(Originally posted: 1/20/17)
For most of my high school years, I suffered psychological and verbal abuse from someone who thought he knew what was best for me. He didn’t. His words and actions smashed me, split my self-worth like a walnut, muddled the brightness of my world slow and steady like pollution.
In those critical years when you’re trying to build up the fortitude to face the world as a young woman, he crumpled me, made me spiritually and physically unhealthy, deeply crippled my ability to seek and find and feel love. Everything I have accomplished—even if it’s not much, even if it’s as small as waking up everyday and writing a little something—is in defiance of how he broke me.
I have noticed jarring similarities between this man and our new President, in their menacing brand of narcissism, the sexism they wear on their sleeve, their quotidian bellicosity, their belief that nothing—no matter how crude, how mean—is out of bounds.
Mostly it’s in that way they have at looking at you, evaluating you, lips tight, ready to say that horrible thing, if only you’d just dare them. So that even when they are not scolding, belittling, bullying you, they are reminding you they can.
“I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary,” Trump says in one of the debates.
“I’m biting my tongue,” the man says to me.
I know how to hurt you, they’re saying. Don’t make me say it.
I am not the first person to point out that Trump bears many of the qualities of an abuser, and that his appearance on the national, political stage, let alone election to the highest position in the land, is a trigger for many survivors.
I want to offer you two truths, two strategies for dealing with abuse, the practice of which has helped me survive and heal and fight back.
First, you must keep telling yourself: this is not normal. Your anger is important. Your sense of injustice will save you. Trump is not normal. What happened to me is not normal. What happened today is not normal. This behavior, this appeal to our lowest impulses, is not normal. It never will be. We will not allow it.
You are going to feel like you have entered a suspended state of unreality for some time. I’m sure you are already there. But it’s going to get more surreal. Even people around you who (you know) know better will change. They will adapt to this world that made him king. They will make you feel silly for being so obstinate. They may say things like, well, he is our president. Affix your body to the alarm in your soul buzzing wrong. wrong. wrong.
Secondly: seek shelter, but don’t retreat. Cultivate a safe space for yourself. Find your people. Find your temple. You must become an obstructionist to your own pain. You must know when to rest and how. Self-care is critical, but so is vigilance. Work everyday to strike that balance. Take your baths, read your poetry, and stay the fuck informed.
In his answer to the last question at his last press conference as president, President Obama said, “The only thing that is the end of the world is the end of the world.”
We are hurting, but it is not the end. Today we rest. We lick our wounds. We seek our shelter. Make tomato sauce. Drink wine. Play gin rummy. Blast Stevie Wonder.
Tomorrow, we fight. We don’t let this be the end.