The Post-Election Thread; or, Beeminding Through Depression


#1

I had a poignant discussion with one of you in support last night, talking about how we felt about the US election. This user called Beeminder their lifeline. That was so heart-warming and heartening that it snapped me out of my own post-election depression.

Another one: “Even though I feel terrible things I’ve never felt before in 24 years of life, my Beeminder goal will make me clean my apartment for 12 minutes. That’s good.”

And here’s one from years ago that may be timely now:

I think that it was a good thing I had Beeminder when I was depressed.

I don’t mean to say that Beeminder fixed my depression, but it put a
lower bound on the worst case scenario. You know that thing where,
when depressed, you continue to go through the motions, but you
have this otherworldly sense that you are in fact going through the
motions. You can observe yourself, detached, as if from some
vantage point outside your own self, doing things, and you can’t relate
to yourself or feel anything or get back into your body. You don’t feel
exactly in control, but things are still sliding along hitting all the right
marks and mostly taking all the right cues.

Beeminder gave me motions to keep going through. It was like a stick
I could reach out and use to prod that version of me that I felt so
completely detached from. It didn’t feel like I was winning. And I
certainly wouldn’t predict that it would be like this for everyone, and
perhaps it wouldn’t always be like this for me, but in this case, it
happens that beeminding things kept me getting out of bed. It kept
me engaging in work that I sometimes hated, but usually also
managed to give me some sense of worth and accomplishment. It
kept me doing things that I normally love but the kind of things that
you quit doing when you’re in that state. “I hate everything. So why
bother with this thing I love.” I think that in reality it’s really valuable
to keep keeping up appearances like that. To not retreat completely
out of things you love doing and people you love interacting with.

And don’t forget @philip’s related Beeminder blog post.

How are you all doing?


Beeminding your way through grad school - actual hours of actual research!
#2

I was really shocked by how suddenly absent I was from my own life, once I started to panic. It happened so fast that it took three days before I noticed that I probably didn’t want to be drinking from midnight to 6am every night. I have trouble gauging how much time passed because it was so entirely empty: I saw the sun through the window a couple times?

As a PhD student with no classes to take or to teach, I could quite literally do nothing until February before I started feeling the consequences. I never felt worried about or tempted by that level of inactivity before, but with a body too exhausted to feel passion or stubbornness, it could happen! So I sent a message to support to make a firm re-commitment: I am not going to let my life shut down like that. I’d lost a few days, but I was no longer going to let things slide.

Today felt like a turning point. I felt like a ghost and called it a night at 6pm to commiserate and drink with another terrified fellow Southerner-- but I also learned that “requin” is French for “shark” and made my housemate laugh by declaring “Je suis un serpent,” and that’s a good thing. It was just Duolingo and a bit of reading today, but I have not abandoned my future.

As I said in the email, I’m taking things one eep day at a time. But it’s a lifeline, to be reminded what my past self thought was important, and to have a concrete list of small steps to take one at a time.


#3

I’ve been sad, but I can’t say I’ve ever been depressed. However, I have been “too busy” to care about baseline self-care. I know this isn’t the same.

Using Beeminder to make sure my baseline self-care gets taken care of has really helped me in reducing “recovery time” after I get stupidbusy.


#4

Oh, and as to “how is this election affecting you?”

I usually hover around 30-50 Beeminder goals. My last derail was 2016-02-12–until last night.


#5

I don’t think he’s as dangerous as we all believed on Tuesday. I think he’s more Reagan than Hitler and I don’t think a lot of the things he said on the campaign trail will come anywhere close to being implemented. Yes it’s marginally worse for the climate to have him in office rather than Hillary. But I don’t actually have 100% confidence in that statement, and in any case, it was/is going to take a total shift in how business works (and how people live) to actually decrease emissions instead of just stabilizing them. Then there’s the “he emboldened literal Nazis” thing. I don’t dispute that. There are terrible people living in the US. That was going to be true if Hillary won in a landslide. If that had happened, it probably gives us a false sense of security that “oh okay I guess we really are progressing, those problems are solved” when they in fact aren’t.

Just off the cuff. Happy to talk more.


#6

I agree with all of that. I thought this article made a lot of sense in terms of what to expect and do:


#7

Excerpts from someone who wants to remain anonymous but said I could quote them:

I don’t think the election is a 2nd coming of Hitler. In fact, I’ve been shocked by the fact that so many people, including a coworker, were saying they felt suicidal over the results. If I just take a moment to pause and think how much any president has really impacted my life personally, I would say it’s been marginal at most. That alone tells me an emotional reaction that creates imminent fear is probably not appropriate.

Reasonable. But see the article I pointed to above. I agree that things (the most important things – like the US not becoming a dictatorship) will probably be fine but it’s not crazy to worry about the worst-case scenario even if unlikely.

If I were muslim, I might feel differently. So then I look at the fact that Trump won and start to try to understand it. I think there are 2 major interpretations. One is that Trump truly is a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic war monger. The other is that he saw the opportunity to manipulate a base using populism that would get him through the primaries and general election. When I look at what’s in front of me, I think the probability that he wasn’t playing his base like a fiddle so that they could help him advance is low. The fact that he kept walking back statements as he got further toward the election seems to fall in line with this observation.

Then yesterday he met with Obama, whom had previously called him unfit to be president and mocked him, and whom Trump had tweeted would go down in history as the worst president ever, and they seemed to get along just fine. That also does not fit with the thesis that he is totally incapable of self control.

In terms of him being reckless, if you look at his business dealings I think while you will find a lot of morally questionable choices, you’ll find someone that is generally pretty risk averse. He negotiates very hard against his counterparties and typically sets up deals so that he takes little to no risk. That is actually a benefit to America if he does it on the US’s behalf. He just needs to understand the consequences of the moves available to him so he doesn’t start a trade war thinking that is actually going to help.

I look at the reactions of people on both sides. I think if Trump had lost we’d be seeing a lot of “this country is bought and paid for and the election was rigged.” Because Hillary lost, we’re seeing a lot of protests and #AmericaIsOver and why does America support hate.

In my eyes, both candidates, in order to win an election have to package up the neatest most persuasive messaging they possibly can. Hillary packaged the message that this was a referendum on hate. Trump packaged a referendum on corruption and security/fear. While they talked about lots of other things, I think the outsized emotional engagement of both sides supports the idea that at a core level this was the proposition available.

All the people who are reeling, have been greatly impacted because they suddenly see half the country as supporting hate. While there are bigots who felt like they were part of the in group, that is not the majority of americans. As someone who has spent some time in Europe, I would say they are far more racist than the US and it’s not even close.

It’s a plausible theory that we got duped by the left’s referendum-on-hate packaging. But being willing to vilify categories of people for political reasons is super dangerous. (Ironic how Hillary shot herself in the foot with her “basket of deplorables” comment. That’s also vilifying a category of people. Though even more ironically, she was trying to make the point that it’s only one basket of Trump supporters who are racist xenophobes. The other basket are totally decent people who just want change. She got sound-bitten hard on that one.)

Other positives that I can see are that because Trump gave a large F you to everyone, there is a chance that he won’t be spending his time repaying favors. That makes me hopeful that he will be more responsive to the actual people.

Either way, the world is not as extreme as either side has been led to believe throughout the campaign. We’re all being marketed to, and since we’re flawed humans we are susceptible to the messages. Nothing really changed about the American people from one day to the next. The only thing that changed was the leader for the next 4 years, who will be watched like a hawk, and is almost definitely not as crazy as he’s been made out to be.

I’d change “almost definitely” to “likely”. It’s also possible that he reigned it in a bunch in order to get elected.

For the record, the thing that worries me most is that the same party whether Democrat or Republican actually controls all 3 of the House, Senate and Presidency.

I’m pretty down on republicans right now because, despite plenty of admirable dissent, they mostly supported Trump. And because of the standard republican position on climate change. (And other things but the rest is small potatoes compared to that.) But I’m also really upset with liberals for killing climate change legislation because it only focused on climate change and didn’t also accomplish other liberal political goals.

Finally… I’m not even a Trump supporter, but I would never ever ever feel comfortable posting any of my thoughts on any of this to a place where it could be tracked to my name. It’s far too easy for someone to reduce my entire analysis to “you just hate women” and then there goes my reputation. The fact that a tiny vocal minority has so successfully weaponized the labels “racist/bigot/misogynist” is unfortunately really effective at chilling speech. My coworker was actively telling others to “go fuck yourself” in our chat the other day because he was calling anyone who didn’t vote for Hillary a “terrible person full stop”, but beyond the rest of us thinking he’s immature there is no risk of him being labeled. I do not even dare offer a polite and well reasoned rebuttal.

Ironically this means that many of those who are left to express their views are the ones who actually ARE bigots and just don’t care (or the ones that are rich enough it doesn’t matter, but even then who wants to be labeled like that).

I agree.


#8

Another anonymous discussion with a Beeminder user, unrelated to the election or Trump, about depression:

I’ve had depression for a really long time. When it’s relatively minor, Beeminder works fairly well for me. I don’t really feel any connection to money, so that aspect doesn’t motivate me at all, but just staying on track with a nice graph works pretty well. When it’s major, like it was for the past ~year and a half? Literally nothing at all will motivate me, and even entering data seems like too much effort.

I asked if they meant literally-literally nothing. Like consider dragging oneself to work (I was presuming they still did that when depressed). In theory a large enough Beeminder pledge should be like that, but there’s probably a lot I’m missing about depression-related psychology.

Other people have different experiences, but the biggest thing depression does to me is take away my emotions. ADHD already makes everything relating to prioritizing difficult – I know intellectually that task A is more important than task B, but I don’t really feel more urgency over completing task A than I do over task B. But that’s manageable by working a set amount of time each day (timing myself is weirdly motivating). Add in depression, and the timer doesn’t work. Rewarding myself or having other people reward me doesn’t work, and punishing myself doesn’t work, because I don’t take any more or less pleasure in anything. I never got quite bad enough that I missed a rent payment, but [other stuff] … I think that, overall, money just isn’t a very motivating factor for me. Graphs and statistics seem to be better at motivating me … but I don’t know if that’s because of the ADHD, the depression, or just my personality.

I do think that, if depression is bad enough, nothing like Beeminder will work, because your willpower is gone, even getting out of bed seems as difficult as scaling Everest, and you can’t see any benefit to doing anything because your brain doesn’t chemically reward you for any accomplishments. And I was really close to that point. But it works well for lesser amounts of depression.

PS: I think I shouldn’t have combined the election thread with the depression thread. But since I did, feel free to pick up either subthread and ignore the other!


#9

I think that’s part of why this has hit me so hard: Obama’s presidency quite literally saved my life, since it rendered me once more eligible for heath insurance that I couldn’t get any other way and which I badly needed. I was able to receive the treatment I required so I could go back to school, which completely changed my life. Clinton herself, as Obama’s Secretary of State, directly introduced the bureaucratic changes that allowed me to get a US passport – equally key to my ability to come to Canada as a student.

As a Midwesterner and a Southerner (Kansas - North Carolina - Arkansas - Georgia - Ohio; I have lived a lot of places that people try to leave), I understand why Trump’s message resonated so strongly in my hometowns, and actually do believe that many people who supported him did so with, e.g., xenophobia as more of a side-effect than their primary motivation. But as much as I empathize, I worry that, soon, people who are in my former position will not have even the scant resources which I had access to.

To make this actually related to Beeminder – yesterday, in addition to recommitting to following through on my Beeminder minimums to stay connected to my basic priorities, I also started a Complice goal named just “justice” and set up a Beeminder goal to push me into doing one thing per month that makes the world more livable for others. I have no idea what shape that will take long term – tomorrow I will start very small, by answering one of several friends’ requests for bureaucratic assistance – but I like that I can reliably put things on my future self’s agenda, and have reason to believe he will follow through.


#10

I am generally a positive person, believing that we will solve big problems in the future, etc. Thus it was really strange to feel how rattled (scared?) I felt by Trump winning. I’m not at all American, so this may not make sense to you, but I am from Norway - a small country in Europe with a sliver of border against Russia - and the US has through NATO been a sort of guarantee against agressions. Trump has made that commitment less clear, and with Putin in Russia, I’m not convinced that this is a good combination for us. (If you have Netflix, you could look up the series “Okkupert” (Occupied), which is about Russia occupying Norway - I’ve heard that it is interesting, even if the pretext for the occupation is weak).

Looking at the nominations for the transition team, I’m also seriously worried for the climate as the US could be a real leader in that regard, if politically willing. A friend of mine living in Atlanta, knowing more about this Ebell person than me, posted on Facebook about him and the EPA with this comment: “And thus the world burns.”

And looking at non-climate science, it seems like the US may be in for a rough patch. Seriously - creationism?

With all the progress you’ve had in the US lately over abortion, gays and healthcare, it seems obvious that a lot of people will get a real, negative effect on their lives (through policies and supreme court), but sad as I find this, this you have chosen for yourselves.

Economically, it seems highly unlikely that Trump will be able to do much good, but then, politicians rarely do unless through blind luck. Free trade do work though. Less trade with the US, will have a noticable negative effect on the Norwegian economy.

There is also the question of personal privacy, free speech etc - it doesn’t appear Trump care about either of those, and with a republican senate and house, he just may have too many tools at hand.

Back when the Snowden stuff hit, I started following Gleen Greenwald on Twitter. Lately I noticed that he was very negative towards Clinton, and I know that he gets blame for the election results, but reading some of the pieces on The Intercept (theintercept.com), I think he has a lot of good points (and they’re certainly not pro-Trump).

When all that is said, my psyche is mostly back to normal, I find it hard to be down/negative over longer periods of time.


#11

And then I read this - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tobias-stone/history-tells-us-what-will-brexit-trump_b_11179774.html


#12

Post-election: I am most concerned about tail risks, targeting of certain groups and individuals, and systematic undermining of public institutions. I see likelihood of a “we might understandably panic now” scenario coming up in the next presidential term as somewhere in 1 in 100 to 1 in 12. I personally find it really important to try to mitigate risks even further, which is why I’m getting involved and getting more vocal. (I won’t show my cards any more than that, but I am glad to speak privately.)

Depression: I am prone to depression, with a long history stretching back to childhood. I’ll venture to say it’s not as bad now. I suppose that’s the upside getting older – more experience with coping mechanisms and healthy interventions. The big difference now is that I see my mood as it’s own thing, one of several interconnected phoenomena. I get faster turnarounds for feeling better.

But I’ve come to try to manage my collection of Beeminder goals to be depression tolerant. It’s limiting sometimes. One low mood day can take three somewhat happy days to recover from, just logistically.

I have several things that will fall before Beeminder goals derail en-masse. If I die repeatedly in Habitica, or am just scraping by for three or four days in row, I know I have to take emergency actions. This usually means dispatching only Beemergencies. I’m thankful for the new weekends off feature, which I use for building buffer.

The only times I push it with goals is when I see the goal as anti-depression. Having ambitious goals that are tied to a strong sense of purpose keep me determined, in a way. But sometimes I worry that I use ambition as a temporary way to escape dread and the sensation of decay over time. There is that dark side.

Sometimes purpose shifts a lot. I think things did shift for me last week. I’ve kept up so far, but I’ve decided to flatline or archive several goals (some that have been going on for a while) that don’t feel as relevant at the moment because new priorities have appeared. I am sort of glad I forced myself to have this transition period. It helped me be less impulsive, less likely to latch on to novel escapes. It was a tough decision to temporarily put aside progress that I am proud of.