[UPDATED July 16, 2018]
I wrote this just over a year ago. And the only thing that was off is that I think I underestimated.
I know a lot of people, and I’ve had a year to watch, to listen, to discuss, to take stock. My conclusion is that most of us are worse off than we were when I wrote this. The range of emotions (and there are many) right now runs from desperate hope/belief in the system (but knowing the fight is a vicious, uphill one) to civil war (and/or global collapse) is inevitable. If you consider all the perspectives, they fall into one of two categories.
a) We’re in deep, deep trouble, but we can maybe fight our way out, although we may or may not be alive to see it.
b) We’re fucked. Period.
Or, put another way, our chances are
I have friends in trouble. I’m in trouble.
Some of us aren’t going to make it.
I fear I’m caught in a vicious cycle. I have to find a way out.
It’s been tough of late.
Earlier, I posted this to some of those close to me.
I want to ask my friends, people who are around me and who maybe see me online, a question. First some backstory.
It has been hard, throughout my whole life, to make friends. If I don’t bother trying to be nice people think I’m an asshole. If I do try and be nice they sometimes think I’m an asshole anyway. In most cases I honestly don’t care what people think. But there are times when I feel like I hit these periods where it overcomes me and the negative responses just bleed into everything.
Lately is one of those times. Been lots of change in my life in recent months, and change = stress, period.
But some of it has been bad – as in, for instance, the mounting stress associated with our new political order.
I know from experience how dealing with politics can bring out the worst in me. 2009 was horrible – it was becoming painfully clear that I’d been right about Obama all along, and that he was going to be every bit the right-of-center corporatist I said he was. I saw this wonderful opportunity – you know, “hope” – melting away, and it enraged me. So I blogged. I wrote, I thought, I reasoned, I railed. And all it really did was make me toxic. I have no idea how I escaped that period with any friends at all.
We want to fight for a better world when things get dark, and it’s so damned pitch black outside right now that George Fucking Bush – never mind Obama – has started to look Rushmore-worthy in comparison. The problem is I’m someone who has never been able to fight, to debate, to argue a point, no matter how just or noble or honest or fair or positive, without it making me more corrosive.
So all of a sudden I slide down this alley and it begins to feel like the people I do care about are having a harder time dealing with me.
It feels like maybe this is one of those times, although I’m damned if I can be sure. So I wonder if those of you around me feel like I’m being … harder to put up with? Have you seen or sensed a negative change in me?
If so, please tell me straight up. I now live in a world where Donald Trump actually is president, and I don’t think I’m handling that well.
I then appended a note saying that I feared health issues may have been playing into my … malaise? My ataxia has been worse lately, which is concerning. And since I haven’t been taking great care of myself I fear I have some diabetes-related depression pushing against me.
None of this really changes anything, I added, unless you believe excuses make everything okay – I don’t – but it would provide further support for the idea that I’ve been off my Wheaties.
My buddy Mike had this to say:
Have you considered the possibility you’re not alone? I’m not an easy person to like on my best days, but I agree that the current administration has cast a dark pall over everything, and has probably made me less likable than usual. I think most rational people are probably withdrawing right now, battening down their financial and emotional hatches, wondering what will happen next and how they can plan for it. Getting quiet in times of stoic strength and lashing out or drinking up in weaker moments. Everyone is dealing with it differently but few people are dealing with it well. Long story short, I still like you and still consider you a friend, and haven’t noticed you acting in any way that wouldn’t be understandable in this situation.
And something clicked.
The Vicious Cycle
As I thought more about my own situation, some things got clearer.
- I can point to the moment when my chest tightened. It was election night, and one of the pundits was explaining how Clinton wasn’t winning certain key Florida suburbs by the margins she should have been. “Oh fuck,” I said. “He’s going to win.”
- I haven’t been taking very good care of myself. I’ve gained weight. I’ve been drinking too much. These things don’t help. They make everything worse.
- Except, it wasn’t that things got worse because I was drinking and eating too much, exactly. I realized I’ve been taking poor care of myself as a response to the stress. I’m not the first guy to have a counterproductive beer-related reaction to the world going to hell, I suspect.
- Diabetes (I’m Type II) is linked to depression, and I’m pretty sure depression is linked to any number of other negative mental health states.
- My acid reflux, which has been in check for a long time, is acting up again. My bilateral sciatica hasn’t gotten any better, either.
- Stress → poor response → devolving investment in personal relationships → more stress → more drinking → … well, you get the idea. Vicious cycle. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I’ve been meaner inside, too. I’ve never had much patience with hateful idiots, but lately I find myself literally wishing nasty things on the folks whose mind-numbing stupidity brought us President Pussy-Grabber. I want the “alt-right” dead. I want moron Trump voters in hillbilly country to fully suffer the consequences of their votes, beginning with what happens when they lose the health insurance that’s keeping them alive. It even affects the things I catch myself thinking about those closer in, people like former co-workers whose passive-aggressiveness and outright backbiting bitchiness made my work life such a living hell the past couple of years. I know. Sounds like I’ve gotten a little more hateful myself.
My ability to let go and move on has completely evaporated.
In sum, then, I find the inside of my head these past few months to be a vile soup of negativity. This is not healthy.
Donald Trump Stress Disorder
Mike’s right, though, isn’t he? It’s me, but it’s not just me. How many others out there, maybe including you, are drinking more than you were this time last year?
I wonder if people with ulcers find them bleeding more than usual. I wonder if we’re having more and nastier arguments with our significant others. Are things that used to hurt a little hurting more? Is hair falling out faster? Is our patience with co-workers and friends fraying? Have we thought more about leaving the US? Are we finding less joy in our hobbies and social activities than we used to?
If we are, it’s hard to blame us. We’re watching as something unimaginable unfolds before us. The sheep got together and elected a wolf to lead the flock, and the wolf’s first order of business was to fire the Collie and set the rest of the pack on his constituents. This means a lot of things, up to and including the absolute certainty that innocent people are going to suffer and die.
I’m suffering from Donald Trump Stress Disorder. As Mike says, I’m not alone.
I have to find a path through to the light. I have to make sure I’m not chasing away those who love me, because if I do I’m well and truly lost.
I know I’m lucky. I have a wonderful girlfriend and the best dog in the world. I have photography, which helps me find and express beauty. I have the best friends in the world. And as of today, I supposed I’m armed with a little more self-awareness. That helps.
I hope you have a source of strength to sustain you. There is a cure for DTSD, but it won’t be available for some time yet.