Anxiety in the Age of Trump
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?
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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