve always felt like I was the guy who showed up at a formal ball wearing one of those old-fashioned diving suits.

There are many different ways for depression to screw up life, but the worst is how it convinces me to distrust my fellow human beings. In my twisted brain, I enter into every social situation assuming that all other people in that space are judging me and dismissing me. Which brings me to Donald Trump’s historic rise from a sit-com version of what really rich people are like to a leader of a political revolution reminiscent of 1776. (Not because of any belief in the soul of our democracy….they just want to turn the clock back to 1776.)

I’m not exaggerating in any way when I say Trump has done more damage to my mental health than all those guys in grade school who beat me up for sport. That’s because I see how Trump and every single person who wants to vote for him have a lot in common with those bullies. And just knowing they’re out there in the world has left me in bad shape.

Before all the Trump-eters indignantly insist they’re just expressing their opinions in a free country, let me explain to you why you are 100 percent wrong. There has literally not been a day in the last year when I didn’t wake up to discover some other ethnic or religious group Trump has decided to hate, some other journalist who has an unjustified grudge against him or some heathens who are out to destroy him.

I want to believe in the essential goodness of humanity, that when push comes to shove, even a Vermont Democrat would help an Alabama Republican who fell into a well. Depression makes that optimistic view hard to come by, but I still work hard every day to see the positive in the world. However, that challenge has become immensely more difficult as people continue to believe in a truth-adjacent charlatan the same way the good people of River City did when Harold Hill came to town.

Half the country now supports a man who displays every character trait we don’t want to see in our children – never accepting any responsibility for anything, lying with the conviction of a three-year-old who just stole a cookie, creating false enemies so there’s somebody else to blame. When confronted with this evidence, it becomes very hard for me to crawl back to a happy place because even the polls there are showing a dead heat between Hillary Clinton and Trump.

It’s like I’m stuck watching all those Purge movies on an endless loop as Trump promotes every single human tendency that Sunday School taught me were vices, not virtues. Even more depressing is seeing the media lemmings let the man slip out of every questionable situation while voters express admiration for him “telling it like it is.” You want to hear something honest and unfiltered? Listening to you guys makes me hate, and as Yoda made very clear, hate leads directly to The Dark Side.

I know I’ve said this here before, but it’s important to repeat it. Trump voters, I need you to explain to me in a logical fashion why I’m wrong. Please tell me why I should see every angry, bitter thing your leader says as something helpful and positive rather than something hurtful and negative. Now it seems the only solution to taming my depression – other than Scotch, lots and lots of Scotch –is to do the exact opposite of what you seem to do. Namely, try to truly appreciate the motives of my nemesis.

After all, I’m not the enemy. I struggle through the same difficult world you do. I haven’t had a steady job after being laid off six years ago. I’m not precisely sure how the mortgage will get paid next month. I’ve watched the cost of my health insurance go up as the benefits drop. I’m old and white. And yet, I still see Trump as someone even Satan wouldn’t talk to at a fundraiser while you don’t. It’s a fundamental disconnect.

I’ve worried for a long time now about pouring all this out, first because worrying is something Prozac people do quite well and second, because I didn’t want anyone thinking I’m trivializing an awful illness. However, in a strange way, Trump’s continued appeals to the unpleasant side of human nature are a blessing. They’ve finally given me the perfect reason to open up about my depression. I don’t want to get any worse and a Trump presidency would definitely toss me into a pit I’d never climb out of.

So here I am, trying to confront all the traits I hate about myself. Like my tendency to twist insecurities into unreasonable anger. And my paranoia about how the world judges me. And my belief the odds for a decent life are stacked against me. But here’s the thing. These are also the traits that give me a lot in common with Trump and his legion. So maybe what we need to do right now is acknowledge our mutual depression and move on to find our own happy places.

However, can we start maybe tomorrow? Right now, I’ve got to clean out the garage. Plus, I just noticed that a show called Do You Poop Enough?, which promises “scrubby bubbles for your intestines.” Now there’s the ticket for feeling better!