We are now 10 months into the presidency of Donald J. Trump. I have tried to come to grips with the presidency of a man who didn’t truly want to be President, who won the office, and who still doesn’t understand the job. My anxiety has increased to a point where it may be hard to get back to a normal state of mind without serious medication.
Every day, we, as a country, wake up to streams of alarming news. Almost immediately after his inauguration, executive orders flew fast out of the Oval Office just so that Trump could get his daily fix of rolling back Obama-era regulations or, better still, amping up his signature issues, like his illegal Muslim ban, with the requisite orange-tinted photo-op. Daily, hourly, minute by minute, headlines documenting the racist, sexist, misogynist, lying, cheating and stealing of these people, the colossal ethic, moral and legal ineptitude of this administration, jump out of my phone IN ALL CAPS. Almost immediately with the firing of General Michael Flynn, Trump’s 23-day National Security Advisor, the non-stop upheaval of White House staff showcased the incredibly bad decision-making of the decision-maker-in-chief. The palace intrigue and the leak tsunami upchucking out of the Trump gutter confirming the treasonous lack of integrity of the people running our government made my heart race and blood pressure rise.
It’s been a nonstop roller coaster of emotions every day for 10 months. Each morning I wake up expecting this. Each day my expectations are met.
We could see it coming with his outrageous picks for the most unqualified people imaginable to serve in his cabinet. People whose careers were spent actively working to destroy the department they now run. Like Scott Pruitt, the virulently anti-environment climate denier now running the Environmental Protection Agency. Like former Texas governor Rick “Oops” Perry, now running the Department of Energy — the one cabinet agency he couldn’t remember back during the 2012 presidential debates, leading to his famous moniker. Like billionaire Betsy DeVos, who would gladly close all public schools if she could — and she wants to — running the Department of Education. She’s a doozy, the worst of the worst of the worst of the worst of the worst of the worst — and that’s before we talk about her born-again Christianity and Erik Prince, her white supremacist brother. If you’re LGBTQ, it gets even worse than that. And if you’re a woman, she’s even worse than that. DeVos recently rescinded Obama-era guidance regarding campus sexual assault. Why do I have anxiety? Because the Secretary of Education doesn’t care if women are raped.
The explosion of sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein and other high-profile men have put the issue of sexual harassment front and center. That women are speaking up and being loud and bold is truly awe-inspiring and gives me hope that the culture of harassment may be coming to an end. Then I remember that this country elected a man with a long history of degrading women, a man who has been accused of sexual assault by dozens of women. This country rewarded his despicable behavior. I feel despondent.
I have anxiety because Trumpers get off on assault. All summer long, remember, we had the continued assault on Obamacare, and all that nail-biting over whether there are still two rational Republican senators left to save the only health insurance that millions and millions of Americans have. I have anxiety because Trump is still consumed with destroying Obama’s signature and historic legislation; he’s obsessed on a white-whale level with ripping health care away from the very citizens he was entrusted to protect. While “repeal and replace” is dead (for now), I have anxiety because Trump has gleefully discontinued funding for the enrollment period. He has cut 90% of funds for states and communities to use for the open enrollment period and he has cut the advertising budget. He shortened the enrollment period to six weeks and decided that upgrades to the site should be done during the enrollment time. How can one get anti-anxiety meds without insurance?
I have anxiety because the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief has decided that all women of child-bearing years must be pregnant as often as possible. Well, what else are we good for — that is, other than sexual assault? That Trump — a man who, with three weddings under his high cholesterol paunch, neither belongs to a church nor attends any church, except when campaigning — decided to roll back the Obamacare requirement that employers offer no-cost birth control to their employees in order to appease his evangelical base gives me anxiety and probably makes God apoplectic. Oh, those evangelical voters — they give me anxiety. Their favorite company, Hobby Lobby, also gives me anxiety. This is a company that likes their women, if not assaulted and raped, at least properly knocked up — it’s a company that covers Viagra and Cialis 100% for their employees. I get anxiety every time I think of the evangelicals’ favorite celebrity, Jim Bob Duggar, climbing on top of his totally exhausted wife. Their eldest son, Josh Duggar, who molested who knows how many of his sisters, gives me anxiety, too. Although I suppose DeVos has a photo of him on her desk.
My stomach turns in knots in the morning when I wake up to the news that against all advice and council from those smarter than Trump (otherwise known as everyone), the US pulled out of the Paris Accord. Supposedly the real reason is not because Trump is a climate skeptic (“skeptic” being a two-syllable word), but because the French president, Emmanuel Macron, is more popular, better looking and gets better press. I get anxiety because Trump is a vengeful, petty child with nuclear weapons.
My stomach turns to know in the morning when I wake up to the news that Trump wants 800,000 Dreamers kicked back to the countries where they have barely, if ever, lived, and where they likely may not even know anyone — that 80,000 people whose anxieties I feel. And it’s not because Trump cares one way or another: I get anxiety because he wants his super-white audiences to scream his name in ecstasy and adulation!
#fridayfreakout freaks me out — and makes me reach for the wine. I have anxiety because Trump likes to fire people and put out disgraceful orders: the transgender military ban; the pardoning of odious Joe Arpaio, the indulgence of jet-setter Tom Price.
Immigration detentions and deportations are up and getting really nasty with the example of this woman being deported for coming here at 17 to escape violence. She will lose her entire family as they live in the US. I have anxiety over Trump’s sheer hatred of President Obama:
He has rolled back or undone hundreds of rules and regulations, signed 47 executive orders and used a previously obscure legislative tool, the Congressional Review Act, 14 times to undo regulations passed in the final months of Obama’s presidency. The law had only been used once before, 16 years ago.
I have anxiety that turns to terror. Every day, I am terrified to think that Trump will call North Korea’s emotionally stunted leader, Kim Jong-un, “Rocket Man” one time too many and BOOM, there goes Guam. And now more people will die because Trump thinks all this publicity has made Guam a great vacation spot.
Trump ignored Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico then picked a fight with the heroic San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz. The feud had gotten so bad that the FEMA director is openly disparaging her as “political noise,” which could cause more lives to be lost. Three weeks after the hurricane, people are drinking out of creeks and our President is throwing rolls of Bounty at them, telling them to have a good time. A month after the hurricane and Trump’s still treats Puerto Ricans as second class citizens. I am anxious for the elderly, the sick and the children who bear the brunt of his disregard. I am anxious and I cringed when the president, on his 80th golf day of 40-weekend presidency, continued his fight with the NFL players taking a knee to protest the very same social injustice that is Trump’s brand. I am anxious because do you know who takes a knee? Trump takes a knee. In fact, he gets down on both knees and sucks in supplication to those groups he believes will vote for him again, like the NRA and right-wing evangelical “Christians.”
His Twitter ragefests, his insults, his screaming about fake news and his outright lies are simply exhausting and anxiety-inducing. For weeks we wait with nervous twitches to see if he will pull out of the Iran deal just so he can stick it to his most current adversary, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee. Maybe it looks like Trump has forgotten all about it. I have a lot of anxiety because Trump’s attention span is tinier than his hands.
Trump’s pathological need to fight over Twitter is a national embarrassment and a clear sign we are being run by a man with absolutely no self-control. That is what ultimately keeps me up at night. Not a President with no idea how to do his job or how government actually works or how he revels in petty feuds and how he needs constant praise and public adoration. It’s his complete lack of self-control and self-awareness and his driving need for vengeance to anyone he feels is against him. I have anxiety over that.
And so each morning I am like an addict — no, I am an addict — reaching for my phone to tap tap tap all the news apps as soon as I wake up. I really don’t want to, I really resist, and some mornings I even have willpower and I don’t look down until I take my anxiety-free walk to the subway, but I always look, I can’t turn away — wait too long and I have anxiety when I feel like I don’t know what’s going on. I could miss his insane and cryptic message “the calm before the storm,” meaning we’re about to blow up North Korea. My anxiety is high when I realize that mass murders are a way of life — or, as Senator Ted Cruz (so elegantly put it, “Sadly, violence will always be part of our lives.” I have anxiety that nothing will change, that if the skin color of the Las Vegas killer was brown or if he had been Muslim, like Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, the war cry would be deafening.
With the arrest of Paul Manafort and his colleague, Rick Gates, I felt that tight band of anxiety around my chest release a bit. I assume that anxiety is now attached to Trump. He should be anxious, for if Mueller turned George Papadopoulos, Trump’s unqualified campaign foreign policy adviser, then who else has he turned? And how quickly will the White House come apart?
Violence may always be a way of American life now but anxiety need not be. I’ll be taking steps to ween myself off any news-related topic. I will reach for my dog and not my phone in the mornings. I will stop watching the Sunday news shows and watch more Bravo. This moment in time is a test of the strength of our democracy and we are finding out how resilient it is. We are seeing first-hand how the checks and balances of our Constitution are protecting us from the child in the Oval Office. The next time I start to feel my anxiety taking over, I will drink some chamomile tea, cuddle with my dog, and remember an old Persian saying: “This too shall pass.”