Friday thought.

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Taking a break from Trump and the news.

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Other than Meghan McCain’s moving tribute to her father at his funeral today, I’m not even watching the footage of this sad event. I’ve reached a point where I simply have no more capacity to cope with more unpleasant news. For almost two years, since Trump’s election, politics has been my #1 concern, so much so that it has squeezed all my other interests into much smaller compartments.

There is more to life than Donald Trump. I have been allowing him to live rent free in my head and it’s driving me crazy.  He has a way of doing that.  It seems like he’s everywhere, but is he really?  No, it just seems that way.   I think those of us who suffer from PTSD due to narcissistic abuse are especially prone to the kind of hypervigilance which can turn into obsessive thinking and a need to constantly scan our environment for dangers.

Taking a break doesn’t mean I’m no longer going to be part of the resistance. Of course I will! Morally, I feel like it’s imperative that I continue to participate and write about my experience and observations about what I see happening in my country. If we all just decided to pretend Trump doesn’t exist and ignore him, we will definitely fall into totalitarianism. Complacency and a pervasive attitude of “oh, Hitler can’t be THAT bad” or “there’s nothing I can do anyway” is why Nazi Germany happened. Germany learned the hard way but their democracy was restored and today they appear to have been inoculated against another descent into fascism. We might have to learn the hard way too, but I’ll be damned if I become a part of the problem. So I’ll continue to resist and write about politics.

However, obsessing and allowing Trump to live rent free in my head is messing with my sanity, and if I’m insane, there’s nothing I can do to help anyone, least of all myself.

So I’ve been doing other things: watching nature shows, taking walks, enjoying music, and spending time enjoying my family. I haven’t watched the news in a few days because I need a break from it. If it’s important enough, I’ll hear about it. Soon, I’m sure I’ll start following the news again because I must.
But it’s okay to take breaks from it once in a while and realize that no matter how bad things are, or how bad they get, there is still much more to life than the news and Trump. Trump will never “trump” my mental health.

My go-to, one-minute therapy for anxiety and depression.

This is an old video from 2007 showing two cats (they are both female, and both about ten years old at the time this video was made) having a “conversation.”

The cats are not just adorable, but their trilling, purring, and cooing noises and soft little vocalizations are so relaxing I could listen to them on endless loop.

Besides the relaxing effect, I also noticed my mood always improves dramatically after viewing this video (or other ones like it).    It’s incredible how something so simple can improve your entire outlook.

I wonder what the cats were talking about.   Whatever it was, it’s clear these kitties love each other.

If you want something a little longer that has the same relaxing and soothing effect, I recommend this beautiful video of a mom cat and her adorable, playful kittens.

 

 

“George.”

Ogre

Linda Lee, who writes “A Blog About Healing from PTSD”  wrote this article about how she learned to deal with her panic attacks — and the advice is quite simple.

GET ANGRY! 

Yes, get angry.   While anger isn’t an ideal place to be, it’s a much more proactive and stronger emotion than fear.

The other day, I wrote about the panic attacks my son has been suffering from.   As his concerned mom (who used to suffer from panic attacks myself), I’ve been talking to him every day, monitoring his progress.    He’s been getting some good advice from his friends, since he hasn’t been able to see a therapist yet (but is planning to soon).

The best advice I heard of came from someone who told him to name his panic attacks.  By naming them, you effectively separate them from yourself, and they become an outside “person” instead of a part of yourself you can’t separate from.

So he decided to name them “George.”  Whenever he sees George coming, he tells him to get lost and yes, he gets angry at George.   He tells George he’s nothing but a big bully with no real power over him.  My son is much stronger than George and he tells him so.    George hasn’t gone away yet, but he’s having less power over my son than he did, and doesn’t seem quite so dangerous.

Self-care in turbulent times.

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The trendy term “self care” irritates me the same way other trendy terms tend to irritate me, but it’s actually a good phrase and good advice.

I had two days off from work this week due to the snow, and I could have spent that time glued to the news, scanning Twitter for the latest Trumpian outrages (I can’t even keep up with them anymore), and making myself angry, depressed, and scared.

For a year I have struggled with retriggered C-PTSD because of this president and his abuse of vulnerable Americans, which includes myself because I am not rich or conservative.

I could have worked myself up into a righteous tizzy and returned to work feeling exhausted instead of refreshed.

But instead, I took a moratorium from the news and from the Internet.   Reading my Kindle copy of “Fire and Fury” (I’m almost done) was about the extent of my politics-related activities.   I cleaned my house (really well for a change) , organized a couple of closets, and actually cooked.   I spent time catching up with friends on Facebook and reading funny or inspiring websites, and watching funny animal videos.  I watched part of a “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” marathon, and even walked in the snow.    I read one of the novels in the list of books I posted the other day, and was actually able to concentrate on the plot.   I’m almost finished with it now.

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I have to admit I felt a twinge of guilt for burying my head in the sand and choosing not to follow the news for a couple of days.    I’ve always believed if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, but taking mental health breaks from all the chaos coming from the White House doesn’t mean you’re ignoring the dangers and becoming complacent and complicit.  It means you are a human being and need time to take care of yourself.  If you’re active in the resistance, whether as an actual activist, or just protesting online, you’re not going to be any good to anyone if you’re depressed, deflated,  apathetic, terrified, or unhealthily enraged.   All you’ll be able to do is spread negativity instead of inspiration and ideas.

So it’s absolutely imperative, especially if you suffer from PTSD, C-PTSD or a depressive disorder, to give yourself breaks from all the chaos and negative politics and take care of yourself.   It’s still possible to enjoy the simple things in life and even have fun, yes, even in the darkest times.   I can’t help but think of Anne Frank, a young girl confined in a German concentration camp, but she never let that reality break her spirit.  She was still a happy, positive person who spread joy and hope to others, even knowing she and her family were going to die.   Even today, her legacy still inspires others.

After my two days off spent staying away from politics and the news, I actually felt refreshed and ready to fight again.    So don’t feel guilty if you need to take breaks to concentrate on yourself, your friends or family.   Spend time doing things you like or that relax you — listening to music, watching a funny movie, meditating, praying, doing Yoga, reading a novel, cooking or baking, or spending time in nature (nothing is more healing than nature, if that’s your thing).   You are not abandoning your ideals or becoming complacent.   You are just refueling.

*****

Further reading:

12 Ways to Resist Without Losing Your Mind

Throwback Thursday (a day late): My Christmas present to myself.

This was originally posted on December 21, 2014, when I’d only been blogging for a little over three months.  So much has happened in three years!   But this is a pleasant little memory, so I may do this again this year.   What a crazy year 2017 has been.  I could sure use a little self care right now!

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As ACONS or victims of narcissistic abuse, we can be nervous, hypervigilant, and constantly feel stressed out and overwhelmed. It’s so hard for us to relax and just feel happy and in the moment.

Sometimes it’s the simple things that work best and take us to a place where we feel more at peace and more sane. We need to seek out and savor these small things.

The other day I received a gift card for Cracker Barrel. I have to admit, I love their country stores that are always a treat after pigging out on their heavy country cooking.

This morning I had to go have two of my tires changed and get an oil change. I hate dealing with servicing my car, but it had to be done. I already felt better knowing at least my tires won’t skid off the road, even though my car is 13 years old and the transmission is starting to slip.

Blasting rock music and singing along to it on the way home, I remembered my Cracker Barrel gift card and decided to stop by and buy a few things with it.

I adore candles and always buy those big scented jar candles at the dollar store, K-Mart or Walmart because usually those are all I can afford. Those are fine, but today I decided I could afford to splurge and buy a $20 Yankee Candle. I had a tough time choosing an aroma, because they all smell so great, but I finally settled on a new scent called “Silver Birch,” which smells just like woodsmoke and reminded me of a crackling fire.

I also love bath products, so I bought myself a bottle of JR. Watkins apothecary bath salts in Menthol/Camphor with Eucalyptus oil. The bottle, charmingly printed in a late 19th/early 20th century style, says it’s great for soothing colds and flu, but I’ve tried it before and it’s great for everything. It makes your body feel energized but relaxes your mind at the same time.

So when I got home, I decided to take a long hot bath, and just let the scents and warmth of the water swirl around me and bring me into the moment, only the moment. I lit the candle and placed it on the sink, poured a handful of the scented bath salts into the water and mixed in a little vanilla/lavender scented bath gel (cheap from Dollar General) in there too to make the water softer for a little moisture. Then I slid into the tub and literally sighed as I settled in. I lay there with my eyes closed for about an hour, just letting my mind wander and focus on the moment. I also said a little prayer of thanks for small blessings like this.

I nearly drifted off to sleep, but finally, when the water began to get too cool, I dried myself off, put on some comfortable clothes and decided to write a blog post about the bath from heaven.

We need moments like this to validate ourselves. We need to give ourselves little gifts every day if we can. If we didn’t get the mothering and nurture we needed, or we’re still surrounded by narcissists who don’t give a shit about how we feel, we can still give ourselves comfort and nurture every day in small ways like this

It’s not even necessary to spend the kind of money I did today (and the only reason I had it was because of the gift card I received). You can get the same effect with cheaper products from lower end stores. I always find great stuff at the Dollar General a few blocks away Their candles are limited in variety but smell really good. You can also mix a little baby oil with a cheap scented bath gel. At some smoke shops and other stores, you can buy little bottles of scented oil, or even learn to make your own (I’m sure there’s plenty of how-to instructions online).

There’s nothing like a long, hot, leisurely, great smelling bath to soothe your nerves and make you feel normal again, at least for a little while. And make sure you light a candle while you soak.

I’m still feeling so relaxed I think I’m going to nap for about an hour.

 

12 ways to #RESIST without losing your mind.

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I’m not sure if this a recent photo; the fashions seem to be from the early 1970s.  But I like the photo and it still fits the spirit of this post, so I’m using it anyway.

It’s hard, I know.   The bad news just keeps coming faster than we can process.  Some days I just want to forget it all, give up, and shut out a world that seems to get meaner and more chaotic by the day.  Some days I feel so drained and hopeless I just want to crawl into bed and sleep until things change back to normal (if they ever do).

But we can’t give up.   Sliding into despair, cynicism, hopelessness, and apathy is not an option for us, because it’s exactly what our opposition wants.  It will give them even more power over us than they already have.

We are a nation at war:  it’s not a war fought with weapons (although they have been used in isolated incidents); it’s a “cold” war between those who want authoritarian rule and complete destruction of American democracy as we always knew it, and those who believe in decency and truth and progressive, democratic values.   It’s not even a war between left and right, or between Republicans and Democrats.  It’s literally a war between good and evil, truth and lies.

America is having an identity crisis.  We are so polarized now there seems no way we can find common ground, the way we have been able to do before.  For example, when 9/11 happened, Americans stood together as one nation.  It didn’t matter if we were liberal or conservative, rich or poor, or black or white.  We recognized that we were all Americans and helped each other through a terrible time and the trauma that followed the attacks.

But this time, the enemy is not coming from the outside (in spite of what some people believe and will tell you).  No, the enemy is inside our borders, and many Americans no longer seem capable of recognizing that groups of people that are not like them are their fellow Americans, not enemies.   The war they wage is against Truth, and the empathy and compassion for others that is only possible when the truth is upheld and valued, especially by our leaders.   When the truth itself is said to be a lie, there can be no justice, no goodness, no love, and no compassion.   There can only be chaos, trauma, injustice, divisiveness, dehumanization, hatred, and death.

All this sounds very dire, and it is.  But at the same time our leaders appear to be dismantling our democratic institutions and making a mockery of truth and justice,  people are waking up.  The political apathy that was a hallmark of this nation for so long (and was a factor in helping to elect a malignant narcissist for president) is disappearing, and it’s disappearing fast.

Of course, on the far right, there are people who want to wage war against anyone who feels traumatized by or dislikes this president or the things he and his sycophants and lackeys are doing.   But at the same time, there are many, many more people who are finally speaking out, fighting back — and voting!   The blue sweep across several states a couple of weeks ago proves that most of us know that sitting home is no longer an option.   More proof that the tides are turning is all the women suddenly speaking out against their sexual abusers, even after decades of remaining silent.   Think of America as a teenager, who is experiencing the turmoil and changes of adolescence.  If we do things right and keep fighting the good fight, America will pass this turbulent phase and move into peaceful adulthood.

We can’t give up now, however tempting it might be.   But it’s possible to resist without driving yourself insane.  Here are 12 ways to do that.

1. Take breaks.

If you spend 24/7 ruminating about the political situation, reading upsetting news, begging your representatives to save your healthcare (or any number of other things that are in danger under this regime), or ranting on social media, you are going to get burned out.   This is heavy, serious stuff, and you need to replenish your energy and give yourself time to emotionally decompress.  You may need to stay off the Internet or turn off the news channels for a day or two.   Because the reality-show nature of the news can be so addicting though, it’s not as easy as it sounds.   But it’s necessary for your mental health and stamina.  Take walks, exercise, cook a scrumptious meal, paint, read a novel (not a political book), listen to music, watch a movie, GO to a movie, spend time with a friend or loved one.

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2. Volunteer.

This can be a way to both take a break from all the chaos and still be doing something about it at the same time.    Volunteer at an animal shelter, a food pantry, a botanical garden, a nursing home, or a homeless shelter.  Run errands for the disabled or spend time with lonely veterans.  Join the campaign of a local political candidate you really like.  Tutor kids in math or English, or if you are bilingual, teach English as a Second Language.   If you’re religious, volunteer at your place of worship or give Bible lessons.  Spend time getting to know vulnerable people and learn their stories.   You may not feel like volunteering is making a big difference, but it’s really making a huge difference, and you might even make some new friends.

3. Realize we are watching history unfold.

It might not feel very comforting (a famous Chinese curse is “May you live in interesting times“), but we are at a point of history that will be written about in books and taught to students hundreds or even a thousand years from now.   There will be villains and heroes who will be vilified or exalted by history for years to come.   It’s entirely possible that the Resistance might be as well remembered by history as the American or French Revolution.   No positive change in any society has ever come about through passive contentment, boredom, and complacency.    There’s always been bloodshed, struggle, conflict, and often war.   These are the labor pains of history, and we are going through them right now.   They are a necessary part of history unfolding.

4. Tyrants always fall.

History has shown that tyrants and dictators such as Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and many others always fall into disgrace or die at some point during their reigns.   Without exception, these men have been power addicted sociopathic narcissists whose own malignant narcissism leads to their own downfall.   They are essentially self destructive.  It’s true that thousands or even millions may suffer and die under their tyrannic rule,  but such a regime is by nature unsustainable, and won’t last forever.   Right now, Trump is desperately trying to hold onto the presidency in the face of growing resistance, which now includes members of his own party.    His approval ratings sink lower and lower.  He seems (and is) more dangerous because he’s so desperate.   When narcissists feel threatened, they are prone to impulsive decisions and violence.  While yes, he is very dangerous right now, and more likely than ever to something terrible to maintain his power, remember that the irony here is that it’s because he feels like he’s losing his grip on power (and in fact, he is).   If we can keep him from doing anything drastic, we win.     No matter what happens, this time in history is only temporary.  Things won’t always be like this.

5. Make new friends.

If you protest online (like I do), attend actual protests, are involved in environmental or other activist groups, attend Town Hall or Indivisible group meetings, you are going to meet a great many people who feel the same way you do about the political situation.   Chances are, you are going to find you have other things in common with the people you meet as well.   People with similar political views tend to have similar interests too.   Talk to people, and find out more about them.   Ask them what books, movies, or music they like.   Arrange to do things with them outside a political setting.  This can also be a great way to take the breaks you need, and nurture new friendships at the same time.

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6. Resist with love. 

It may be tempting to hate the people who like this president or what he is doing.  It’s natural to feel this way, when we are so divided and when our opposition seems so full of hatred. But vitriol and name-calling accomplish nothing.  If you are up to it and feel like you’re gifted at persuasion (I’m not), you can try to empathize with them and then present your case as to why Trump will not solve their problems, but usually this doesn’t work.  You can still try to empathize with them though.  Realize that many Trump supporters, especially working class whites, feel like they’ve been ignored and looked down on by the left.   They are not incorrect in their feelings, since many establishment Democrats do seem to care more about Muslims, immigrants, or Black Lives Matter more than they care about blue collar or rural whites.  They feel unvalued and left behind.  Trump promised them jobs and pretended to care about them and they still want to believe him.     That doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but try to see things from their point of view and keep on resisting even if they’re not buying the fact that the change you want to see is going to help them too.

7. Violence never works.

Not only is violence unproductive and can get you thrown in jail, it also makes our side look bad.   Worse, in a society that’s declining into fascism and authoritarianism, instigating violence can be an excuse for the Powers That Be to enact martial law or restrict our First Amendment (freedom of speech) rights or our freedom to peaceably assemble.

8. Protesting is fun.

I’ve only been to two actual protests, but I had a blast at both.  Protest events are a great opportunity to meet like-minded people, see creative signs, slogans and even costumes, or make your own.   Chanting and marching as a group (sometimes with a drumbeat) is an almost spiritual experience, and it’s hard to explain the solidarity you feel marching and chanting with complete strangers.  See and be seen!   There’s lots of opportunities for photo taking, and you might even get interviewed or get your picture in the paper.

Here are my posts about the two protests I attended (with photos).

Rally for the ACA (February 25, 2017)

Earth Day (April 23, 2017): March For Science

9. Pray for your enemies.

Even if you’re not religious, praying for the opposition can certainly do no harm.  At the very least, send them your good thoughts.   In my personal life, I’ve found that prayer works.  Since it works for me and my loved ones, who’s to say it won’t also work on some Trump supporter and get them to re-evaluate or even change their beliefs?  I really believe it can.  I pray for them every day.   It was hard to do that at first, but with practice, it gets easier.

Hate won the battle, but love will win the war.

 

10. Educate yourself about history, civics and government.

In high school, I used to fall asleep in civics class (I hear most high schools no longer offer it, which is a shame).   I couldn’t tell you the difference between a filibuster or a gerrymander.   I couldn’t even name the three branches of government (except maybe to pass a test).   It all seemed so dry and boring and irrelevant!   I’d stare at the clock and try not to fall asleep.   But now that our government no longer works (and the news is no longer boring), I’m learning all about how government is supposed to work, and it’s actually fascinating. It’s also far from irrelevant.   As members of the resistance, we can make so much more of a difference when we actually know what our government is supposed to be doing and the ways they are breaking laws and undermining the Constitution.    An added bonus to all this civics education is the history lessons you get. This year, I’ve learned all about past presidents and even their cabinet members, as well as other turbulent times in American history that have important lessons to tell us about events happening right now.

11. Avoid fake news.

Back in the days before the Internet, there were a limited number of outlets for the news.  You had cable news, local news, and network news, and then there were the major newspapers and news magazines.  And that was about it.   In 1987, Reagan dismantled the Fairness Doctrine, a useful FCC regulation that kept news from becoming too biased by requiring networks to include opinions from the opposite viewpoint.  The disappearance of the Fairness Doctrine led to increasing polarization and eventually, the advent of extremely partisan news outlets like Fox News.   Since then, the news has become so polarized that the stories you hear on Fox News (and other far right news outlets) bear no resemblance to stories you hear on other news outlets.   They might as well be coming from an alternate universe.

Things have continued to grow worse.  With the growth of the Internet, news websites have proliferated like wildfire.  Some of these sites are honest and try to report the news factually and include sources.  Others are less reputable, and a good many report fake news stories (some of which may even be written by Russian bots or foreign fake news mills).   Fake news isn’t something only the far right is guilty of; it exists as well on the far left.   How can you tell what news is fake and what isn’t?  Well, it can be tricky.  But a good rule of thumb is to avoid articles with sensational or emotionally manipulative sounding titles or clickbaity titles, and “factual” (as opposed to opinion) articles that cite no sources and don’t fact check their their information.   Stay with trusted and well known news sites that use actual experts in their fields and use citations and references.   Ignore what Trump and his supporters tell you is fake news. They are wrong.

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12. Share your concerns and worries with trusted friends or family, or join a support group.

Unfortunately, even longtime friends and family members have become estranged and even sometimes no longer speak to each other because of Donald Trump.   I have had to block Facebook friends because I could not abide all the pro-Trump propaganda they were posting.  I’ve never had to do such a thing until this year.  It makes me sad but I know so many other people who’ve admitted they had to do the same thing.  Even marriages have broken up over this.

While a liberal who voted for John Kerry could still be friends with a conservative who voted for George W. Bush, things have become so polarized and Trump is so threatening and traumatizing to so many of us, that it’s become almost impossible for say, a Hillary supporter and a Trump supporter to maintain a friendship.   Even if the subject of politics is avoided, the tension is still palpable and it’s hard to maintain a friendship with that kind of tension present.  But we still need to be able to talk to trusted friends and family members when we are feeling discouraged, scared, or depressed about the political situation.  Obviously, you are going to want to turn to people you trust who also share your views.  Talking it out with trusted friends who sympathize with your views can help a lot.

Even talking to friends on social media can help.   As an introvert, I don’t have many IRL friends, but I do have online friends, and in February, I even started a Facebook group (Post-Trump Trauma Support Group — click the link if you’d like to join) which now has 143 members.   It’s been very helpful to me, and others have said it helps them too, and that’s a good feeling.  If you can’t find a Facebook group you like, you can always start your own!  My friends on Twitter are a godsend too.

There are also therapists who are actually treating people for Trump Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Although it’s not an official diagnosis and isn’t listed in the DSM, most therapists recognize it as an actual trauma related problem similar to PTSD that many people (including the therapists themselves, who tend to be liberal) are facing.

Beach therapy!

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My life has been turned upside down since January.   I know many of you feel the same way.    Living in Trump’s America leaves me feeling like I’m back with my abusive narcissist ex — always waiting for the other shoe to drop, always feeling hypervigilant and insecure and uncertain about the future, and something even he didn’t have the power to ruin for me: wondering if there is any future at all.  It’s hard to escape from it.

This week I’m off from work, but that just gives me more time to read the news and obsess and worry.   So tomorrow, I’m getting up before dawn and driving to Myrtle Beach.  I’ll have two days to spend there, relaxing and enjoying the sand and surf.   I haven’t decided if I’m going to bring my laptop, but even if I do, I won’t have much time to spend on it.

Spending time on the beach will be good for my soul, and when I return home on Friday, I’ll be relaxed and ready to tackle another trying week.

If you, like me, are suffering from TTSD (Trump Traumatic Stress Disorder), make sure to give yourself breaks from it all.   Even if you can’t make a short trip somewhere, tear yourself away from the constant stream of disturbing news and do something fun or nice for yourself.    Read a novel, watch a funny movie, take walks, cook an amazing meal, do yoga, pray, work out, go to the zoo, or anything else that relaxes you and takes your mind off hard cold reality for awhile.

For me, spending time in nature is the greatest therapy ever.

Learning to become the mother I wish I’d had

Amazing and insightful post written by a diagnosed NPD (non-malignant) who has been working hard to stop the generational transfer of NPD and raise an emotionally healthy and empathic son, while she works on herself. They are learning together, and she may have prevented her child from developing a personality disorder by using the techniques discussed in this post.

I sure wish my mother had become self aware enough to do this with me.

Life beyond Trump.

lifebeyondtrump

Credit: Me