The texts started coming in early the morning of the Biden-Harris Inauguration.
“Today is the day!”
“We’ve waited for this and it’s finally here!”
Later in the day, after Trump exited the White House and boarded his plane, the social media posts started. “I can finally breathe,” so many of them said. “He’s really gone.” Then, I got a few texts asking, “Are you so excited?”
“Yes!” I wrote and immediately deleted before pressing send.
“Yup,” I tried next, but I deleted that one as well.
I settled on, “I’ll get there,” which was the most honest and optimistic reply I could muster.
I just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t share the same joy. My chest wasn’t lighter. Instead, I felt sad and maybe even scared. Seeing all the joy around me, I started to wonder why I didn't feel it. Is something wrong with me? Then it hit me.
I think I have PTSD: Post Trump Stress Disorder.
For anyone who has been in an abusive relationship, or comes from an abusive home, being exposed to abuse again can bring up a lot of old feelings and triggers. You’ve been stuck in an abusive situation for the last four years without escape. In fact, for what has become almost a full year, you’ve likely been trapped in your home, struggling with less human contact, with no end in sight and an ever-dwindling sense of joy. If you are empathic, you have also been feeling the misery of millions of people. You may be feeling the sadness of others as much as you feel your own.
Living in America as a queer person, or as an ally, these last four years has been a bit like being forced into a cult. Surrounded by followers who stood behind him, cheering or excusing him as he preached hate against you and/or the ones you love. Violence in the streets has become almost normal. And two weeks ago, we saw the most violent act in direct response to this cult leader’s departure. With warnings of several more violent threats if this leader is not restored to office, leading up to Inauguration Day.
If you were afraid that Inauguration Day might be filled with more violence, you’re not alone. 25,000 members of the National Guard were deployed to maintain the safety of the event. This is not normal, and it’s OK to feel that way.
Even after an abuser is out of your life, you can still feel the effects. Anxiety, trouble sleeping, being easily frightened or scared, and feeling emotionally numb are all just some of the common symptoms you might feel after an abusive relationship ends. We’ve been holding our breath for so long, the exhale might not happen so easily.
If you released your stress, sadness or anger as Trump left the White House, or as Biden entered, that’s great. Celebrate for those of us who need a little extra time. We’ll get there.