June 21, 2005

About Shokooh

Post-election depression?

Dear Shokooh,

I live and attend Tehran University. Like others, I watched the elections with a mixture of hope and sadness. My hope led me to vote, even though my classmates boycotted the election. I voted because I felt it was my responsibility. I do not believe in this system. I want Iran to be a democracy and I want people to have freedom. I did not vote as a supporter of this regime.

I know the darkness of our country must be lifted. I voted as an Iranian. I wanted to do something to help my country take a step, no matter how small, towards freedoms. At the same time, I felt incredible sadness as I heard election reports--bribery and corruption, candidates accusing other candidates of cheating, and so on. It is so obvious now that the whole thing is a joke.

I am now feeling something that I have never felt before and, in fact, have argued passionately with other students about: a feeling of depression about Iran's political future. I feel hopeless. Nothing will ever change. I am looking at my life and my country in a different way now, nothing seems good anymore. I am more upset than I have ever been in my life.

Is it normal to feel this upset about something like politics? I have always been a positive person and I am very scared by these feelings. Despite the crimes in my country, I want to remain hopeful and positive, but it's ecoming more and more difficult. When I saw the news after the election, I just cried and cried. I want to control these feelings, but it's so hard.


A Friend from Iran (letter translated from Farsi and shortened)


Dear Friend,

I have spent the past week in Tehran, closely following the elections along with you and millions inside and outside Iran. While this is certainly not the place to delve deeply into politics, I will say this: you are certainly not alone in feeling a sense of sadness or hopelessness following political developments.

Regardless of where a political event takes place, there is often a feeling of being let down, or alienated, if the results or procedures are not in agreement with one's personal convictions and beliefs. This is certainly not unique to Iran. I have heard sentiments like those you express in your letter shared by others after elections in the United States, as well.

While I have not met you and therefore cannot begin to make conclusions, the feelings you describe -- sadness, hopelessness, apathy -- seem appropriate given your expectations of the elections and your own participation. I can certainly understand why you would feel these things, especially since you describe yourself as an optimistic person who voted because you felt you had a chance of helping produce change. Now it appears that change didn't happen in the way you hoped and you are left feeling upset.

You say you are a positive person and that these feelings are scaring you. That is understandable. But I ask that you try to take a few moments to step back from your feelings and think about your thoughts. What are you telling yourself? What specific thoughts are you having that lead to these feelings? Often, when we are frightened by our emotions, we become overwhelmed by them. It may be helpful to try and view your emotions as the result of negative thoughts.

Here is an example: you shared that you feel hopeless and followed that by stating that "nothing will ever change." It seems that your feeling of hopeless is related to the thought that "nothing will ever change." Now look closely at this thought. "Nothing will ever change." Truly examine it. Is it really true? Will NOTHING ever change?

Often, our scariest feelings come from thoughts that, when examined in the light of logic and reason, lose their power. The idea that negative feelings stem from thoughts may seem simple, but seeing that relationship is a powerful tool that can help you understand that you can handle emotion even when things seem frightening and overwhelming and new.

Please also remember that only a few days have passed since the elections which brought on the upset feelings. Allow yourself some time to process things. Emotions run high immediately after a difficult event, but can soften with time and as you gain perspective and allow yourself to work though things. Something important has happened in your life. It is okay to be disappointed. It is okay to feel sad. It is okay to react with emotion.

I understand that you want to control these feelings, to suppress them and pretend they don't exist. But this will give them only more power. Instead, give yourself permission to feel. Allow yourself to feel. Keeping a journal may help you by giving you a way to allow emotion out, to process and work through the emotions.

That said, I ask that you track and monitor your feelings closely. If you begin to feel worse, if another week passes and your symptoms have not improved, if other symptoms appear (such as changes in eating or changes in sleep), or if you simply want to talk and process things face to face, then please consider visiting a psychiatrist or psychologist.

While we all experience periods of sadness from time to time, depressive symptoms that are disrupting your life or causing significant distress should be addressed by a professional with experience and expertise in guiding individuals back to full emotional health. Depressive symptoms, while serious, can absolutely be addressed and overcome. If you find yourself, at any point, having thoughts of harming yourself, seek urgent medical assistance.

You sound like an intelligent and caring young person. I am touched that you care so much about our country of birth and the quest for freedom. I am inspired to know that in a time and place of darkness, you have found, within yourself, a desire to continue to believe. Your letter means a great deal to me.

I wish a happy and healthy future for you and Iran. I, too, will continue to believe.

Be well,



This column is for general educational purposes only-- it is not a substitute for medical attention, counseling, or therapy of any kind. The Couch and the staff of this website urge you to seek immediate medical attention if you are in an urgent, harmful, or potentially dangerous situation. Psychiatric emergencies or urgent matters should be handled by calling 9-1-1 or going to the nearest emergency room.   Please note that your emails will not be answered on an individual basis and your confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. Top

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