A quiet news cycle makes me nervous.
I have a problem. No, I am not a snowflake. No, I am not “triggered,” and, no, I don’t need a therapy animal. What I am is a white, middle-class, middle-aged woman who is anxious. My anxiety has a name, maybe you suffer from it as well? Google it — it is called Post Traumatic Trump Syndrome (PTTS).
I noticed my symptoms the other day when I was listening to NPR on my way to my job, teaching social studies at a large suburban school north of Syracuse, NY. I was prepared to be upset by the latest Trumpism that I expected to be reported. Instead, I became nervous about the tone of the coverage — it was light and friendly. I thought: What the fuck is going on? Why are we acting like everything is normal? How the hell is the world still turning? Why aren’t people marching in the streets?
Every time I hear the words: President Trump, I shake my head. How can it be possible that he is the leader of the free world? When he began his campaign, I had a fleeting curiosity: I wonder what he would do as president? I wonder if he would be more effective because he is a businessman? But then, I watched the campaign. I read everything I could read without the strain causing my eyes to bleed. By October, I was no longer wondering optimistically about what he would do as president, I was contemplating what would actually happen if he did. He seemed to feed and grow off our polarization. He became a monster that we created. And, now, that monster is PRESIDENT!
In November, I made the decision to not vote for either the Democrat or Republican candidate. (My reasons are explained in the post I am a Feminist, but I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton). I think, ultimately, my decision was a defense mechanism.
Since the election, I have had an automated mode of functioning in our new world order. I drive to work, enter the building, and pretend. I act. I smile. I teach history. I talk about the weather. I avoid discussing current events. And through it all, I twitch. I sigh when I push the radio button in my American made SUV. I cringe when I press that red power button on the remote, hesitant to hear the day’s events on the nightly news.
Mostly my therapy for PTTS involves writing. I write here on medium (to my three fans, thank you for reading). I write strongly worded letters to politicians. I troll Trump on social media. I turn down the volume during his speeches — forcing myself to only read his words. I have begun to follow activists sites, and I even began a medium publication where teachers can speak their truth to power, called Teaching in Trump’s America.
Unfortunately, the therapy only gives temporary relief, because the Trump Effect has infiltrated my classroom. It began with red hats proudly worn and has recently presented itself with student’s comments and stories. In December, a student proudly showed me an acrylic paperweight he made in technology class. On the paperweight, he had etched Trump’s face and the phrase “locker room talk.” I asked him if he realized the importance of that phrase, he blushed and said yes. I was not convinced that this student fully comprehended how offensive words can be for many people.
Unfortunately, I have many anecdotes of how my classroom has been impacted by the current political climate. I have written many posts trying to digest these changes, but every time I think that the rise of hatred, bigotry, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and misogyny have peaked, they rear their ugly head sending me back to the proverbial therapist’s couch.
Many people tell me to relax. They say it will only be four (or no more than eight) years in which I will be traumatized. What they do not recognize is that their casual attitude is part of my anxiety. The normalization of hate and fear is making me feel uneasy. It is not democracy or the system that I fear. Ultimately, if marches, speeches, and activism are the salve, then complacency and silence are the salt in the wound.