Overwhelmed and Exhausted by Trump Stress

Four Years of Trump Stress

Trump stress means that for the last four years, the Trump presidency has been the direct cause of untold manhours of productivity, creativity, and general function for people in the United States and in the rest of the world. I’m sure someone will take the time to quantify it at some point, but I’m not the one. I’m just introducing you to the concept.

As I am writing this, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have won the electoral college conclusively. Yet Trump and supporters around the country are continuing to threaten and harass and refuse to concede. Ballot counters and elections officials are receiving death threats. They are being doxxed and stalked. And the United States is volatile as hell. Trump is still with us, and the stress remains.

When Trump was elected, I tried to create a website to help people understand why doing that was against their self-interest. I gave it up pretty quickly, and the website name has probably been recycled by now. I underestimated how much Trump’s presidency would affect me.

This is Bob. He votes Republican. This is Bob's friend Sally. Sally votes Democratic. Bob and Sally are still friends, because Bob and dSally are both Adults. Be like Bob and Sally. An issues of Trump stress is that friendships are breaking
It can be tempting to alleviate Trump stress by emulating Bob and Sally. However, unless Bob changes, he’s going to continue to negatively impact Sally’s life and the life of people she cares about.

Trump Stress and Functionality:

I thought that I would be able to use my coping skills and my grit and determination to keep working full time, writing part-time, and building my life. But as life would have it, in the middle of the Trump presidency, my husband went through the process of disability including a year where he had no income. He went through another surgery. We lost our house and filed for bankruptcy. We moved to a smaller, easier-to-maintain house. And then COVID hit.

Like many of you, I found my world shrinking smaller and smaller. Every single day for the last four years, I’ve been reminded of the six years I lived with a violent abuser. Just as I would get myself regulated again, a new crisis emerged on the horizon. I have been recovering from crisis after crisis after crisis constantly for four years.

Part of this is individual to me. Trump caused a strong trauma reaction in me related to PTSD from an earlier time in my life. But even in people without trauma, Trump has contributed to uncertainty in their lives, significantly affecting them.

Trump Stress and Productivity

The Trump era caused people to need to use their coping skills much more than usual. Some people have fantastic coping skills. They exercise, eat well, take their meds, meditate, and are conscious of their mood. Other people use less good coping skills. For instance, drugs and alcohol, shutting down, raging at others, overuse of things like sex and video games to numb the pain. Whether a person’s coping skills are positive, negative, or a combination, using them takes time. The more stressed a person is, the more time their coping skills consume out of their day. Trump stress decreases productivity by forcing even functional people to spend more of their day getting to the point where they can be productive.

Part of the issue is that the Trump presidency took little to no notice of the daily quality of living for any Americans that weren’t healthy and wealthy and white. Every demographic in America other than that one has lived in fear that more civil rights will be taken away. More importantly, they lived in the certainty that their lives weren’t as valuable as the wealthy, healthy white population to the Trump administration and the Republicans in power generally. When you have no hope of equal recognition and treatment, your work suffers.

Trump Stress and Creativity

Every work of art requires gestation. For every painting and novel and knitted sweater and re-designed apartment, we need both work time, and time to think. Trump stress has greatly disrupted the time to think. Some of the best creative work of the last four years has been work about progressivism, anti-Trump work, and dystopian work. This is because people write about the zeitgeist of their lives, and the Trump anomaly has dominated our thought processes for four years.

When you’re experiencing despair and worry and terror, it’s extremely difficult to think about hope and unity and a better future. It’s worse when every spark of hope is followed by a backlash that rips it away. Even Trump Republicans haven’t been dreaming of a better world for the last four years, they’ve been dreaming about a bad world where they have more power and influence and money. And that shows in the art we’ve seen. Grim humor, mockery, dystopia, and so on. Even fashion has given up on beauty. Especially since COVID19 began, we’ve gone from comfortable (which can be beautiful) to sloppy.

Now that Trump Stress is Going Away

Trump stress isn’t gone, but it’s receding. One by one, inexorably, Trump’s court cases to steal the election get literally laughed out of court. The fire in Trump supporter’s bellies to fight the election results is fading as it slowly begins to dawn on them that the election is legitimate and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won. The impending violence failed to materialize for the most part, and where it did emerge, it was muted. There are still a number of conspiracy theories going around, but they are being bombarded with facts and are fading.

The radicalized Trump supporters are still with us. The firehoses of disinformation and conspiracy theories are still with us. And to move forward and make a better America for all of us, we need to address those. There will be trials and lawsuits and laws passed which none of us outside of government and activists have any real control over. However, there will also be major cultural shifts, and all of us have some influence over that.

The issue of social justice has been moved front and center between the Black Lives Matter protests that have dominated American culture this year and the fact that Black and Native voters were the ones who won the Presidency for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. It’s not going away. With Trump’s boot off of their necks, LGBTQIA+ folk are emerging and claiming their places in the world again. Some families will never recover from the knowledge that half of them voted for, or wanted to vote for, policies that were dangerous and deadly for the other half.

We Move Forward

Now the long process of repair begins. Democrats have made it clear since Biden was officially declared President-Elect that they aren’t going to allow Bob to sidle in next to Sally without doing some major soul-searching and changing his ways. I expressed it this way in a tweet and Facebook post:

If someone who has been screaming "F*ck your feelings" for four years suddenly starts talking all "Sally and Bob can get along now", it's because they don't think they'll be able to bully you out of the conversation or out of existence any more and want you to forget the last four years. Don't.
Don’t let yourself be Sally and Bob’d

This is not to say that Bob can’t re-enter the good graces of Sally and her people. But he’ll have to work at it. He’ll have to own, apologize, and repair for the harm he did. And Sally will have to have excellent boundaries to stop any efforts by Bob and his people to sweep everything under the rug.

Here’s another answer to the Bob and Sally meme:

a variation on the Bob and Sally meme
This is the subtext of the original Bob and Sally meme

As Biden says, after Trump stress, we’re going to build back better. We’re not just going to rebuild our physical infrastructure, we’re going to rebuild our social, cultural, and economic infrastructure. And no, we should not be Bob and Sally playing nice. Bob needs to do some serious own, apologize, repair work before that will happen. 

And I Address the Issue

I’ve decided that my role, in addition to treating my individual therapy participants, will be to teach (white) people to reach white people who voted for Trump and influence them to understand why what they did was hurtful, how it not only hurt others but also hurt them, and how they can move forward as better people. As part of this work, I will be helping people with boundaries. I am planning posts about effective communications. I am using TikTok and YouTube and Twitter and Facebook to reach out to people.

I’m still writing about the same stuff. Now, however, my writing is centered around information that is both personally useful and useful to help you convince others to vote for their own interests.  To be clear, I am saying that voting for the Democrats in the US, given the alternatives, is in the best interests of all Americans. If you want to also influence the Democratic party, what I write here can teach you how to do that as well. 

I acknowledge that I have executive function issues due to post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and traumatic brain injury which mean that my ability to function and be creative waxes and wanes on a regular basis. There is no publishing schedule. I’m not making any promises about how often I’ll post.

Thank you

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