I was diagnosed with PTSD four years ago while seeking therapy through a rape crisis center. I knew something was very wrong with me. Rage was a part of my everyday life and was damaging my marriage, my work life, and keeping me isolated from other people and new relationships. A friend suggested that I seek counseling at the local rape crisis center as she knew my history. I had been sexually abused as a child and raped in my adulthood. This foundation of trauma had led to abusive relationships that further impacted my mental state. Although there is no cure for PTSD, therapy has helped greatly. I have also had the chance to participate in equine therapy which was a real turning point in my healing. I was doing well. Yes, the operative word is “was.” I was doing well and then entered Donald Trump.
When I first saw that he was running for president, I thought it laughable. This man is not qualified to be president! Look at all these choices that the Republicans have put forth; many are better than the ones presented the last two elections. He is making a fool of himself! But then…he spoke. He spoke hate. He spoke misogyny. He spoke racism. He made fun of a disabled reporter. He even openly described his ability to perform sexual violence. America loved him. You either loved him or hated him it seemed. The ones who loved him though, are actually more frightening than the man himself. The women who back him, leave me astounded. The man who said he can’t help himself and that his power and fame allows him to grab a woman’s pussy; that they just let him because of who he is. Who when accused of sexual assault did not say that he did not do it because it was a repugnant act that he would never consider doing to another human being, but instead said they were too unattractive to rape. When I see a woman support him or I know that a woman voted for him. I feel differently about them. There will be a permanent distance between us. Always.
I thought when he made fun of the disabled reporter that was it. It wasn’t. When he was caught in lies; I thought that was it. It wasn’t. When I heard him talk about what he was able to do to women, you know, grab their pussy and such, I thought surely, that was it. It wasn’t. The man who did all of the above, was backed by the Ku Klux Klan and assisted by Russia in the election…is now our Commander-In-Chief. He is the President of the United States. His face, his demeanor, his lack of character will now be forced down my throat for the next four years.
His mannerisms, how he points and yells, his anger and condescension, his disregard and insult of people who are not in full agreement or support of him trigger a response in me. The response comes from years of abuse by men. It is based in sexual and domestic violence and I cannot turn it off. There is no getting over it. It is not going away. I am tempted to go into hiding, to withdraw from everything…at least for a while.
Since the election, I have been struggling with depression, anxiety, rage, and isolation. I feel like all of the work I have done to combat my PTSD is withering away. I have read that I am not alone in these feelings or experiences. Others are suffering under this new administration. I cannot open the news page without seeing his face or reading about decisions that he is making that only reiterate the person I feel that he is. When I see these things daily, I can only wonder; how will I get through this and still remain mentally healthy? I’m really not sure. I’m talking to my therapist, I’m meditating, I am practicing mindfulness…I am trying. I am also sharing this, my story, in case some of you are feeling this way as well. You are not alone.
I would like to start by saying that I am not a licensed therapist. I have no training in the field of mental health. What I am is a woman who has PTSD and has tried many coping strategies in my quest for healing. These are some things that help me; I suggest speaking with your own therapist or counselor to see what suggestions you might find in your own journey. These are strategies that I use:
- Limit social networking. I have a love/hate relationship with social networking. It is easy to get caught up in it, especially if you are lacking companionship, but the culture of it right now is one of finger pointing and spewing opinions. This can leave you feeling rejected and attacked. An important thing to remember is, you own your page. You can surround yourself with whomever you want. If someone is toxic, there are no requirements to have them in your life. I would encourage you to make a lunch date, meet a friend for coffee or have a girl’s night/boy’s night out for some REAL interaction.
- Exercise, go for a walk, turn on some music and dance, whatever appeals to you, just get out and move. Being active releases endorphins in your brain that can help combat stress and depression. It also helps to take your mind off of the negative things you may be focusing on.
- Have a pet? Spend some cuddle time with them (unless it’s a snake, can you cuddle with a snake?). Pets have been shown to reduce stress levels. Emotional support animals have been shown to be of assistance to those who suffer with PTSD. I personally do not have a trained support animal, but I find that sitting quietly with my cat purring on my lap or stroking my dog’s head has a direct impact on my own anxiety.
- Redirecting your thoughts through a healthy hobby is a great practice in mindfulness. For me, photography and crochet help to take my mind off of the thoughts that haunt me and keep me focused on the task at hand. Plus in the end I get to create something beautiful…BONUS! What is mindfulness? It is being focused on the present, what is going on right now. For example, when I am out with my camera, I am focusing on the framing, the light, the color, the subject, my placement, my focus is on the shot. What I am not focusing on is a fear that could be facing me in the future or a memory that is haunting me from my past.
- We all want to be informed. As much as I am tempted, I cannot hide from the reality of what is going on around me. Check headlines and newscasts during healthy times. Make sure that you are mentally in a good place. Decide on a time of day that you will allot a limited amount of time catching up on the day’s news. I avoid early morning news checks because it can affect the mood of my entire day. Find what work’s for you, just try to not get caught up in the continuous news flashes and obsessive checking. I also try to make sure I am on the lookout for inspirational stories as well.
- Eat healthy and limit alcohol intake. It is tempting to go on a junk food binge and self-medicate with a bottle of Pinot Noir, but it certainly won’t make you feel better. Alcohol is a depressant and will actually contribute to any depression that you might be experiencing and you do not want to combine that with being weighed down by unhealthy foods. Eat your fruits and veggies and drink plenty of water.
- Communicate with your therapist! Let them know how you are feeling and what is going on. They can help you develop your own coping strategies and offer insight and guidance. That is what they are trained for! If money is an issue, there are income based therapy programs that you can call about in your area. In my case as a survivor of sexual assault, I went through my local rape crisis center where counseling was offered free of charge.
Remember that we are never powerless. There are tools and people out there that can help you get through the rough patches in your healing process. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and make sure you are practicing self-care. You have to take care of YOU! Feel free to share some of your strategies for dealing with triggers, anxiety, depression, and rage, whatever PTSD decides to bring to your door. Much love and healing to you all.