Today is first time in many months that I am not being overwhelmed by every political ad, statement, or interview I see or hear. I now understand why I have been so down these last few months. The aha moment of realizing exactly what was upsetting me did not take the pain, confusion, or sadness away; but it gave me a way to deal with it. Acknowledgement of abuse is extremely important for healing. Recognition that there is nothing wrong with me, and I am reacting to real and hurtful stimuli is quite freeing.
Unfortunately one of the earliest and most ingrained responses to any anger or accusation for me, and for many others who experienced shaming, reprimands for others actions, or redirected aggression when the family or group was under stress, is to go inside myself, to turn off conscious perception of the abuse or attack. This may seem ludicrous to someone who has not been there. In fact it is a survival mechanism that helped me get through some of the worst incidents in and moments of my life. I learned that if I react, step out of my place, and in some cases do not attempt to sooth the perpetrator of the psychic or physical violence, the pain and abuse will only escalate. This became generalized and was just one of many tools in my toolkit to handle stress. Under prolonged attack I began to revert.
I had not been triggered by misogynistic, threatening language, or physical posturing, for many years until just a couple months ago. I thought I had freed myself of the baggage that accompanied me long after the abuse and assaults ended. I found myself incapable of writing, having any motivation, of wanting to even try to “do” anything. I was tired of fighting the lunacy. I wanted to just give up and not think about what was going on in the world.
Perhaps I should have”just” ignored the political season’s statements, that incited hatred and violence against seemingly everyone who was not white, Christian, and male. If I was less of a political junkie or less of a culture watcher I might have been able to do so. But I am a person who examines how we create meaning in our lives as well as a politically progressive person. And I am also someone who has dealt with life-long atypical depression, and many of the symptoms of PTSD.
Yesterday, Sunday morning, October 9th, I awakened after having slept through the night – for the first time in months. I realized then, literally in an instant, that the turn around of the past few days by political leaders in the Republican Party and the media means that the fear mongering and fascistic statements were probably coming to a close. That those and reprehensible bullies and corporate level thugs are probably going to stop being lauded as the new normal. This has been going on for a long time. For a reminder of the misogyny endemic in 21st Century politics, watch Shut Up and Sing, a Dixie Chick documentary.
I realized that I had been under attack. Every one of the hate-filled comments or calls to violence felt personal. These people were explicitly and implicitly bullying and calling for violence against people just like me. Just like me… yes, that means me. They cut into my very soul and ripped down to a vulnerable core. Throughout the Trump & Co. misogyny, the calls to violence, and the abject aloofness morphed into support shown by Republican Party, House, and Senate Members for Trump and his Neo-Fascist followers, a once healed and pretty whole person began to recall voices and images from my past.
I heard the frightened little girl I had once been, simpering and whimpering from un-needed medical tests because I played along with my mother’s mental illness that demanded that I never contradict her or authorities. I heard the pleading former selves, of the young teen who was introduced to sex through rape, and the shock and horror of twenty-something who awoke to a live-in boyfriend raping her. But more than anything else I remembered being threatened on the street with hanging by teenage son of a local “Freeper.”
Freepers morphed into Tea Partiers who morphed into Trump supporters. My home city was a test-case, a proving-ground, for these the brown-shirted tactics to which we have been subjected on a national level ever since Mitch McConnell demanded lock-step refusal to govern as long as Obama was in the Whitehouse.
Vice President Joe Biden told the author that during the transition, “seven different Republican Senators” told him that “McConnell had demanded unified resistance.” This was after the 2008 election but before Obama and Biden took office. – Greg Sargent quoted by Jonathan Capehart in “Republicans had it in for Obama before Day 1.”
Yes this has been going on for a while. Even the best of us can grow weary. But together we are strong. When we fall we are picked up by sisters who carry us along and keep on moving forward. If we seem exuberant, we are. The cage-doors are lifting.
Yesterday morning I awakened and was back in touch with my feisty self, the self who speaks truth to power, the self who heard the voices of all her sisters of the world shouting,
“I’m a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has Value!” as well as the more infamous word that follow: ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.” But I think the Dixie Chicks said it best.
I had lived with abuse and the fear that accompanies it, this breakdown in our society felt like the breakdowns I had experienced in families and relationships, and survived it. And I had survived the early formation of the sickness impacting our country, and I helped to warn against it. The incessant harassment and haranguing of the couple of years had gotten to me; it knocked me down. But just like every woman who has ever had to get back up, I realized that I am powerful and will not take one more political POS from any bully, misogynist, or criminal. Thank you sisters of the world, you have helped me find my way back.
Now we just need to vote and have lady liberty squarely kick those who assaulted her squarely in the gonads! By “those” I mean Trump, McConnell, Ryan, and every Republican who stood with them, or Democrat who remained silent or acquiesced to their decidedly un-American activities that hearken back to the vile days of McCarthy.
I remember well when Bush Jr went after the Dixie Chicks. I am not someone who gets “triggered” but I do get royally PISSED and all this misogyny has made me really PISSED OFF. Now that I have seen some of the views of people I know I can’t unsee them and it has shocked me to my core.
Yes, I understand. Unseeing is not possible and we must make seeing have meaning by knowing and doing.
I’m so pleased you are feeling better. I’m watching the election campaign with interest from Australia and it can be like a circus at times. PTSD is no fun as my husband has that condition from the Vietnam War.. Keep well and thank you for sharing your story as others will definitely gain comfort from it.
Thank you so much Sue. It must seem bizarre and ludicrous from outside the US as it seems like a clown car crashed and disgorged its contents from the vantage here. Real PTSD from war it horrific, I’m so sorry to hear your husband has to deal with it. My brother had PTSD from Vietnam and it was hard to watch, stand-by, and support through. I hope my story helps. We must share our stories.
Yes, this world is a political nightmare for sure. At times, it seems all to overwhelming. I like your attitude and this post is so well written! Thank you for sharing.
I think women of ALL political flavors must lead us out of this mess. I try to be informed and aware and to be as judicious in my words as I can. I’ve gotten better through time.
I’ve been calling this a Trumpression. I am trying hard to not feel like a victim of the election coverage, but to feel empowered, to rise up and use my voice. We can make a difference on so many levels this time.
Hi Kim! I too try not to think from a victim mindset. It brings nothing good with it. I try to voice what I am thinking, and how I cope, and share the message that we can get through it all and live productive lives. That is why I wrote this, and we can and do and will continue to make a difference.
Kathy @ SMART Living 365
Hi Nancy! I am sure my annoying positivity has been grating on your nerves for these last several months but honestly, it is the way I deal with the same assault as you describe. While I’ve been fairly fortunate and not been physically and mentally attacked as you describe, even I have been sickened by all of the overt hate and violence everywhere these days. You are not alone. Fortunately, like you say I do feel a lightening to things but I also pray that we all stay focused enough to make sure it doesn’t change. AND to make sure that we make changes on the local and regional levels too. ~Kathy
Oh Kathy you do not grate! Usually I am pretty upbeat too. But the important message, as you say, is to keep focused, aware, and active.
Interesting how the political issues have been overshadowed by the bigger issues of the treatment of women. It’s a conversation that American has finally been forced to have. And, the irony is that the opposition is a woman.
Until we address patriarchal, misogynist, racist, classist, and most other sits and isms, together we won’t be able to make much progress. Any thumb on the scale unbalances the whole system.
Jilly Jesson Smyth
‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.” –
I filled out my ballot today and voted for Hillary and the local Judges as best as I can discern. Thank you Nancy for voicing in writing why I resonate so much with you. Hearing Trump’s crap has brought back so many attacks and memories that have been difficult and that I still deal with now. I have had my tires slashed, been attacked on the phone and in my home, things important to me stolen, teachers uncaring when presented with an “accident prone” student ignored.
I am now writing and documenting in journal form a powerful transition. You would not think that this would be an issue from a smart granddaughter of the Director of the Michigan Health Department and past President of the Michigan Dental Association, but there it is, glaring in my face with who I have in my life now.
The anger comes up again as a professional business women who has been driven to report abusive behavior in the workplace. It has to stop and I hope that there are enough women who want things to change and are courageous enough to be disgusted by this behavior. Gaslighting and subtle degrading manipulations can be hard to spot until an awakening happens.
I am a positive person who has friends and family who have committed suicide or suffered because no one cared enough,
You inspire me Nancy, XO Jilly