The Edmond Sun

November 9, 2012

Coping with bad electoral memories

Mike Hinkle
Special to The Sun

EDMOND — A friend of mine, let’s call him “Twitchy,” is having a hard time coping with the outcome of the presidential election. He keeps going over the pre-election polls trying to figure out how he could be so wrong. He relives the debates in a futile effort to figure out how the outcome might have changed if different or better points were scored. And don’t start him talking about Hurricane Sandy.

He is caught in an almost schizophrenic love/hate relationship with the news. He can’t stand to watch post-election coverage, but he can’t go 20 minutes without checking his smart phone to see if the headlines are refreshed.

Twitchy obviously needs help but since I’m no mental health expert, the only advice I have is this: Take a vacation, go someplace peaceful, leave the smart phone home, don’t turn on the TV, enjoy a cool drink with an umbrella in it (or two), and “chill.” For some reason, this year, the always reliable, all purpose, advice of “wait till next time” just isn’t working. He simply can’t see a silver lining.

Twitchy is cursed with a formidable emotional double whammy; he’s an uncontrolled news junky and his addiction is complicated by the fact he’s a sore loser.

Since the election, he hasn’t had a decent night’s sleep or a decent meal. Dark circles are forming under his eyes and he thinks he’s losing his hair.

Several of us were considering an intervention when I got an excited late night call from my friend Twitchy. “Hey Hink, there may be a treatment for my post-election disappointment syndrome and it doesn’t have anything to do with brain transplants, parallel universes or time travel.”

“Twitchy, I’m all ears.”

He took a deep breath and launched into a summary of an article appearing in the Nov. 17 issue of Science News. Evidently, Dr. Asya Rolls, a postdoctoral research fellow in psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford University, just released a study suggesting there may be a way — chemically — to control the negative effects of bad memories.

Dr. Rolls and her colleagues conditioned laboratory mice to associate the smell of jasmine with painful shocks to their feet. Afterward, the researchers would waft the jasmine smell into the mice’s cages as they slept on the assumption this would strengthen the scary link between the jasmine smell and the pain. The next day, the subject mice often froze with fear when they detected the jasmine odor — even though their surroundings were completely different.

At this point, I interrupted, “So these mice exhibited the rodent equivalent to your post-election disappointment syndrome.”

“Right, except they didn’t lose their hair.”

“Go on.”

The researchers selected some of these sick mice and shot anisomycin into their tiny amygdalas before exposing them to the jasmine smell in their sleep.

“Two questions: What’s anisomycin and what’s a tiny amygdala?”

“I was getting to that. Anisomycin is an antifungal antibiotic and the amygdala is part of the brain that has something to do with memory storage. Mice have tiny amygdalas because — well, they have tiny brains.

“Anyway, these mice that got anisomycin injected into their amygdalas before they slept didn’t freeze in terror as often as the other mice. Dr. Asya and her colleagues think this might lead to a treatment in humans that would reduce — or even eliminate — the negative emotional consequences of bad memories.”

I caught his drift. “So you’re saying, if we squirt some anti-fungal medicine into your brain after this bad election outcome, it might make it easier for you to deal with the fact Romney lost?”

“Nope, too late. The treatment has to be administered before you sleep and I’ve nodded off a time or two since Tuesday.”

“You’ve lost me. How is this going to help?”

“It won’t this time, but in 2014, for the mid-terms, I’ll be ready. We’ll have some asinomycin in a syringe ready while we watch the returns. If the Republicans don’t re-take the Senate or (perish the thought) we lose ground in the House, you just shoot this antifungal into my amygdala before I go to sleep and ‘presto,’ I’ll be fine. What do you think?”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him what I really thought. “Sounds great, Twitchy. But how will you handle your post-election disappointment syndrome between now and 2014?”

“I’ll find someone to put me into suspended animation until then. They’ll wake me up just in time to vote in the mid-terms. I’ll be fine. Thank God for wonders of modern medicine.”

Good plan, Twitchy. Maybe you’ll get a better night’s sleep tonight. I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.

MIKE HINKLE is an Edmond resident and retired attorney.