How to Manage Political PTSD

I’ve heard time and again from angry conservative trolls on the Internet that they had to live for eight long years under the tyranny of an Obama reign, so, apparently, Trump is our karma for them not liking our nation’s first African American president.  Say what you will about Obama’s really, really not good education policy or his love of Wall Street or his occasional foreign policy missteps, he represented this country with a grace and dignity that will shine brightly long after he is gone.

In his place, straight out of some modern day mashup of Game of Thrones and Goodfellas (the Russia edition) and The Real Housewives of Queens, we now have a President Trump.  It’s still hard to wrap my snowflake head around that truth.  Typing the word President next to the name Trump hurts my fingertips a bit. But, alas, here we are, it is our collective reality that cannot be ignored.

Why?  Because Trump is a man that demands our full attention.  It is essential to him, like air and KFC.  Anyone who has been in a relationship with someone who has narcissistic tendencies knows that they can live no other way.  Jeb Bush called it last year when he said if Trump were elected he would be the “chaos president.”  Check and check.

So if you’re not a fan of reality television and you find yourself just a wee bit distressed with day-to-day life under our chaos president, you might recognize yourself in my earlier post, “Do You Have Political PTSD?”  The next questions that spring to mind are plentiful — What do I do?  How do I manage my PTSD?  Will this ever end?  When will the GOP wake up?  How can I choose hope when I feel hopeless?  And my personal favorite, What in the Sam Hill is happening in America?, followed closely by, Have we lost our damn minds?


I don’t have all the answers, and if you’ve followed me for any amount of time, it is clear that I am struggling with balancing the politics myself (grateful to any of you still reading me, as I know I am a bit heavy on the politics these days), but I try and will keep trying.  Here are a few tips from your favorite blogger who knows more than she would like about PTSD:

  • Set Boundaries.  For the love of all that is holy, step away from the news every once in a while.  Turn that Twitter off.  The snide and anger is palpable over there and really toxic.  Don’t engage in every political post on Facebook.  Try not to jump down the rabbit hole from article to article, each one leaving you feeling more doomed than the one before.  Boundaries.  Moderation.
  • Find Your People.  Seek people out who you know and trust whose values mirror your own.  Even if you don’t talk politics, just laugh and hang and provide moral support.  People you love who mirror in their lives what is important in your own life is important when you feel beaten up.
  • Do Something.  It’s too easy these days to become overwhelmed by the enormity of it all.  And when you’re overwhelmed, apathy can begin to feel like a release.  Sometimes feeling numb is better than feeling bereft and doomed.  I feel best when I have marched in a protest or tried to contribute something towards people made more vulnerable under a Trump presidency.  This spring my husband and I trained in a program to help new refugees relocating to Chicago.  We may never be called upon, given the uncertainty of our national policy, but we are ready just in case.  Also, call you elected officials.  And keep calling them.
  • Teach Your Kids.  Kindness and compassion, always in all ways. Tolerance.  Acceptance.  Curiosity.  Engagement.  Protest with them.  Show them what civil disobedience looks like and why it exists.
  • Consult Mother Nature.  I almost always feel better after being outside.  Sunshine.  Green.  Water.  A good hike.  A scenic drive.  Go to the beach.  Feel the breeze.  Sit on your front stoop for a few minutes after the sun goes down and watch the fireflies. Remind yourself that Mother Nature is precious and needs our protection before we burst into fiery flames or wash away in the ever growing oceans or end up like the dinosaurs.  Too much?  Sorry.  I clearly need a walk.
  • Acknowledge Your Grief.  Most everyone I know who rejects a Trump presidency loves someone close to them who voted for the man.  There is a real disconnect that is harming families and relationships.  Hell, before he was tossed, we learned that even Scaramucci’s wife filed for divorce partially based on their political differences.  Knowing that someone you love supports Trump and his agenda can be a bitter pill to swallow.  Tread lightly.  Manage what you can.  Feel the loss.  Try and find any common ground, if possible.  If it’s not possible now, take a break.
  • Trust Your Gut.  Seek out reputable news sources.  You know the drill.  Some may call the mainstream media fake news, but I’ll take solid reporting and accountability over talking head pundits any day.  I prefer print over television.  Beware of falling into the biased traps both ends of the political spectrum are guilty of generating, and for the sake of your fellow political PTSD sufferers, do not share that crap on social media.  Sift through and find the gold, like this take by Republican Senator Jeff Flake.
  • Patience, Grasshopper.  There seems to be a bit of mass hysteria amongst many of my liberal friends who seem to think they will wake up one day and Trump will have disappeared and our great national nightmare will be over.  And every morning when they wake up and Trump is still president, they are angrier than the day before.  Nope.  It doesn’t work like that.  Every day we don’t hear a peep from Robert Mueller is a day that he is busy at work, painstakingly investigating and connecting the dots.  This is a good thing.  Change your expectations.  Be grateful for the process.
  • Practice Patriotism.  What does patriotism mean to you?  What does it look like?  The GOP does not get to own the red, white, and blue. Liberals are just as capable of national pride and it doesn’t have to involve wrapping yourself in the flag.  It might mean reading some history.  Volunteering for a local campaign.  Thanking a veteran.  Donating to Planned Parenthood.  Marching in a protest.  If you are proud to be an American, don’t take it for granted.  Our democracy and way of living is much more vulnerable than we realized, which demands our action.
  • Go To the Joy.  Find it.  It’s out there.  Seek it out even when it is hiding.  Remind yourself that the world is still a beautiful place.  You are worthy of joy and light.  You need it, most especially on those days you feel the most cynical.  Keep trying.

Mankind’s history is full of struggles and moral forks in the road.  On September 11, 2001 I found peace and solace sitting in a memorial service surrounded by older adults who had lived through Pearl Harbor.  Last week, in the midst of one of the hardest weeks of Trump’s presidency, I found inspiration and humility in going to a museum exhibit around the civil rights photography of Maria Varela.  None of this is normal.  Resist as best you can, to the best of your abilities.  But at the center of it all, do not neglect the toll it is taking on you.

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