It goes without saying that fear is a powerful thing. Typing it feels as trite as it sounds. Fear is a monolith. The mind-killer. A tool used by some to grab at the things they feel they must possess no matter the cost, no matter the stain on their soul.
I have anxiety, so I spend a lot of time being what I call low level afraid. Worried about doing or saying the wrong thing, fearful of how a situation will turn out. Will I have a job next year? What if the insurance company doesn’t reimburse me for what they should have covered? Is my daughter watching too much TV? How fat am I really? Over time I have developed some coping strategies to exist on a day to day level with this low level fear, anxiety that is always there like the aggravating buzz of a poorly positioned fluorescent light or the seemingly endless rumble of your neighbor’s lawn mower when you’re trying to enjoy the back yard. I am more or less successful coping depending on a number of factors and my coping mechanisms range from healthy (daily exercise and adjusting repetitive thoughts) to unhealthy (lots of alcohol).
To the other extreme end of the spectrum, I have felt mortal fear. Driving situations where it was a really goddamn close call. That time when a kid with a BB gun made us think there was active shooter and the teachers evacuated the kids to the nearby church. My personal “favorite” is when my friends and I ignored the sirens, determined to go out to the bars, and drove pretty much straight into a tornado that moved the car we were in across the street. We all lit cigarettes and said our goodbyes because we honestly thought it was the end. That kind of fear is animal. Your throat tastes like hot gravel and your mind just plays TV static on and endless loop. The stink of your pits, should you survive, is one of the nastiest smells on the planet. Your mind helps you cope with fear like this. Depending on the situation there may be big stretches of the event that you simply won’t remember, or it’ll be washed out in your minds eye, a courtroom sketch versus a 3D movie. Deep, deep trauma can leave unchanging scars and do things to memory that I’ve never experienced, but I’ve found your mind tried to save you from the worst of it.
Now, with the political situation the way it is, my general anxiety, which has actually been pretty tolerable lately due to my exercise regimen (20 mins on the elliptical every day at 5am) has amped up to what I would call a terror alert yellow or a defcon 3. It would be one thing if it came and went but it’s just kind of all the time. I wake up with it and I carry it with me all day. I tell myself I need to stop watching the news. One of my friends posted “hey, remember when Facebook used to be fun?” I sorta do. But it’s been a long long time.
My mom says to do one activist action per day. One phone call, one postcard, one signature. Then you have to leave it alone.
I’m not even sure specifically what I’m afraid of. It’s the unknown, the what ifs. Things I took for granted as never changing seem in danger of changing. But I don’t know how likely that really is. Is the media trying to scare me? Am I scaring myself? Am I able to ask myself those questions because I’m white? What will really change in my life under this administration?
My husband says that we have checks and balances, its just that they haven’t been tested so violently in recent memory. Another person on Facebook says “WELCOME TO THE DICTATORSHIP DO YOU WANT FRIES WITH THAT.”
I had nightmares for days after the inauguration about him. You know who.
I remember when he was just a screwball candidate someone tweeted “you’re all laughing now but what happens if he becomes the republican candidate? It could happen so pay attention.” You couldn’t sell a book or a movie script with this story because everyone would say it isn’t believable in realistic fiction. A dystopian science fiction story or a farce, sure, but not something to be taken seriously.
I don’t know who to believe besides NPR. I don’t know if I am being somehow silly and delicate for living in this heightened state, wincing at each executive order or cabinet post nominee. I don’t know. All I know is that I feel electric, high strung, damaged, tender, and exhausted. And I don’t know how to make it stop.