Like many of you, I was super stressed last week. I spent way too much time on social media and particularly Twitter which generally I find very toxic. When the results were finally announced on Saturday I was jumping up and down and yelling at the TV. I later had to go somewhere in the car and I turned on the classic “Celebration” by Kool and The Gang and blasted it. I was ready to celebrate. Instead, I found myself driving and sobbing. When I was able to sit with my feelings a bit later I realized that much of it was mourning the losses of the last four years and part of it was the idea that I had some hope again. I had not realized how my lack of hope for a future had affected me.
During the past week, I heard from almost everyone I spoke to about how they felt like they could take a deep breath or felt like a weight had been lifted from their shoulders. For four long years, we have been carrying so much. Fear and rage being some of the top feelings with many layers of complexity on that. For those of us that are a part of a disenfranchised group, many were carrying genuine fear for their safety. This is trauma. It has been a sustained chronic trauma for the past four years. This will take time for all of us to heal from. For people that had PTSD before 2016, it is even worse. Their world already felt unsafe but in recent years there was a real and genuine threat. Not an environment in which people can easily recover from their traumatic past.
Now people (and to me they always seem to be white cis straight people) are telling us to move on. To be generous and forgiving. To move forward and not be stuck in the past. This is so invaliding. Four years of substantial trauma and we are being told to get over and be forgiving in a week. Each of us needs to work through this at our own pace and in the manner that works for us. There is no one way of doing this. And like any trauma, this may take some real time to get over. We are also trying to recover in an environment in which many of us are missing our normal coping mechanisms due to the restrictions of the pandemic.
I wrote this post because I want to normalize that living through the last four years was for many of us hugely traumatic. That we can name it as such and process it as such. That the rage you might be feeling is okay and actually a “normal” reaction to having been traumatized. That if you lose your shit because you have read too many comments on moving on and forgiveness that is okay. Take your time. Use your resources. See a therapist you feels stuck at all.
We also know that although that many of us now have found some hope again post-election the administration will not change for another few months so this trauma is not over yet. And even when the administration shifts the baggage will be there and we each need to figure out our ways to untangle it all.
Take your time. Have your feelings when you can. Get the support you need and just know this is all real and it is okay if you are struggling right now.
Take care and stay safe!