Traditionally, PTSD has stood for “post traumatic stress disorder”. It describes how we may have to tough it out to get through something traumatic (war, rape, bodily harm) and then, when it’s over, we typically “collapse” into a big, ole mess. In this after-the-trauma-is-over phase, we let ourselves feel all the feelings that we held inside to just get through the awful experience(s) and survive.
Yesterday, a client asked me, “What do I do about Trump? I still feel anxious and depressed that he’s acting like a mad man and shows no signs of improvement.” Two days’ ago, a friend asked me, “Would you write a column about what we can do until he’s gone? I wake up feeling so stressed out that he’s the president.”
Ask and thou shalt receive.
Living through Trump’s reign is like living through a new kind of hell. It is traumatic: it’s a new kind of PTSD. So, what we can do to get through this awful “President Trump Stress Disorder”? Here are some suggestions:
1. Realize you’re not alone and that it’s normal to feel anxious with a president like Trump. There’s nothing wrong with you: he is crazy.
2. Take action: do something. Passivity breads helplessness, and helplessness feels the worst of all. Take your worry, energy and angry and channel it into something constructive.
3. Talk about it, but not too much. You want to vent, but not obsess. Don’t fill your mind with too much Trump! That’s a sure prescription for depression and anxiety.
4. Go out of your way to focus on what’s good in your life. You can’t change the government (much), but you can change what you focus your attention on. Whether you write down what you’re grateful for and post it on your refrigerator or you go through your day and periodically remind yourself of what’s good in your life, focus on the good stuff: it’s the best antidote to the dope in the White House. As Reverend Carl Bean used to say: “Don’t let him (the ‘enemy’) take away your joy.” That would be the ultimate victory for Trump. Don’t give it to him.
5. Find balance in your life. If you hear about the latest horrible idea coming from the White House, quickly follow it by thinking about something good in your life: friends, love, pets, Mother Nature, living in a place as beautiful as San Diego, your job (if you have one), your home, etc.
6. Don’t give up. I, for one, am optimistic about the politics of younger Americans. In general, I find them to be extremely progressive: even though Bernie Sanders lost, look at the fervor he ignited for “real change”. According to polling by Frank Luntz, a top GOP pollster, Americans, 18 to 26 are extremely liberal — so liberal that “the hostility of young Americans to the underpinnings of the American economy and the American government” should “frighten every business and political leader”.
Luntz’s poll found that young Americans’ biggest concerns, in order, are “corruption,” “greed,” and “inequality.” In response to the question, “Which type of political system do you think is the most compassionate?” 58 percent said socialism, 9 percent said communism and only 33 percent chose capitalism. Sixty-six percent of the poll’s respondents said corporate America “embodies everything that is wrong about America.”
Another source of hope to me in these dark PTSD times are movements like Black Lives Matter. Despite having no resources other than lots of cellphones with the Twitter app, Black Lives Matter has done more to blunt police brutality than almost anyone in the past 40 years.
7. Lastly, in these Trumpian times of madness in the White House, be good to yourself and everyone else. Let’s all — particularly we communities of color, immigrants, women and LGBTers — hang together or we will surely hang separately, metaphorically or otherwise. And while our current president treats almost everyone horrendously every day, let’s show real respect and kindness to each other until – and after – this Dark Night is over.