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Anxiety in the Age of Trump

Anxiety in the Age of Trump

By Amalah

Amy,

I feel like I know you, because I’ve been reading your blog for many years. I’m reeling tonight after the latest Trump healthcare debacle, and I just needed this to go out into the internet unknown and find someone who would read it and understand.

I’m deep deep in a red state surrounded by people who say things thing “the gender pay gap doesn’t exist” and “employers shouldn’t pay for you birth control– birth control is free! it’s called don’t have sex” and “if you are living life right, preexisting conditions aren’t an issue.”

This AHCA thing makes me feel soul-crushing anxiety because I had a total hysterectomy at 26 and my son has 4 anaphylactic allergies (peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish), and asthma.

Additionally, I’m a woman working in STEM (engineering specifically) and the climate in my workplace has changed so so much since the election. I am the only woman in my entire floor (one of three in the whole company), and I’m disappointed in the human race.

There are no protests here to attend (deep in the heart of Louisiana). No marches or sit-ins or shows of support.

I’m terrified, and I know you have been, too. What are you doing to cage the anxiety monster?

Sincerely,
Stressed

I’ve sat on this question for a couple weeks (and through approximately 700 additional Trump-related debacles) because here’s the thing: I’m still right there with you, terrified and stressed as all hell, albeit from my blue state (although there are a few heavy Trump-supporting pockets). Most of the conversations I’m part of (or hear going on around me in public) are fully in “WTF IS HAPPENING?” territory, rather than the rage-baiting garbage you’re putting up with. I can get from my house to the steps of Congress in under an hour.

And yet my anxiety monster is fully outside its cage, crapping all over the carpet.

I’m not alone, and neither are you, although it surely feels like it. The number of friends and family members who have admitted they’ve struggled with anxiety and depression since November is…well, depressing. The mental anguish of watching this slow-motion trainwreck is real.

As of last week, I now have two children utilizing special education services from their public school. I have one child with Autism and a host of pre-existing conditions myself. My husband’s company (and source of our health insurance) needs the federal government to like, stay open and staff jobs and spend money and generally behave in a sane, predictable way in order to avoid layoffs. I have a mentally ill sibling who can once again legally buy a gun, despite that being a horrible, dangerous idea for many, many reasons. I would very much not like to see nuclear war or the complete destruction of our planet in my or my children’s lifetimes.

And that’s all even BEFORE I get to contemplating all the policies that won’t ever personally affect ME, but will still cause real harm and hurt to other people. I read stuff like this and literally have to fight the urge to lie down and cry. Empathy is a bitch, sometimes.

All of this to say:  I am struggling as well. I have very little advice to give.

I know I need to stop refreshing the news so often during the day and that I read entirely too much political coverage and commentary. I donate what I can to the ACLU, to various pro-women, immigrant, refugee and climate change groups, but it always feels like such a tiny drop in the bucket that I don’t derive much satisfaction from it. I initially dove in pretty deep on social media — joining various activist groups on Facebook and following a bunch of reporters/activists/politicians on Twitter — but had to pull back because the cacophony of it all just wasn’t helping. I receive a weekly email from Indivisible that nicely breaks down the week’s top events with actionable task lists and plans, and I always try to take part in at least one. I will be campaigning heavily for Democrats in the mid-terms.

Mostly, I am trying to simply not give up. To not give up hope.

Mostly, I am trying to simply not give up. To not give up hope. While it seems like another lifetime ago when that word was papered and painted all over my city, I still believe in the human race. I’m very much a secular humanist, and while the behavior of some humans will always cause disappointment and despair, I still believe in us, and that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” And we need people like you in the deep red states, doing whatever you can, however small, to be a part of that arc. Make a phone call, write a letter, tell your story at a Town Hall, volunteer to tutor girls in STEM topics or escort women to their appointments at abortion providers (assuming your area even has one anymore, sigh and ugh).

But also: Take breaks. Close your browser. Change the channel. Lose yourself in some good fiction. Indulge in a hobby or take up a new one. Spend quality time with your child and take solace in the hope that his generation will do better than ours.

Don’t give up. You’re not as alone as you feel right now. We’re in this together. Resist. Persist.

Photo source: Depositphotos/racorn

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Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Comments

  • IrishCream

    Having at least a few people around you who share your concern and your values is so important for managing this kind of anxiety. I don’t know what your religious beliefs are, if any, so I apologize if this suggestion doesn’t apply to you: you might find those like-minded people at church.

    I was living in a red state when 9/11 happened, and during the subsequent rush of anti-Muslim, pro-war sentiment. I found a lot of comfort and support from my church, one of the historic peace churches. My community was full of pro-war flag-waving, and my church friends were a great antidote.

    Many/most congregations in the United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, Quaker, or Reform Judaism denominations lean to the left, and are open and affirming of a spectrum of sexual and gender identities.
    I personally believe in God, but I have friends in church who are agnostic/atheist–they attend because they love the sense of community, the intergenerational friendships, and the social justice mission, so there is room in many congregations for a wide range of beliefs. Good luck, and hang in there!

    • SarahB

      Hear, hear. I don’t like to put a ton of politics on my facebook feed, but I’m part of a closed group of like-minded people where we can worry and snark and strategize as much as we want. That has helped me a bunch. Some of that group are working to flip a Congressional district in my home state (not where I currently live). That feels good too.

    • Libby

      Second that. I think one of the benefits for me of attending similar UU and UCC churches is to remind myself that the kind of community I want is not a fantasy, but a real thing that actually exists, and is made up of real people trying to be caring, inclusive and decent to one another.

  • Angie

    There is new medication specifically for Trump-related anxiety! It’s called Impeachara! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXUlhT3-r0c This is a joke. This is only a joke. I have been in therapy for twenty years, the same amount of time I’ve been a hardcore feminist, and I thought you might need a laugh. The other thing about this video, though, is that it rings true. My therapist- a badass, 65-year-old Jewish woman in CT- has been in practice for over 40 years, and she said, truly, she has never seen her patients so affected by politics as they are by Trump, not in the height of the Vietnam War protests, never. So know you are not alone. Doing activism- I’m more active than I’ve been since college- helps. It helps so much. So does filling your Facebook feed with groups like Pantsuit Nation and blocking your MAGA-spouting cousins’ feeds. Block. Unfollow. Do not waste energy trying to change the minds of people you can’t change, but DO work on the middle. Do listen when people who voted or Trump start regretting their choice and moving back to the left. Give on a local level. I personally have decided to start running the GoFundMe and Facebook page for an ill friend who is on Medicaid and just had much needed surgery. Her immediate family has been in the fight so long; they are exhausted. But I can take over and make the world better for THEM, right now, today. We need to have strong individuals right now, individuals like you, women in STEM in the South. You need to be a single point of light, burning brightly. We need stronger families, happier households, stronger neighborhoods and active, attentive parents being proactive in their school districts. Start small. Think locally, impact globally. When you find yourself in the grip of anxiety, focus on “Now and Next.” Right now? Call my congressman. Next? Shower. When you feel better, worry about “Now, Next and One Other Thing.” Keep talking. Keep taking care of yourself. Keep parenting. Keep showing up. You’ve got this. Remember- you don’t have to fix everything yourself, but you have to do what you can. I’m paraphrasing. When I feel overwhelmed, this quote from the Jewish text Pirke Avot (Sayings from Our Fathers) helps; “It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.” -Rabbi Tarfon, 2:21

  • Sharoonk

    I truly identify your disorientation brought on by being a normal, compassionate person living in a WTF red state. I am there myself. Wallowing in my despair didn’t help, but going all-out politics crazy would only win me loneliness and a loss of friends (and possibly family). I have tried to dabble a tiny bit in “resist”‘efforts; it wasn’t quite as bad as I thought. Also I have volunteered to help progressive candidates in other states (where they have a chance) by working on their phone banks. Speaking to myself and others in our position ..we must not give up all hope. Like Amy, I give where I can, but it seems like a pittance compared to the hundreds of millions donated to PACs. Citizens United opened a nest of vipers. How can we turn the tide?

  • Rachi

    My son was about a week old when Trump won. I was so tired and focused on orienting myself to motherhood, that I was sure Hillary Clinton would win (despite last minute news about her emails). When I woke up in the middle of the night to feed my son on election day, my husband told me Trump won. I was in disbelief. I felt sick like so many other people who were stunned and disheartened. I was in the throes of the baby blues, so that first week after Trump won were full of crying and fear. I am still–nearly seven months later–floating back and forth between states of anger, anxiety, sadness, and disbelief. I can’t say that I feel better (although the intensity that came with the postpartum hormones has subsided). But, I am still anxious. My husband has a green card, and he is from the Middle East. We live in Indiana in a college town, but he still perceives other people looking at him as an outsider. I am scared because who knows what is going to happen … Thanks OP for posting this question and for Amala and other posters responding. It is nice to know others are worried but willing to try to make a difference by being informed.

    • Belle11

      Our stories are so similar. My son was two weeks old on the dot. I had the election coverage on in the background as I stayed up to try to help shift his perception of day and night. I remember watching as the results came in, state by state, and feeling horrified. I was so sure Hillary would win – I mean, how could *that* win? How could anyone vote for *him*? When I woke up the next morning and learned the final results, my heart sank. In a way, I’m glad my little boy is far too young to understand what’s going on. He doesn’t have to know anything about Trump or his supporters. I console myself with the thought that surely, by the time he’s old enough to understand, the world will be a bit calmer again.

      My husband also has a green card. Although he’s from China, we are still very concerned that relations with China could rapidly deteriorate. It prompted him to finally apply for his citizenship; he’d never felt the need up to that point.

  • trickywoo

    I am so very lucky to live in a super liberal enclave in Southern California, but I am also part of an active Indivisible group here. I just want to say that even though we live far away from you, you are not alone. We are not taking our liberal state/reps for granted and we care deeply about every part of this country. We are working hard – to have difficult conversations with those of other political/religious persuasions, to flip the four Republican districts within reach of our town, to hold our elected representatives responsible, to donate money to any number of orgs that are fighting like hell for progressive causes of all kinds. I have never been politically active (beyond voting) in my life, but I am getting out there, and so are dozens of other newbies just in my small town alone. We recently had a panel discussion featuring the deputy executive director of the ACLU for Southern California, as well as a few other local movers and shakers – there are so many smart, experienced, articulate people out there working their asses off for civil liberties and governmental responsibility! Even in the face of the wall of hypocrisy and, well, Evil that is the majority of our federal government right now, it was inspiring. So while we may not make much forward progress in the immediate future, I truly believe that we can hold off or slow down the destructive policies of this administration while we work to reverse course and take back our government as soon as possible.

    Also, re: drops in the bucket – they do add up!! The ACLU is drowning in donations and volunteers (leading to all kinds of new initiatives), war chests are already building up to donate to Democratic challengers in swing districts (via Swing Left and other groups), heck – look at Bernie Sanders’ campaign, based on small donations. As one of our speakers said the other night, “philanthropy IS activism.”

    One thought: if you are feeling brave, perhaps you can look into starting your own indivisible group in your region, if there isn’t one already? There might be others out there just like you (maybe even your neighbors!) – looking for like-minded folks to commiserate and/or take action but not sure where to find them.

  • Ros

    Oh, gawd, as a non-American I keep looking south and wanting to cry. And because I’m not American I can’t really impact much, so… yeah.

    What helps my nerves, personally: the Share the Meal app. It’s a UN-based app where you can donate meals to kids in refugee camps, from your smartphone. A meal is 65 cents Canadian (4.55/a week of meals). Every time I hear something horrifying, I click through and donate a meal and feel like I’ve actually done something, anything.

    It’s definitely not a perfect solution, but 30ish bucks a month (a meal at a time…) doesn’t break my budget, and I get a certain amount of satisfaction from thinking that Trump’s statements are directly causing poor brown likely-Muslim refugee kids to get fed.

    • MR

      I love this! I’ll have to look into it. I have decided to handle the anxiety the same way you are, I try to channel my time and energy into being good and helpful and making positive change in my community. I also believe that a lot of this craziness comes from not knowing our neighbors well, so I have decided to reach out and be better about getting to know my neighbors (regardless of their politics). I don’t talk politics with people, and if someone brings it up, I change the topic. I want to get to know them personally, because when we know each other personally, we are more willing to overlook our differences. I think if people reached out and actually started talking to each other more and getting to know each other in person, we’d all be better for it. That helps me combat the helplessness that I feel at times about the current times. Maybe I can’t change the country, but I can darn well influence my area, and hopefully that will spread.

  • TiffanyBaxendellBridge

    I have noticed in my own struggles with this that Mr. Rogers’ advice applies to all scary disasters, even these protracted ones: I look for the helpers (and try to be one).

    Every time there’s a news story about an angry crowd at a town hall that a Congresscritter has to dodge, I feel a little better. Every time lawyers swarm an airport to assist people caught up in some disastrous border policy, I feel stronger. Every anonymous source talking to a reporter about how they can’t even answer the phones in their boss’ office without being cussed out about health care, I feel my optimism return, just a little bit. When I read that 86% of phone calls being made in the resistance are being made by women, I giggle. Every time I see one of my photos from the Women’s March, my heart swells at the memory.

    I live in DC, so I don’t have congressional representation to call, but I donate monthly to the ACLU, and ItStartsToday (small monthly donations to be split among all 2018 congressional races for Democrats). We support our friends’ Habitat for Humanity trips, lend through Kiva, support indie publications like The Establishment, subscribe to newspapers. Each of these actions is a drop, but enough raindrops make a monsoon, and enough snowflakes make a blizzard.

    We are resisting. We aren’t letting the bastards grind us down; we are grinding THEM down. It’s not marathon OR a sprint, it’s a relay: Run your part of the race, then hand off the baton and let someone else run, and then take your turn again. The only way we’re going to get through this is together.

  • Cristin

    Right there with you. My two stepsons have Medicaid and I’m terrified of losing our benefits. Sometimes I just have to turn off the Tv, unfollow political pages on Facebook, and stop thinking about it. It’s personal now.

  • Several thoughts:

    First, you’re not alone in LA, I know several folks who are right there with you. Contact me at Liz AT millerhousehold DOT com, and I’ll put you in touch with them.

    Second, Virginia is having statewide elections this year, including the Governor, Lt. Gov, Attorney General, and the entire House of Delegates. If you feel like you need to do SOMETHING to fight Trump, and if you have money to do so, donate to dems running in VA. If you don’t have money to donate, find out how to phone bank from your home.

    Third, y’all have one abortion clinic in the state. See if they could use some help.

    Fourth, there are state chapters of almost every progressive group: NARAL, Planned Parenthood, PIRG, SPLC, ACLU, etc. Go on their main websites and look for local offices in your state, ask to be put on their email list for action. Donate. Join their boards.

    Lastly, if all you’ve got is five minutes, write a postcard to your elected official, or write an email to your local paper. One sentence, even! “Please don’t allow insurance companies to disallow pre-existing conditions.” “I support keeping Essential Benefits as defined in the ACA” or whatever works for you.

    HUGS

  • Sarah

    I am a long time reader of both Amalah and Alpha Mom.  Really long….like pre Noah long. I was reading Alpha mom when Dooce was trying to tell me about bands I’m not cool enough for.  I’ve read every word of Zero to Forty during my last two pregnancies.  I have wept for you when your dad died and persisted through deodorant wtf ery. I have also prayed for you, because I am a Christian. I also live in the south. I also identify as a  conservative.   I did not vote for Trump, my first four Republican picks all fell during the primaries.  That shock you felt on election night we had over the summer.  How could he have won?! Here’s the thing though, just like I respect your opinion, I respect the process that elected him.  I don’t call people idiots or consider their opinions garbage just because they are different. Don’t be part of the “cacophony of hate” because that’s how this reads to anyone who doesn’t feel exactly the same way as you.  People who voted for Trump aren’t all stupid or uneducated. Some are! But I’m sure there are some ignorant people who voted for Hillary too.  And that anxiety and fear you feel? We feel it too.  Be kind to yourself…..but maybe be kind to everyone else as well.   As for political opinions on this page, maybe Alphamom share multiple points of view? 

    • Emily

      I’m a bit bothered by your comment only because I don’t think this piece was calling anyone idiots based on who they voted for, or being unkind. There was a lot of encouragement to get out and make a difference, but none of the suggestions were to be mean and bullish to your Republican neighbors. Of course someone can truly be an educated conservative who voted for Trump. You can also be an uneducated person who voted for whatever candidate you felt would be most impactful for you and your family AND THAT’S ALSO FINE. Our neighbor is a Trump supporter with a big fat Trump/Pence sign on his front yard that makes me a bit nauseous, but he’s also an incredibly nice, friendly and all around helpful guy. I can’t even begin to understand why he supports who he does but, eh, I still ask if he wants a hot dog when we grill in the yard.
      While I get asking the site to post more opposing views, there’s a comment section where you can (as you did) give alternate opinions. Personally I didn’t vote for Trump. I also live in New York, which is blue and (while very expensive), generally wonderful in compensating for some of the more harsh things to come out of the Oval Office. I KNOW I’m lucky to have landed here and I know some people aren’t able to pick up and move to a state that better fits their views and uses state legislature to shield them. I don’t see anything wrong with offering constructive advice to someone who is feeling isolated and, frankly, frightened for their future based on their location/community/workplace.
      And for the OP – I’m also in the STEM field and we have a WiT (Women in Technology) group that does outreach programs like Amy mentioned to girls in local schools to teach STEM topics like coding. Since you’re one of three (THREE???!!! OMG) women in your company, I’m guessing you don’t have such a program, but I’m sure you could look around for a local one to join up with?

    • Alpha Mom (TM)

      Dear Sarah,

      First of all, thank you so much for being a longtime supporter of Alpha Mom.

      Second, I really appreciate you taking the time to comment, but I feel the need to point out that nowhere in Amalah’s post did she once call or imply that someone was an idiot for voting for Trump. Nor was there any addition to the “cacophony of hate.” Are we critical of Trump and his administration. Oh, YES. We think he deserves it. It is our constitutional right to be critical. In fact, it our duty as citizens to hold our elected officials (who work for US) accountable for their actions. In fact, I went back and reread the entire post here and the comments. Apart for the joke link to the video (which for some weird reason actually links up and plays automatically in the comment section now) the vast majority of conversation has been directed to emotional and mental self-care and action for progress, something for which I have NO PROBLEM folks talking about here.

      We tend not to write about politics unless we get a direct question and our writers are like-minded in so far as that our website supports ALL families and believes that certain rights are basic inalienable human rights and should NOT be decided by individual states. We are not an exhaustive website churning out 5 written pieces per day.. at best we aim to publish 5 quality posts per week. We are not here to satisfy everyone and we will always have a definite point of view, like it or not.

      Finally, we have always been respectful (including above) and will continue with that standard. Please feel free to leave feedback here because we definitely appreciate it. Our aim is to always do better, too.

      Warmly,
      Isabel

    • vanessasteck

      there is no longer literally any excuse for being a republican. it is no longer an ethically tenable position.

  • guest

    Another blue (or purple, really) in a very red state here. In addition to the ideas posted – all good – I’d like to add: Keep the long view in mind.

    Yes, that’s very hard. It does help me though. Our country survived the Civil War, the Carpetbaggers, McCarthyism, Jim Crow (racism still exists, but it’s not based on stupid LAWS), Vietnam, the Cold War, and J. Edgar Hoover. As a country, we will get through this.

    In addition to the small steps you can take, please remember that there are good people of all backgrounds in our country. Good people will make sure we survive even this deplorable administration.

    • I agree with almost everything you said, here. Especially, YES, the country will survive this. My only quibble is with the word, “we” in “Good people will make sure we survive even this deplorable administration,” because there are vulnerable people who won’t. Just as there have been vulnerable people who have been killed during every administration, including Obama’s. Fewer died under his administration than would have under McCain or Romney, but still.

      I like “Good people will make sure we as a country survive even this deplorable administration,”