One Nation Under Trauma

Photo by Sawyer Sutton on

Last weekend, I started working on a different blog post. I got pretty far into it before my mind and body were overtaken, and I’ve essentially spent a week inert, but for attending my classes, and spending time with my children. Since the attempted coup on January 6th, I’ve been almost consumed with up and down thoughts about the future of the United States. My filtered Facebook posts have been a combination of fearful and hopeful. Trying to stay up to date with the news, watching the impeachment hearing—it’s all how my body tries to cope with an uncertain future. And it’s taken me this long to recognise why it’s been so hard to focus on anything else.

My body is re-experiencing the trauma of emotional abuse. The positive-spins I would share—such as why I initially thought there could’ve been minimal law enforcement response (had there been more, there would’ve been more deaths, leading to emboldening the crowd to their cause, and martyring the dead, as history has shown is possible, so maybe they wanted to prevent that), or joking about the unintentional way this twice-impeached President might actually succeed in his promise to “drain the swamp”—is the same sort of brain activity my past self would use to rationalise staying in an emotionally abusive situation. It’s not that bad! It’s going to get better! All whilst listening to members of Congress who try to downplay the events and gaslight us into misunderstanding the truth, and trying to avoid thinking about the very real threat of reported plans to bring further violence to Washington, D.C. closer to President-Elect Biden’s Inauguration next week.

Everyone is reacting in their own way, because trauma response is very personal. Our responses can stem from how we dealt with trauma in our pasts, what worked to help us feel safe. But make no mistake, we are experiencing trauma on a national scale right now. Many of my friends have been talking about how disabled or depressed they’re feeling, also in a state of brain-fog unable to focus on anything right now. We’re trapped, waiting for the other shoe to drop, while trying to feel more upbeat at the reports of people getting caught, and consequences coming down.

Never in my lifetime have I felt so many people experience trauma at this scale. And as an autistic person who literally feels the emotions of those around me (physically, or as I read their words, or watch them on a video screen), that trauma is magnified in my body on top of my own. Unable to sleep well, and with one of my worst trauma/anxiety/lack-of-sleep-induced headaches.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

I have a very good friend who lives reasonably close to the Capitol, who has written about what it’s like to live there right now. I have spent time with him in D.C. multiple times. I worry for his safety as much as the country’s. I don’t know what to expect beyond this weekend. It’s very hard to focus on even thinking about my final required boot camp homework when I can’t honestly say I feel safe that we’ll have a peaceful transition of power next Wednesday (on the day the assignment is due), and that the world will keep on going as normal.

Up until this point, I had developed very good strategies of dealing with my trauma triggers so that I could calm down and re-focus. But the magnitude of this historical time is too much. I’d like to just skip ahead to January 31st, when hopefully things will feel a little more certain again.

If you’re reading this and relate… I empathise with you. If you can, put your phones and computers away for a while, and take some time out for self-care, whatever that means for you. Take a long bath, go for a walk, get some fresh air, cook, bake, journal, watch a movie, shoot some hoops, go for a drive, play some music, draw, get creative, take a nap, meditate, give yourself permission to feel your emotions. Cry if you need to. You know yourself, you know what you need better than anyone else can.

Good luck, and hopefully we’ll see each other on the other side of this.

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