Brexit blues: Uncertainty, insomnia and lots of anxiety

  • AFP, London
  • Updated: Jul 03, 2016 09:04 IST
A man poses for a photograph with his "EU Stay" hat in Parliament Square as thousands of protesters take part in a March for Europe, through the centre of London on July 2, 2016, to protest against Britain's vote to leave the EU, which has plunged the government into political turmoil and left the country deeply polarised. (AFP Photo)

Sadness, insomnia, frustration and confusion: the Brexit blues have gripped many European Union supporters since Britain’s shock decision to leave the bloc last week.

“I would say I am currently suffering from anxiety and/or depression,” EU backer Mick Watson, 41, told AFP.

“I hadn’t felt anything like this before Friday’s referendum result. I am worried, very worried.

“I am constantly online, my work and home life has suffered. I feel like my way of life is threatened and that’s scary,” added the University of Edinburgh researcher.

Turbulence ahead

The seismic vote has forced Britain to recognise the deep divisions within its society, a profound realisation that heralds a turbulent and uncertain future.

Around 17.4 million people voted to leave the EU, while 16.1 million voted to stay, leaving huge numbers fearful of life outside the bloc.

“Our reactions are multiple. The first is shock and a sense of betrayal felt by Remain voters, many of whom feel that they no longer recognise the UK they live in,” explained Jay Watts, of Queen Mary University of London.

“It has shattered people’s sense of what British values are.”

‘Worse than divorce’

Brexit proponents argue it is similar feelings of alienation and powerlessness -- ignored for decades -- that saw so many working class communities voting to leave the EU, and resent the blame cast upon them.

“Many Leave voters feel at times angry that they are being rubbished as ill-informed and racist,” she said. “The main emotion for everyone is uncertainty.”

Remain supporters have compared the trauma to a relationship breakdown, or a death in the family.

“The main feeling is of irreversibility, so in that sense its worse than a divorce, and more like an avoidable death,” explained Will Davies, from Goldsmiths, University of London

“It feels like a terrible accident, that should have been foreseen and should have been prevented.”

British-US actor David Schaal, star of The Inbetweeners and The Office, said the result had triggered a bout of introspection.

“I am waking up in the night, worried about the future of the country and how I personally fit in,” he told AFP.

“This isn’t just a vote about coming out of Europe, it’s a vote about our national identity.

“It’s a sense of grief. A sense of loss of our tolerance and fairness for which I believe Britain used to stand for,” he added.

Some have turned to gallows humour to express their anxieties on social media.

“For the first time EVER I am working in my pyjamas. I think I have #brexitblues,” wrote Twitter user Lucy Mann.

“Resisted temptation to hug my Polish delivery driver and tell him I still love him. #BrexitBlues,” added Charlotte Day.

Physical symptoms

The fog of depression has also consumed immigrants, crippled by doubts about their adopted country, whose arms suddenly do not appear to be as open.

“I swing between depression, anger, sadness, worry and hope,” Aurore Valantin, a 37-year-old French blogger based in Worthing on England’s south coast, wrote on her blog Croqlife.

“I have very close friends that actually have physical and psychological symptoms.

“One hardly eats, has lost weight, and is tempted by Valium and alcohol as a way of dealing with Brexit,” she added.

But Aurore is in no mood to pack her bags, preferring to “drown her sorrows” and blog about the England she loves, a country of “tolerance and eccentricity”.

London newspaper the Evening Standard has already offered advice on banishing the Brexit blues, producing a “tour of the best food and drink the EU has to offer, without leaving London”.

The guide points readers in the direction of the finest French wine, Romanian porridge and Spanish tapas.

Others are seeking solace in a motivational poster issued by the government during World War II, whose message now suddenly appears to be acutely relevant: “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

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