I normally see my therapist, Mario, every week. Over the years, he’s become like a big brother to me, the kind of mensch who looks out for you, listens, remembers every detail, gives you smart and sensitive feedback, and cares.
Well, it has been. Until late September turned into October. That’s when the nightmare began: This psychotic, all-encompassing, toxic presidential election began driving me absolutely over-the-top crazy. It was more than Mario could handle in 50 minutes once a week.
The touchy issues being bandied about in newspapers, social media and personal conversations — particularly, immigration and minorities’ and women’s rights — sent me into hyper, unstoppable rants. (Admittedly, being home alone with a sinus infection, bronchitis and unlimited time spent in the company of CNN and MSNBC didn’t help my outlook.) Political malaise gradually dominated our sessions, compelling me to request an extra weekly appointment until Nov. 9.
Are you beginning to see the real cost of this election? For me, it means paying my therapist double.
And I’m not alone in my angst.
An ABC News poll of likely voters found nearly half reported the election was a source of stress in their lives. And a survey for the American Psychological Association found many respondents felt the same way.
“We’re seeing that it doesn’t matter whether you’re registered as a Democrat or Republican: U.S. adults say they are experiencing significant stress from the current election,” Lynn Bufka, APA’s associate executive director for practice research and policy, said in a statement.
And of course, Bufka said, all the political arguments you overhear or get into, the provocative or nasty comments on social media and the constant media bombardment only make it worse.
This is the psychological landscape that confronted me — and Mario. We are both immigrants and political refugees — I from Cuba, he from Argentina — so we understand each other based on shared background, identity and language.
Mario considers himself my “keeper” and is there for me through all my weeks’ meshugas: career, love, health and the daily struggle of being an adult in the world.
But these past few weeks have been something else.
At the beginning of October, once my favorite month, I came down with what felt like the worst flu in the history of humanity: body aches, exhaustion, sore throat, coughing, laryngitis, fever, runny nose, migraines. My teeth hurt; every sound but the purr of my cat, Lilly, deafened me; and the smell of coffee made me sick. (That last one meant that whatever I had was Really Serious.)
I’m the creator of a beauty site, MoreLovely.me, and even sitting at my desk writing about fun things such as red lipstick, French cologne and lavender bath oil was impossible; it required sustained verticality.
This is what put me in front of the TV and into the initial stages of CNN commentator psychosis. Days passed, and my confined contagion consisted of sleep, Cream of Wheat, applesauce, tea, emails, texts from my mother telling me to hydrate, Facebook, feeding Lilly, TV news, more TV news and multiple phone sessions with Mario, who said to watch Comedy Central instead of the news. I was too far over the edge to listen.
What ailed me wasn’t some mild form of free-floating election blues. No. This election and its coverage consumed me. It changed me physiologically. I’d watch and read the news and grind my teeth. I’d squeeze my hair. I’d drop my head into Lilly’s belly and refuse to budge despite her literally sharp protests. Even my favorite TV commentator, Van Jones, couldn’t make it better, and he is awesome.
Mario upped the anti-anxiety meds Ativan and Xanax, and added a short-term dose of the antidepressant Lexapro, and I continued to talk him and vent. A lot. I became artificially calmer and less depressed, but I was still politically possessed.
The aftermath of each debate, and then that appalling Al Smith dinner, sent me into psychic paroxysms. I’d spend every last of my 100 weekly therapeutic minutes in a Munchian position: that solitary, abstracted being, screaming alone on a lonely bridge.
Certain words, phrases and names sent me into Pavlovian freakouts: rigged, temperament, locker room, sue, access, Hollywood, “Access Hollywood,” polls, down-ballot, Kellyanne, Billy, Rudy.
When I was able to go to Mario’s office and our sessions’ time was up, I’d drop into the patients’ sofa like an exhausted, post-tantrum toddler.
And so I came to pay my therapist double to exorcise this political malignancy from my being so I could, you know, function.
Is that right? Is that fair? I didn’t ask for this sicko election. It was foisted upon me. I am innocent. And I want my money back. I want both candidates to reimburse me for all that extra mileage, all those extra minutes and all those pricey pills.
Or maybe just Huma Abedin. I doubt her check would bounce.
I’ve been taking my prescriptions faithfully: cefdinir 300 mg (for the bacteria); promethazine-codeine syrup (for the cough); and Ativan 0.5 mg., Xanax 0.25 and Lexapro 20 mg. (for the election). I take them all twice a day, except for the Lexapro, which is once a day. And thank goodness; I’ve gained almost 10 pounds since I started taking it. (Unfortunate Lexapro side effect.)
I’m slowly starting to feel better, though, and Mario says the weight will drop off once I vote and stop the Lexapro. Also, I turned off the TV. Silence is the best sound ever.
By next weekend, I’ll bet I’ll love coffee again and have the energy to shave my hairy legs and write about fancy beauty products.
And if I start getting pyscho election coverage flashbacks when I go vote on Nov. 8 or have the urge to discuss politics with Van on Twitter, I’m resistant. An Ativan refill awaits.