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What Surviving PTSD Has Taught Me about Riding Out This Post-Election Day Stress

As a survivor of abuse and rape, Sally Edelstein knows PTSD when she sees it. And she sees it all around her. Here are her thoughts on recovery and resilience.

This is no time for kale.

There may be those who can be comforted by chamomile tea, but if ever there was a time for stress eating sugar and white flour it is post-Election Day 2020.

At a critical time when our collective stress levels are at an all-time high, is it any surprise that alcohol and comfort food are flying off the shelves? And that’s not taking into consideration the legions who smartly stocked up in anticipation of Election Day.

And it makes sense to carbo load as this election feels like more a marathon than a sprint.

While we wait to digest the results of the election why wouldn’t we be self-soothing with comfort food? We have all been traumatized. Anguished, too many of us are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, which can ultimately restrict the quality of life and ability to function.

Read More: 19 Ways to Distract Yourself This Election Day: The NextTribe Reader Guide

Election Stress: Déjà Frigging Vu

The nightmare and strain we have all collectively been experiencing these past four years is coming to a head.

Remembrances of election day 2016 are flooding back in true PTSD fashion. They are haunting us, appearing as intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks. The feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and betrayal we experienced four years ago are being reactivated. Because they never left. That election upheaval was the beginning of the PTSD so many of us are suffering under.

My memories of November 8, 2016, are so vivid. The excitement and elation I felt at the beginning of the day was palpable. 

In solidarity with American suffragettes who adopted the color white as one of their signatures, I was proud to wear a white pantsuit to show “I’m With Her” as I confidently cast my vote for Hillary Clinton for President. Those same brave women I was honoring had fought for what has now finally come to fruitionthe first woman as a major party’s candidate for president on the ballot. The faith we all felt and sense of history was infectious. It was time. It felt like a done deal.

In the span of 24 hours my soaring spirits plummeted, leaving me in a state of numbness, shock, and despair that has not dissipated at all in these past years.

Along with his cringe worthy comments, cruelty and hate is served up with a daily dose of disregard for the separation of powers, civil liberties and civil rights. Not to mention science. You know, those things that Make America Great.

It left us frightened, anxious, and emotionally shattered. For most of us these feelings have not faded in four years. The original trauma of what felt to many of us like a stolen election, compounded by complete chaos and COVID 19 was a perfect storm for PTSD to flourish. It exacts a toll on our body and our mind. We now live with unfamiliar feelings of fearing for our safety. As a nation we are stuck in a constant sense of danger, doom, and confusion, exacerbated by this election and its aftermath both unpredictable and uncontrollable.

If boarded up stores in American cities in preparation for riots and vandalism in the wake of a democratic election doesn’t drive you to drink, or at least scarf down a bag of Oreos what will?

PTSD Symptoms in Women Like Us

I have lived with PTSD for the greater part of my life. A survivor of both childhood sexual abuse and rape I have learned to navigate the cluster of problems associated with this disorder.

I now see that same torment in the faces of my friends on Zoom. I hear it in their voices and read it on their posts on social media as I listen to their suffering and despair. The list is all too familiar. The sleep problems and nightmares. The lack of concentration and loss of interest in activities. Unrelenting anxiety, along with hopelessness coexist with irritability and jumpiness. I recognize the PTSD symptoms in women.

We have all experienced traumas of one kind or another in our lives. The physical sensations are familiar. Hearts pound, blood pressure rises, muscles tighten. When your sense of safety and trust are shattered it is normal to feel unbalanced, disconnected, and numb.

These are normal reactions to abnormal events.

For most people these symptoms are temporary. Once the danger passes your nervous system calms down and everything goes back to normal. Most can process and resolve the trauma free from long-term effect. Because at some point life does “returns to normal.” But life under Donald Trump has been anything but normal these past several years.

PTSD happens when there is too much stress in a situation. Even once the danger has passed your nervous system is still “stuck” unable to return to its normal state of equilibrium and are unable to move on from the traumatic event. With Donald Trump as our abuser we are being re-traumatized every day. 

Recovery from PTSD involves helping the nervous system become “unstuck” so you can heal from this trauma. As a country we need to get unstuck. Healing began with voting. It was a first step. We voted in numbers as though our mental health depended on it. Because like our democracy, it did. Then the real work of repairing and restoring ourselves can begin.

By Sally Edelstein


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