November 19, 2018

Dark Matter: How I Realized I Have Post-Election-Stress-Disorder and What I Plan To Do About It

I admit it: I’m suffering from PESD.


And I’m not alone.

I’ve gone through the phases. Self-pity. Grieving. Reading Hillbilly Elegy. The anger to activism phase—that one I’m still in.

I can trace this anxiety back to the Women’s March, when I posted an open letter to Piers Morgan, confronting his declaration that women should “wait” for their rights to be taken away before protesting.

A family member said I was incorrect when I wrote that defunding international NGOs would mean loss of lives. He contended that if organizations would agree not to perform abortions, then they could have the funding needed for other women’s health issues.

Now I love him deeply, but questions kept gnawing at me: Did he believe his rights to his body mattered more than mine? Where was his compassion, if not for all women, at least for me—a woman that he knows and loves?

Since then, I’ve had all the hallmarks of PESD: depression, lack of sleep, addiction to Twitter, and too much cable news.

Reflecting back on the birther controversy, I was dizzy from the thought running through my mind: Our President is a racist…

Surely I wasn’t seeing straight when I saw how he treated Jews. Did he just put an anti-Semite on the National Security Council? Did he just issue a Holocaust Remembrance Day statement that does not mention Jewish people?

And to add insult to illness, did he really announce a Muslim Ban on that same Holocaust Remembrance Day? As a Jew, I had this image of the St. Louis coming to the U.S. with victims fleeing the Holocaust. The headaches set in. Thinking about that ship being refused entry, and having 250 of its passengers murdered upon returning to Europe made me want to vomit. How could he repeat the inhumanity of turning away those fleeing violence, genocide, and religious persecution, and on the very day that honors the phrase, “Never again”?

Then I asked, “He’s going to enforce ICE raids in this country?” Putting aside the horrific lack of compassion, I knew we couldn’t deport millions of people for logistical and economic reasons. If he went through with this, if he had ICE pull these people out of their homes and detained them, would we end up with camps? After everything we learned growing up in Sunday School and Hebrew School, we could be citizens of a country that allows concentration camps?

And that’s when it hit me. There’s more than one epidemic going on here. Conspiracy theories and complicity have become communicable diseases. It’s no longer enough to talk about the evils of Trump and his administration. We have to talk about the evils of collusion (purposeful or otherwise) as well.

The message behind Trump’s madness is infecting good people. I hear friends of mine rationalizing this new reality, saying things like, “Sure, he’s awful, but what he’s doing doesn’t affect me directly.”

That’s the same apathy that sent the St. Louis back to Hitler.

My response here: Not this time. With or without government, we need to shut this down.

While PESD may have no immediate cure, we can treat this illness by first looking at its cause. The reason those of us suffering from it are feeling worse now than four months ago is because we’re seeing that with every action Trump takes, there is an underlying narrative that we do not matter.

That’s what bothered me most about that Facebook debate and my friends’ seeming indifference. The people around us may not actually be saying, “You don’t matter.” But on some level, they are saying, “You don’t matter enough for me to do anything about it.”

So, what can the rest of us do?

For starters, we can all begin an active regimen of self-care. When Trump says we don’t matter, make a concerted effort to show others they do. When I write a letter to a congressman in support of refugees, I will send another one directly to an arriving refugee. People need to hear they are welcome here, not just from lawmakers, but especially from the rest of us.

Let’s take control of our media diet. For me, that means giving up on cable news panels wondering whether our president is capable of change, and instead, looking at what changes I can make in myself.

That goes for our own media output as well. When I see something inconsiderate stemming from this administration, I’ve vowed to share stories both in person and on social media about acts of kindness. Maybe I can’t change his narrative, but I can certainly change my own.

If Trump’s behavior is contagious, then the way we approach it should be preventative, like popping a Vitamin C packet when we feel chills coming on. We have to be vigilant. PESD is an information illness, so I imagine if we all start with some further introspection, we’ll find, like I did, that we’re overdue for a check-up.


Samantha Becker is a Principal at Fenway Strategies where she focuses on written communications and speechwriting.