This is no day for Kale.
There may be those who can be comforted by Chamomile tea but if ever there was a time for stress eating sugar and white flour it is Election Day 2020.
On a critical day like today when our collective stress levels are at an all-time high, is it any surprise that alcohol and comfort food is flying off the shelves? And that’s not taking into consideration the legions who have smartly stocked up in anticipation of today.
And it makes sense to carbo-load as this election feels like more a marathon than a sprint.
While we wait to digest the results of the election why wouldn’t we be self-soothing with comfort food? We have all been traumatized. Anguished, too many of us are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder which can ultimately restrict the quality of life and ability to function.
The nightmare and strain we have all collectively been experiencing these past 4 years is coming to a head. And being retriggered.
Remembrances of Election Day 2016 are flooding back in true PTSD fashion.
They are haunting us, appearing as intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks. The feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and betrayal we experienced 4 years ago are being reactivated.
Because they never left. That upheaval was the beginning of the PTSD we are all suffering under.
Fade From White To Black
My memories of November 8, are so vivid. The excitement and elation and I felt were palpable.
In solidarity with American suffragettes who adopted the color white as one of their signatures, I was proud to wear a white pantsuit to show “I’m With Her” as I confidently cast my vote for Hillary Clinton for President. Those same brave women I was honoring had fought for what has now finally come to fruition – the first woman as a major party’s candidate for president on the ballot. The faith we all felt and the sense of history were infectious.
It was time. It felt like a done deal.
In the span of 24 hours, my soaring spirits plummeted, leaving me in a state of numbness, shock, and despair that has not dissipated in 4 year’s time. In a flash, my world faded from white to dark. Four years later our worst fears about a Trump Presidency have come to full fruition.
Along with his cringe-worthy comments, cruelty and hate are served up with a daily dose of disregard for the separation of powers, civil liberties, and civil rights. Not to mention science. You know, those things that Make America Great.
It left us frightened, anxious, and emotionally shattered.
For most of us, these feelings have not faded in 4 years.
The original trauma of a stolen election compounded by complete chaos and COVID 19 was a perfect storm for PTSD to flourish. It has exacted a toll on our bodies and our minds. We now live with unfamiliar feelings of fearing for our safety. As a nation we are stuck in a constant sense of danger, doom, and confusion, now exacerbated by the election and its aftermath both unpredictable and uncontrollable.
If boarded up stores in American cities in preparation for riots and vandalism in the wake of a democratic election doesn’t drive you to drink, or at least scarf down a bag of Oreos what will?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
I have lived with PTSD for the greater part of my life. As a survivor of both childhood sexual abuse and rape, I have learned to navigate the cluster of difficult problems associated with this disorder. As someone with a dissociative disorder, it has saved me from some suffering but it exacts a high price in return.
I now see the same torment on the faces of my friends on zoom. I hear it in their voices and read it in their posts on social media as I listen to their despair and suffering. The list is all too familiar. The sleep problems and nightmares. The lack of concentration, and loss of interest in activities. The feeling of betrayal. Unrelenting anxiety, along with hopelessness coexist with irritability and jumpiness. I recognize the symptoms of PTSD.
We have all experienced traumas of one kind or another in our lives.
When your sense of safety and trust is shattered it is normal to feel unbalanced, disconnected, and numb. It’s common to have nightmares, be fearful, and find it difficult to stop replaying events in your mind of what has happened. The physical feelings are familiar. Heart pounds, blood pressure rising, muscles tightening.
These are normal reactions to abnormal events.
For most people, these symptoms are temporary. Once the danger passes your nervous system calms down and everything goes back to normal. Because at some point life does “returns to normal.” But life under Trump has been anything but normal.
PTSD happens when there is too much stress in a situation. Even if the danger has passed your nervous system is still “stuck” unable to return to its normal state of balance and are unable to move on from the event.
With Trump as our abuser, we are being retraumatized every day. It was immediate. From the day of his inauguration, there has been no let-up. In fact, it has accelerated on a daily basis.
Recovery from PTSD involves helping the nervous system become “unstuck” so you can heal from this trauma.
We need to get unstuck.
Healing can begin with voting. It is the first step. Vote like your mental health depends on it. Because like our democracy, it does.
It is the only way we will survive. And get back to eating healthy.
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2020.
I am honored to be included in “Not Normal- Art in the Age of Trump.” This timely book is a densely rich visual protest featuring 147 artists with over 350 works astutely amassed by curator Karen Gutfreund. The abundance of artwork is accompanied by equally gripping essays.
“Not Normal Art in the Age of Trump” by Karen M. Gutfreund is available on Amazon
After 2016 the stress and the trauma was immediate and there has been no let up only an acceleration