I Am Not Well: A Letter to Trump
For the past four years, I have been struggling with depression. For the majority of that time, I didn’t know I had it. When you are struggling with depression, your mind does not want to admit to itself that it is slowly crumbling. In the past year and a half, however, it has gotten much worse .
The only way I can think to describe depression to someone who has not suffered from it is that it saps your desire to care about your existence while destroying your self-worth.
Even as I would sit in my chair at home and worry about my increasing despondency, my overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, and my eternal desire to do something about it, I could not bring myself to take action. I just couldn’t care.
I wanted to want to care. I couldn’t remember what it was like to feel a sense of value for my life.
I withdrew further into an emotional shell I had created (and that, truthfully, had been slowly materializing since I was an adolescent), unable to open up to friends and family, paralyzed by the maelstrom of downward-spiraling negativity and self-loathing that depression wreaks on the mind.
This emotional barricade, which is routed in a deep insecurity of which I have not yet sussed out the origin, prevents me from opening up emotionally and connecting on a deeper level with those close to me. It’s the most significant reason why every relationship I’ve been in has failed. When I’m with my family, I always feel a kind of separation — something holding me back from talking with them openly about my struggle. I know they could help guide me and offer advice, and I know that allowing myself to be vulnerable will help me grow. Whenever I have the opportunity to be intimate with another person, there’s something preventing me — insecurity, ego, fear, self-consciousness. Toxic masculinity plays a central role in all this.
Exactly midway through college while studying film and TV, I suddenly realized, one warm evening in New York, that I had no idea what I wanted to do in the film industry. I knew I wanted to write screenplays, but that’s not a job a kid can get right out of college. And because I was going to one of the most expensive film schools in the country, this felt like a tidal wave crashing down on my head. I felt like a failure, like a disappointment to my parents, and especially like financial deadweight. Anxiety poured through some newly-opened floodgate in my mind that day, forming a twisting pit of unease in my gut that is alive and well today. My slow descent into severe depression had begun.
Of course, in my head, I was overexaggerating my problems and was hyper-critical, but that is exactly what depression does. Negative thoughts lead to lower self-esteem which leads to a lack of confidence in myself which leads to negative thoughts, and on and on. It’s paralyzing. And the emotional barrier that I’ve used to try to ‘protect’ myself from the world was exactly the thing keeping me from speaking with my parents, my brother and sister, or counselors at school about being unsure of my path forward. I acted like nothing was wrong and vowed to finish film school and get my degree. Meanwhile, my depression got worse, school became a slog and the mental paralysis kept me from trying new things — different jobs on film sets, more creative writing classes, etc.
Every video I made as a freelancer was a chore, a drag on my spirits, because I was never good enough, never knew enough, never tried hard enough. And then I hated what I made, which made me feel worse, which made me more reluctant to try again.
New York, as well, fed the negativity and the mounting feeling of worthlessness. I soon believed, with complete conviction, that I had to get out of the city in order to sort out my issues. Again, at this point, I wouldn’t realize that I was struggling with depression for another two years. So after school, I moved back to Florida, and my depression worsened. I felt more hopeless and aimless than ever before while still attempting to act like everything was fine in my life.
Eventually this became unbearable, so I moved back to New York about six months ago, believing that seeing my friends and giving the city another shot would help my mood. And it did, for a bit. But by then, my depression had gotten so bad that I had a hard time meeting people — even introducing myself in conversation or chatting with people beyond mindless small talk. I stopped making an effort to see most of my friends. It was a struggle to get out of bed. I overthought and over-analyzed everything I said or did (especially over text and on social media) and was generally reluctant to put myself in social environments. Instead, I numbed myself with alcohol and video games.
I felt like I was in a freefall. Suicidal thoughts drifted in and out of my mind now and then, although with no specificity and no intention on my part to act on them. But they were there. At last I saw clearly the state I was in and knew I needed help.
I admitted to my parents that I had been struggling with depression, although still without going into much detail, and that I wanted to go to therapy. They were completely supportive, as they always have been, which is one of the most frustrating issues I have with my emotional block — I know my brother, sister, parents and friends won’t think less of me and will love me unconditionally, and I still can’t bring myself to open up to them.
To my family — I love you, I love you, I love you. Thank you so much for everything you have done. I hate putting that in words because it doesn’t express how deep my gratitude and love is for all of you. I’m sorry I don’t say it in person.
I began therapy a couple months ago, and it has helped some. My therapist provides useful practical advice to deal with the day-to-day — ways to remind myself not to be overly-critical to avoid sinking down further into that endless pit. However, the most important thing she has done was recognize that I needed to try antidepressants. She sent me to a primary care physician, who prescribed me with Wellbutrin, which I started taking three weeks ago.
This past week, I began to feel the effects of the medicine. And this past week, I have felt more positive, more energetic, more optimistic than I have in four years. I haven’t had a hard time getting out of bed. I don’t feel constant, unrelenting despair about the future. I am more confident when meeting people. I can hold conversations without thinking about ways to make them end sooner — and even enjoy them. My depression, and my life in general, feel manageable for the first time in a very long time. The antidepressants have been a crucial safety net to lift my spirits enough to march down the long road to recovery. Without them, I will continue to spiral downward — that’s simply the nature of depression.
Mr. Trump, I am not alone in this struggle. Millions of Americans deal with depression, and many have cases significantly more severe than mine.
So, if you and Congress figure out a way to repeal the ACA, I will not be able to afford therapy or the antidepressants. My therapist and my doctor both take my parents’ insurance, which continues to cover me, because of the ACA.
However, I still understand the crippling financial problems with Obamacare. It’s a bloated mess of red tape. Premiums are set to spike this year, and it’s going to hurt the working class and a slipping middle class the most. Big Pharma and health insurance companies are part of the vice grip with which corporate money grasps Congress, which made it nearly impossible for Obama to get his bill through in the first place.
Even so, if you manage to repeal the ACA, I implore you to push for a single-payer healthcare-for-all system. If you want to be the champion of the everyday American like you’ve claimed to be, there is no area in more dire need of improvement than the healthcare system in this country.
Republicans and democrats alike, along with most of your cabinet, will screech and howl and tell you that there’s no way it can be done. But Paul Ryan said you have a mandate. Bernie Sanders would draft the bill for you today if you said that was the way you wanted to go. He might have one drafted already.
When you’re pitching the idea to Paul Ryan and Co., tell them a healthcare-for-all system is an investment in the human capital of this country. It’s an investment in the people. Taking care of those physically and mentally ill, without them fearing medical bankruptcy, helps them become happy, healthy members of society. It improves our society overall. It will pay for itself many times over in the long run.
Mr. Trump, I come from a financially and emotionally stable, middle-class background, with two loving and supportive parents, two amazing siblings, wonderful friends, and the best education I could ever have dreamed of. There was always a roof over my head, and my parents cooked dinner almost every night while I was growing up. And still, depression has wreaked havoc on my life for years, and it will get worse unless I have access to affordable health care.
The vast majority of Americans are in far dire straights than I ever will be. Millions have far worse mental and physical health than I do. They are in desperate need of help. A single-payer system is the only way at the present time to guarantee that all Americans will be provided health care.
Look at Canada, the UK, Australia and other developed nations that have a healthcare-for-all system and see how we could create a better one. Allow states to decide if they’d like to opt-in to the national system — and when the system works, watch those states who were opposed to it opt in as well.
Millions of Americans feel the same way I do and would help pressure Congress to pass this bill. You now hold enormous sway over legislative issues. Together, we could make this happen. It’s the right thing to do for the overwhelming majority of Americans.
Americans have been afraid of going to the hospital for far too long.
Do the right thing, Mr. Trump. After all, can’t you do a better job than Obama?