What To Do If You're Triggered By This Election
As Election Day nears, the presidential race continues to get uglier and uglier each time we look at the news — and I'm obviously not just referring to Republican candidate Donald Trump's barrage of personal attacks against his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. For those of us who have been following the race closely since the primaries, his recent actions aren't shocking — after all, Trump's campaign platform is heavily focused on hatred and fear of practically everyone who is not an able-bodied, cisgender, straight, white man. He launched his campaign with a speech intended to stoke xenophobia by labeling the majority of Mexican immigrants as criminals. In a more sensible world, that speech would have been the beginning and end of his bid for the presidency. But, in a truly depressing turn of events that will go down in history, Trump gained increasing support as he launched verbal attacks on Muslims, African-Americans, women, and pretty much every other marginalized group of individuals in the United States.
Intellectually, we know this isn't normal — even seasoned political pundits have been left scratching their heads and attempting to analyze how and why Trump was able to become a major party nominee. But, for those of us who are part of a group that has been attacked and demeaned by Trump and his many supporters, that doesn't make it any easier to watch. If you feel completely triggered by the 2016 election, know that you're not alone.
Among Trump's most recent offensive actions and remarks are the tapes of a 2005 conversation with Billy Bush, in which Trump says that as a celebrity, he is entitled to assault women; the implication that all black Americans are destitute and live in inner cities; and yet another refusal to quell the chants of supporters who made death threats towards Clinton during his most recent rally. (I'm sure several more disheartening stories will have surfaced by the time this article publishes.) If this election is taking a toll on you, here are a few pieces of advice to ease the pain until Nov. 8 — and, of course, through the inevitable fallout from the Trump camp in the extremely likely event of a Clinton victory.
1. Honor Your Emotions — Because They're Valid
It's nearly impossible to find a group of people whom Trump hasn't gravely insulted at some point during this election cycle. The parents of a fallen Muslim soldier, unarmed black men who were shot by cops, immigrants, women, and members of seemingly every other marginalized group have been attacked and demeaned. Then, Trump attempted to gaslight us during the Oct. 9 debate by declaring that "no one respects women more than me," that the Khans' son would still be alive if only Trump had been president instead of Obama, and that Clinton is a rape enabler due to a widely debunked story that she laughed at a 12-year-old rape victim while working as a defense attorney in the 1970s.
If you're deeply upset and triggered by these things, know that it's totally normal. Also know that it's healthy to experience strong emotions — the worst thing you could do is suppress how you're feeling. To many of us, Trump's words sound eerily similar to what we've heard from people who have verbally or physically abused us in our personal lives. It's incredibly sad that a presidential candidate has triggered flashbacks for many people — but stuffing our emotions isn't the right way to handle this.
2. It's OK To Disconnect From The News For A Day Or Two
Many of us follow the news religiously because we want to be as informed as humanly possible — and, of course, that's a positive thing. But, at this point in the election cycle, we know exactly who Trump is and what he stands for — and I'd venture a guess that nearly everyone reading this has decided who they'll vote for on Nov. 8. Now that the floodgates have been opened, a disturbing piece of news seems to surface almost every hour.
After being unplugged for a six-hour flight, I turned on my phone to find approximately 15 notifications and text messages about the latest on Trump — and they were all disgusting but predictable. On this particular day, the news stories focused on allegations by former staff of The Apprentice that Trump used racial slurs, his supporters' call to repeal the 19th Amendment, and the increasing number of women who have come forward with allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment against him.
I'm certainly not saying that you should put your fingers in your ears and pretend this election isn't happening. But it's OK to give yourself a break when you feel overwhelmed, triggered, and invalidated — trust me, when you're ready to plug back in, there will be more infuriating stories that will make you feel as though you haven't missed anything. Take a break and do something soothing — watch a movie, read a book, and spend time with a friend with the mutual agreement that you'll skip election talk during this particular visit. You can remain politically informed and still engage in self-care — find the balance that's healthy for you.
3. Know That Help Is Available
When the tapes of Trump's conversation with Billy Bush went public last weekend, what we heard what disgusting, if not necessarily surprising. Still, the past week has been incredibly triggering for many sexual assault survivors — especially because so many people have been eager to chalk it up to nothing more than "locker room talk" that all men engage in (they don't). At the Oct. 9 debate, Anderson Cooper repeatedly told Trump that groping constitutes sexual assault, but the candidate refused to even utter the words "I understand" and pivoted to (what else?) ISIS rather than even acknowledge that sexual assault is a serious issue and threat to American women and men.
I've seen and heard countless survivors in person and on social media express that they're triggered, distressed, and experiencing flashbacks to their own assaults. Many have experienced setbacks in their own recovery process as a result of the tapes and the fact that Trump and his supporters have attempted to gaslight us into believing that a) groping isn't sexual assault and b) all forms of sexual violence are unworthy of addressing.
Know that if you're struggling right now, help is out there. If you're a survivor who isn't currently in therapy, there are free resources available. RAINN, the largest sexual assault support organization in the country, has a 24-hour hotline: 1-800-656-4673.
The organization's website also has an extremely comprehensive, thorough list of resources for survivors. Many of these resources are specific to the form of abuse endured — such as stalking, incest, domestic violence, male rape, and military rape. There are also specialists for LGBTQ survivors and those who are suffering from mental health issues or disabilities. Resources like this are invaluable for people who feel as though they have nowhere to turn, or have financial limitations that make it difficult to get the professional help they need and deserve.
4. Remind Yourself That You're Strong And Powerful
If you've survived sexual assault or persevered despite discrimination, you are a strong person, even if you don't feel that way. Feeling triggered, experiencing setbacks, and experiencing disillusionment aren't signs of weakness — some of the strongest people I know have shed many tears throughout this election cycle because it's so disheartening to see the amount of support that a prejudiced, hateful individual has received. It's not a sign of weakness — honoring your emotions is important.
And don't forget that, as part of the electorate, you are empowered to use your voice (well, technically your ballot) to make a strong statement that will go directly to Donald Trump — you have the power to let him know that his prejudiced platform and campaign will not give him the presidency, that he doesn't get to spew prejudice, demean us, or belittle and dismiss our struggles. Trump may have rallied an enthusiastic group of supporters who have bought into his hateful ideas and rhetoric, but they do not represent America and what we stand for. We can make that abundantly clear to him on Nov. 8, so let's get out there and make our voices heard.
Images: Giphy (2)