The New Normal

So, I guess my post from Tuesday, where I promised not to get too deep into issues here, is entirely out the window.

I’d also like to acknowledge, before I get into this post, that I am writing from a place of privilege. While I am a woman, I am also white, straight,  and cisgender. My immediate family didn’t immigrate here. I suffer from depression and anxiety, but I am not physically disabled. I do not aim to speak for anyone beyond myself, and I apologize if I generalize or exclude you. This is solely an account of my experience of this week. Please, please inform me if I need to fix wording, clarify anything, or learn more about something I have written.

I am exhausted.

I thought that I knew the meaning of “exhausted” before. Back when I was working two jobs, running to rehearsals for musicals, even just a few months ago, working my 70-hour weeks as the semester begins.

I didn’t have any way to prepare for how this would feel.

There’s the base level of exhaustion. I, like everyone I know, was glued to my TV on Tuesday night. I had horchata beer and I was ready to celebrate! And as the hours went on, as Lester Holt and Chuck Todd became so clearly unraveled onscreen, I started shaking. Violently. I had to stop watching around 10:30 because, thankfully (?), I know what I feel like when my panic attacks settle in.

I didn’t sleep at all Tuesday night. I think I dozed from about 1am until 5am, when I couldn’t take it anymore. I had asked my friends to text me when we had the results… and there was nothing. And I knew in that moment what that meant.

Dragging myself out of bed was hard enough, but going to work felt fake.

I truly don’t know if I waited on a single customer or did a single task yesterday – I moved through the morning in a complete daze. I did get to have some conversations with my close friends on campus, and I met one of my best friends for coffee and a much-needed cathartic conversation – one I’ll cherish for a long time.

That should have been enough to help. My anxiety manifests itself in loneliness (and also in irritable bowel syndrome, which is SUPER FUN!). Naturally, surrounding myself with my favorite people was my coping mechanism.

It didn’t help.

And it wasn’t until this evening that I figured out why.

This time, my anxiety triggers aren’t coming from inside. I’m used to those. I know how to shut them up and I know how to move on. When I’m having a panic attack, I have to focus on something unchanging around me – I usually pick a favorite song or movie – to remind myself that I’m the one spiraling, that the world around me is still marching on.

That’s not happening this time.

This time, the world is what’s spiraling. I’m still me. I’ve been able to laugh and carry conversation and edit photos and do the things I love to do… meanwhile, the political system I’d never given much serious thought to is being ripped apart at the seams.

Today, I had just settled into what I assumed was my “new normal” at work – I was going through the motions and carrying conversation a little more naturally – and then I read the words “Ben Carson” and “Secretary of Education” in the same sentence, and the sick feeling I had all night Tuesday returned. Rinse and repeat for the entire list of cabinet positions. Rinse and repeat for the entire next four years.

I’m exhausted just thinking about it. I hate that this is a feeling I know too well. Slapping on my customer service smile is one thing when I’m just depressed. I’VE BEEN SO GOOD LATELY, THOUGH. I just got to marry the love of my life! I’m finally hitting my stride in the creative outlets I enjoy! The fact that this is all external is too much for me to handle. I had one month to be a happily married woman, and now I feel like a shell of myself.

I’m also sad. I didn’t know I could feel so sad. I’m sad for the people whose lives are in immediate danger. I’m more sad, though, that I’ll likely never be able to look at people who voted for Trump the same way again. I’ve seen several posts pleading for unity, for understanding why people voted the way they did. My brain can’t do that. I see inconvenience – not liking something Obama did, and wanting change. But I don’t see how the physical and mental well-being of every minority group in this country was worth sacrificing for that change. I’m sad because I know so many friendships are going to change and end because of this.

I just had typed “I don’t doubt that this will get easier – it always does, I remember what it felt like after 9/11/01″… but then I erased it. Because, honestly? I can’t say this will get easier. Trump has utterly destroyed “normal” already, solely in the beginning stages of the transition of power.

And that, right there, is why I have so much fear. I truly don’t know what’s going to happen to my LGBTQ+ friends. Several of my friends’ parents are immigrants, and they’re terrified. The men who have catcalled and approached me in the past now feel validated in their advances, and we have a president who has proudly made women into objects his entire adult life. Political policies are one thing – the physical and mental well-being of people who already feel fragile and marginalized are entirely different. I’m downright scared.

Somewhere in that fear, I can feel some pride and strength burning. I’m grateful that I don’t feel defeated – yet – but I’m scared that’s going to disappear, too. I’m so proud of my friends. One got a feminist tattoo last night, several are working feverishly to spread information online, and so many have been pouring out love in ways I didn’t know they could. I just can’t shake how scared I am all that is going to fade (or be forced) away.

I’ve tried to be articulate in this post. I apologize if it reads poorly. I needed to get what’s been spinning around in my head out and written. Anger, sadness, confusion, fear, pride, hope, and repeat. I’ve cycled through such extreme emotions more in the past two days than I knew was possible. My head hurts. My heart hurts. It physically aches. And I guess this is normal now.

I hope you, reading this, are okay tonight. I hope you sleep well. I hope you wake up and tomorrow is a better day. I hope you have someone you can turn to if it’s not. If you need someone, email me. We’ll figure this new normal out together.


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