I never thought I would find anything to appreciate about Donald Trump. Over the last few months, I’ve been nothing short of traumatized by his presence in the election and then in the esteemed office of President of the United States. And while I continue to be on his every move like flies on poop, I have noticed that – in a shocking twist appropriate for reality TV – Trump has actually helped my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The Challenge to Change My Thinking
During one of my recent Weight Watchers meetings, the leader told us about one of the videos that Oprah Winfrey does for the company. She proposed that we change our thinking from negative messages to positive. For example, one statement could be, “Geez, I’m exhausted.” A revised and more positive statement could be, “I am really looking forward to getting a good rest tonight.”
Of course, I had to make fun of this thinking style. “I’m not constipated. Instead, I am looking forward to my next productive dump.”
I made fun of it for two reasons. First, out of entertainment value, and second, because I felt uncomfortable. I’m okay with discomfort (except constipation, really), because this feeling means that I’m learning something.
Then a powerful and surprising thought occurred to me: Trump has actually helped my PTSD.
The Trump Election Helped Me Process Through PTSD
I’m not saying the last several months have been all sunshine and roses, friends. In fact, quite the opposite. I even wrote about how the election actually mirrored my abuse story. I was completely traumatized, as all survivors of sexual abuse, assault, and domestic violence seem to be by him and his actions.
Because Trump is everywhere – and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon – I am forced to come up right against my trauma, in all of its razor sharp edges. Like it or not, I have had to come to terms with the choices of either being constantly re-traumatized for four years (minimum, God forbid), or to find healthy ways to cope.
I didn’t know if I could do that. Now, I do.
Noticing Healing Through (Lack of ) Triggers
I’ve had a few conversations about Trump’s rise to the Presidency and his Electoral College (not popular vote) win over Clinton. Only a few, because logic and emotion do not seem to go hand-in-hand (yes, even for me).
I experienced one of these conversations during my December visit to my Lady Parts Doctor. As he did his business, he talked about how terrible Hillary Clinton is as a person and her track record for lying and generally just how terrible our choices were for President.
As a survivor of sexual abuse, I know two things: a visit to the Lady Parts Doctor is traumatic and I really need to avoid stressful conversations during these appointments.
Yeah, I totally disregarded that. I don’t know what I was thinking. Except that I wasn’t thinking. I felt bruised and vulnerable and needed to talk with anyone I thought might hear me. And my Lady Parts Doctor is awesome. I’ve known him for more than 20 years. He saved my life and the lives of both my children. We’ve had amazing conversations and we continue to have this incredible bond.
So I listened to him for awhile – because I had brought it up – and then tuned him out. When I left the appointment, we parted on friendly terms, as always. We had commiserated and even disagreed and we were still okay. And I noticed something incredible:
I had not been triggered at all by that conversation. I was not faking any friendly feeling or action toward him.
For someone who has been PTSD-triggered by a scent, sound, smell, or sight in the past, the fact that I wasn’t triggered at all is AMAZEBALLS PROGRESS. This gives me hope in my recovery process.
Finding the Power to Fight Back
While this absence of a trigger (when in my opinion it should have happened) is hopeful, there are other parts of my PTSD-brain that continue to freak out. I have had more suicidal thoughts – random, uncontrollable, about once a month – in the last three months than in my previous 15 years.
And the nightmares. Oy, the nightmares. In my perception, they mostly happen when I am waking up, so I remember them. Except one morning, I noticed something amazeballs in my nightmares and put it on Facebook:
If I can fight back in my nightmares, I can fight for myself in real life.
I’m tired of feeling like a victim thanks to this chaotic man and his weird behavior. I’m not a victim. I’m a survivor and a writer and a grown ass woman.
And as difficult as the last few months have been, Trump has not done any permanent damage to my brain.
He has only shown me that I am stronger than ever.
A Funny and Poignant Grief Book
For twenty years, I thought that I had been marching through the stages of grief in a straight line. I had been following the formula, crossing each processed grief experience off my list.
Except that I was totally deluded. And I didn’t discover that until Jim, my beloved father-in-law, died. I found myself drying off from my shower the morning after his death, really hoping he couldn’t see me naked. Or, if he could, that he was averting his eyes.
From that moment, my path through grief resembled a roller coaster, spiraling and twisting and turning, circling back around. Echoes of past trauma, including childhood abuse and cheating death, would no longer be ignored. I somehow needed to get from the beginning to the end of this grief adventure, and I don’t have a good sense of direction.
But what is always present during a journey through grief, regardless of the path chosen?
Caskets From Costco is a funny grief book that demonstrates the certainty of hope and healing in an uncertain and painful world.