First, a disclaimer: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is serious shit. I have a friend who has panic attacks and a soul of hurt because she was raped as a young person. This is not that. This is a clever way to draw you into today’s blog post to try to explain the therapy-inducing political situation we find ourselves in — where our “flight or fight” responses are a daily (hourly?) occurrence.
A couple of weeks ago, I read this interesting blog in Medium, “How to #StayOutraged without losing your mind.” All good stuff, but this paragraph really jumped out at me:
Go to therapy. Yes, really. Even if you don’t think you need it. Even if your mental health is generally good. We get checkups to maintain our physical health, so why not mental health? It’s not cheap and it’s not always covered by insurance, but if you can afford it, get yourself a therapist right now. You’ll thank yourself when the resistance is in full swing and you have someone to talk to.
The next day, I called a therapist we’d seen a couple of years ago when my older son needed help with ADHD and ADHD meds. I left her a message, saying I was in need of a little help dealing with and compartmentalizing the Trump presidency. She called back shortly thereafter and said I wasn’t the first such call she’d received. Who knew?
So I spent 45 minutes with said therapist a few days ago, explaining that the combination of my journalist background/news junkie tendencies, my own ADD, my love affair with social media (recently rekindled by an exciting fling with Twitter), and the fact that I work part-time from my house did not equal a healthy life balance at the moment. The scales were tipping wildly on the side of political obsession vs. work/family/Friends reruns.
Yes, it started on November 9. But since then — especially since the inauguration — I’ve been greeted almost every morning by a NYT alert on my phone, informing me of the freshest hell Trump has handed down by executive order or tweet. Just the number of Facebook alerts is dizzying. Before Election Day, I don’t remember having any. Now, I have 10 or more pages that notify me when someone posts something — all political. And this is a post-loving lot, right? I probably should turn that off, but I worry I’ll miss something.
Because here’s the other problem: This stress and obsession are absolutely justified. RUSSIA. Betsy DeVos. Planned Parenthood. The Supreme Court nominee. Refugees! Park Rangers for god’s sake. We must stay informed and active or, seriously, human rights and democracy are at risk. This isn’t just a boogie man under the bed.
My therapist gave me good advice to help me use my PTrumpSD for good instead of insanity:
- Make a list every evening or morning, detailing what needs to be done that day (broken down into time frames if that’s helpful). And include little real or social media reward breaks after at least some form of real life is done.
- Do non-political things. Walk the dogs. Go to a movie with my husband. Plan a college visit with my high school junior. Twitter will wait. (But will it? No, really. It will. I think. But will it?)
- Plan intentional actions to make the changes I want to see. OK, I was already going that. This blog for one. I did the Women’s March in Austin. I’m on the leadership committee of my local Pantsuit Nation group. I’m calling all my elected leaders. There is no shortage of intentional actions going on around here.
- Be quiet/meditate (she recommended an app called HeadSpace).
It’s time to start getting pedicures again. Take it down a notch without going cold turkey by watching SNL or getting a Facebook notification when Andy Borowitz posts his latest brilliance. Remember the feel of the sun on your skin? Remember belly laughs that made you pee your pants just a little? Remember sex? Remember when you thought the world would be OK for longer stretches than a viral kitten video? Good lord, when is the last time I saw a viral kitten video!?
We all have to fight PTrumpSD together. So turn off NPR and sing out loud to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” Seriously. Right now.
I started practicing my PTrumpSD sanity plan right away. Over the weekend, a friend texted Saturday and Sunday, asking if I wanted to join her at the protest at DFW Airport. We had plans both times. On Sunday, the plans were more flexible, so I ran it by my husband to see if he wanted to join in the protest fun. He didn’t, so we saw a movie instead. Yes, I did read about the protests and the #MuslimBan off and on during our drive to the movie, but for two-plus hours, I was transported to a different land and set of problems.
Last night, before I went to bed, I made my to-do list. I’ve run 30 to 60 minutes behind schedule all day, but it stopped me from starting my day in the endless loop of Pantsuit posts, must-read NYT and WashPo articles, Twitter, yada yada yada.
My creative/activist brain feels better already. We must be at our best right now. And we aren’t when our brain, soul, and body are fried.
It felt OK when I told my airport protesting friend that I was sitting this protest out, that I’d jump back in on Monday when she and many of my friends went back to work. And tonight, I plan to go to a multi-faith “Solidarity” candlelight vigil in downtown Dallas with my hubby (redefining #datenight) while, I hope, my friend has lovely dinner with her family.
I know, I know. Everything feels — IS — so urgent. OMG how I feel it. Trust. But we will burn out if we don’t honor the PTrumpSD and take care of ourselves. Fight or flight is exhausting. So give your cortisol a rest so it’ll be at the ready when you need it. (Seriously, this level of stress is dangerous, says science.)
Pick your battles. There are many, yes. But there are also many of us — more than half of America, remember? Fight on, friends … for America and your sanity.
3 thoughts on “Week 12: How to survive PTSD (Post-Trump Stress Disorder)”
I hear ya. My dogs are saving my sanity. It’s amazing what a long walk with your dog will do for you; )
My daughter told me she thought I was going to have a stroke if I didn’t breathe and learn to compartmentalize. She totally understands our fear but tries to concentrate only limited time of day to devote to calls, letters, or donations to combat his evils. I have been seeing a doctor since Nov, who is very supportive and liberal in a red county. What you say is so true. We need to take care ourselves sunce this is not a shirt battle, but a long war. There are days I cannot handle it and shut down. The days i can, I fight like hell. I know when I can’t handle it, someone else will cover that day. Together, we are an army.
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