On Nov. 8, 2016, I have a vivid memory of a woman’s scream in another room as Donald Trump won the last big states. As the election news coverage began to announce his victory, I remember turning to my roommate, tears in our eyes. I remember hearing outside my door another girl calling her family, repeating over and over, “it doesn’t feel real, it doesn’t feel real.”
The 2016 election was unlike any other before it. In a world obsessed with information, the opportunity to sow confusion was seized to overload the common citizen with so much information and fear that they walked into the voting booth with one overwhelming feeling, doubt.
In the days since the election, Trump and his administration have played a cunning and malicious game of shock and awe with the American people and with the rest of the world. From “alternative facts”, to midnight votes on Health Care, executive ordered travel bans, the lack of aid to Puerto Rico after its devastation by Hurricane Maria, twitter arguments, and continued investigation into Russian influence in the election. It’s no wonder the world feels like it’s been turned upside down.
For many, the election left them feeling helpless and hurt. Not just in disappointment, but experiencing real physical ailments.
There are many names for the collective fear/anxiety/depression that is on the rise post-election:
- Post Election Stress Disorder
- Group Collective Trauma
- Post-Inauguration Depression Syndrome
Signs of the unofficially named disorder can include:
- Broken focus
- High levels of stress
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Loss of libido
- Anger problems
Therapists and online therapy sites have reported a significant uptick in appointments and requests. One such website, Talkspace, had their membership increase three-fold post-election, and continued use remained high through January 2017. Talkspace also reported a rise in minority users, all of the groups that have been targeted by Trump in some way.
So what’s the cure for this? There are many schools of thought, one of which is a complete and total “Social Media Cleanse.” With threats of nuclear war being tossed around next to hashtags and gifs of kittens, it seems like the right thing to do – to not look at news drama – just to try to pretend like things are normal.
But the current state is not normal.
Ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away. In fact, that attitude has made most of our nation’s current problems much worse. While some people are taking a “breather” from the news and the politics, others are joining together to become more involved, hoping that proactive action will help the nation and their mental state of mind.
More women are running for office than ever before. Just recently, the state of Virginia voted their first transgender woman into their House of Delegates who ran against an openly homophobic and transphobic man.
Post-inauguration, on January 21, there was an incredible protest. As the largest single-day protest in U.S. history, with over 4 million participants, the Women’s March gave a sense of hope. No, the world wasn’t entirely crazy. There are still people out there who share the same grief and the same anger about the Trump administration.
Running for office, marching in protests, all of those things are active – choosing to be involved, to work for a cause, to run for office. The stress is real, and the way forward is not clear. The only sense of clarity we have is that actions must be taken. That’s the cure.