For domestic abuse survivors or survivors of any kind of abuse, the experience of having a terrible & erratic man in our lives with a huge amount of power is scary & triggering. Hell, it’s scary for all of us.
Tonight, Trump let forth another outrageous tweet, one that actually is an insult both to reality and the basic democratic institutions of our country. He claimed that millions of votes were “illegal,” and that without those votes, he’d be ahead in the popular vote instead of behind by 2 million. The problems with this are huge and many and will be analyzed on every imaginable news outlet. The tweet implies that there are “illegals” out there infiltrating our democratic institutions–a cue for his racist fear-mongers–and that voting is somehow not already difficult enough for many.
Some people may be able to shrug this off as more of Trump being Trump. Not me. In fact, I find myself on high alert, PTSD symptoms making me super edgy and irritable, adrenaline flooding every cell, senses sharpened. I’m emotional. I’m not going to pretend this isn’t happening. I’m not going to “man up” and hide this. Nor am I going to worry anymore about whether the world will think less of me. I’m sick of those horrible sexist assumptions about abuse victims and their reliability or objectivity.
Yes, I know to take breaks and take care of myself. I did that today. I stayed away from the Internet all day–did Christmas shopping, errands, grocery shopping. I meditated, I exercised, I ate well. I took my vitamins and spent time with my family. I made phone calls to friends. I wrote. (Wow–I actually did all that! Cool.) Too bad all of that can get wiped away with one tweet.
The answer here is not “step away from the Internet” because, of course, I am a citizen, and I have to be engaged and vigilant and aware. And right now Donald Trump is our president-elect. And we are stuck in a verbally abusive relationship with lots of threats that could very well become physical the moment he is given power to affect our lives.
What I want to say is to myself and to everyone who is triggered right now by the outright lies and the fear that this man may wreck your future or the future of your children:
1. You are not wrong to be scared. You are not imagining things. The only normal response to this situation is to be triggered.
2. If you are triggered, I believe you; we will get through this; you are not alone; this is not the “new normal” and you are not “too sensitive”; this is danger and your gut instinct is tuned right.
3. We are being triggered on purpose. Abuse survivors know that this torrent of lies is designed not only to disorient us but also to trigger every other trauma we might have experienced in order to make us easier to control. An abuser targets those who have been through trauma in order to use that old pain against them. This, too, is a violation. I am not ok with this. I am angry about it.
4. If you need help, find a local abuse survivor’s support group. You can also call RAINN, which has a 24-hour hotline, at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
5. Our country does not deserve an abuser in power. None of us deserve this.
6. Being “triggered” doesn’t mean that we are useless in the fight against him. What it means is that we need to preserve our strength, but also that people need to listen to abuse survivors to understand why it is and how it is that we are all being manipulated.
7. In situations of abuse, it’s very common to believe that we can reason our way out of the abuse by mulling over a perfect response, engaging in a new way, understanding the abuser better, etc. We know none of this works. We are weeks away from a horrible dilemma: a situation where it will be a waste of our precious energy to allow ourselves to be roped in to the abuse and lies, but at the same time we must remain vigilant and engaged. It’s a tough and exhausting dilemma. There’s no way out besides removing him from power, which will happen with a lot of people’s help.
8. Luckily and terribly, abuse survivors know how to focus in these situations, and how to get through difficult days. We have survived, and we will survive this.
We know. We have been there. We got out–or else maybe we’re in the long process of getting out. And we’ll get out again. If you need help in coping, ask an abuse survivor. She or he will tell you the thousand tricks we use, and then we will all have to recover from this together.