Post (election of) Trump Stress Disorder
I have PTSD. I was diagnosed a couple of years ago when my living situation with a family member triggered me–heart rate problems, flashbacks, high blood pressure, nightmares.
My living situation is different now, and I’ve done extensive EMDR therapy with a psychiatrist who specializes in treating this problem.
I’d been having a much higher level of anxiety in the months leading up to this election, but so was everyone else. All of my doctors report their patients having problems with this. But I still didn’t think that what was scaring me could happen.
It has taken me a few days to admit that I’m being triggered. My heart rate is way too high, I’m having flashbacks, my blood pressure is way up, and I’m having nightmares. Today, I was listening to the news and sending an email, and suddenly I realized that I was unwell. I didn’t know if I was going to throw up or fall down. Luckily, I was able to recognize it as an anxiety attack and get through it before it was time to go to school.
Stress is, of course, a trigger, but there’s simply more to it than that.
I feel physically unsafe, both for myself and my students. I’ve lived through Bush, and while his policies scared me, I wasn’t scared of his supporters in a physical way. I am currently afraid of some of my fellow Americans–mostly because I know they don’t see me as American–only they count when they talk about Americans. I’m a race traitor, I’m a woman, I’m an ally, I’m an atheist, I’m a progressive, I’m an intellectual.
But it’s even more personal than that.
My PTSD, if I may diagnose myself, is being triggered because of long ago traumas.
Pensacola, Fl. My mother’s apartment.
I am barely 18.
I am technically between homes, having moved my stuff out of my grandparent’s house the day before (long story). I hadn’t been living with my mother, mostly due to her abusive boyfriend, Don: racist, redneck, sexist. His son had praised Hitler in our one conversation. Don had once told me he was glad I was carrying to term, since women who got abortions should be shot. My mother, solidly pro-choice, had sat silently.
I am getting ready for bed; I’m in a T-shirt and underwear. My infant son is resting quietly.
My mother’s boyfriend appears, screaming and drunk.
“There isn’t room in her life for both of us,” he says.
And then he comes at me.
I run out the door, luring him away from my son, who is now screaming. I hide in the bushes. I pray.
The landlord comes and chases him away.
My mother makes excuses. For him. To me.
The next night, he comes over. “I’m sorry I yelled at you, but you ARE A BITCH.”
My mother wants us all to watch TV together. Don was just drunk, she explains again.
I have no car, no money, no license, no way out, until she takes me to move into my great-grandfather’s bedroom (two hours away) the next day. He had just died that morning, and decisions had been made.
I don’t want to watch TV with him; I don’t want to pretend he didn’t attack me. My mother insists. I call her sister, who tells my mother that I should be allowed to nurse and read quietly in another room.
I had never been physically attacked before.
Whenever my mother and ex-stepfather would drunkenly scream at each other, when I was younger, she would take me aside after, explaining that calling a woman a bitch was the worse thing you could say.
“Don’t ever let a man treat you this way.”
Flash forward to this boyfriend, him attacking me, and her behind him, quietly saying, “No, Don, don’t.”
This is what I flash back to. This is where the nightmares are coming from. Racist, sexist, violent, hate-filled people who don’t think there’s room enough in their country for all of us. I am physically afraid of them.
This time, my mother isn’t even saying, “No, Don, don’t.”
She voted for him.