How can I avoid You-Know-Who?
November 20, 2016 6:56 PM   Subscribe

I had a panic attack today on my way back from a weekend away. It's the second one I've had in recent weeks. After today's, I realized that my constant state of panic about the president-elect isn't just because of the obvious, but because he specifically reminds me of a person who used to verbally abuse me. I'm being triggered ALL THE TIME now. How can I avoid being triggered as much as possible until I can work through this with my therapist?
posted by ocherdraco to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
No news. Set up a way to listen to podcasts while you are commuting. Set up some music for home.
posted by amtho at 7:04 PM on November 20, 2016 [12 favorites]

I can't remember the last time I actually heard Trump's voice. I don't have a TV and avoid NPR.
posted by pintapicasso at 7:07 PM on November 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

I've stopped saying his name. He prizes his name above everything else, so taking that away from him feels like taking back a tiny bit of control. It's been helping.
posted by mochapickle at 7:32 PM on November 20, 2016 [30 favorites]

I refer to him as "Prez Elect Orange Shitstain". I'm also focusing on work, being a better person, fighting back, and getting high with a little help from my friends.
posted by vrakatar at 7:35 PM on November 20, 2016 [7 favorites]

I have Name Replacer II extension on my browser. No 'T' name, only BumHead. Makes me feel a smidgen better.
posted by Thella at 7:36 PM on November 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

I can relate. My advice: avoid, avoid, avoid. Avoid! The unavoidable intrusions should become more of an "ew, gross, fuck off" than a ¬°fight-or flight! over time
posted by STFUDonnie at 7:44 PM on November 20, 2016

No social media! I keep thinking, hey, I'm in control, I'll just check in a little, but then I always end up clicking on some depressing news (or "news") article. If you post a note to let friends know you need to take a break and they should contact you in other ways, they'll understand. If you have to, for some work reason, literally set a timer and get in and out quick.
posted by Secretariat at 8:03 PM on November 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

Stay off social media (or use something like Facebook Purity to set up filters that will block the name, but it's not perfect and posts or memes without that name may still show up). I have not looked at the front page of the NYT or WaPo for a couple weeks and that's working for me.

Really, just avoid all mainstream media and social media - it's weirdly easy if you don't have to look at them for work, for instance. Find some good audiobooks or podcasts to listen to instead of the radio. Hang in there and don't feel bad for going full avoidance while you need to.
posted by rtha at 8:04 PM on November 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

You can also address triggers at the other end:

- get sleep, eat, hydrate
- breathe deeply and fully whenever you can, exhale fully as well
- when you start to feel that tight or spacey feeling, do the check...what are you feeling beneath your toes, against your skin, what are you smelling, hearing, tasting, everything like that
- wear a snap bracelet or carry a worry stone - anything that can ground you with a touch
- engage in activities that are grounding and bring you joy
posted by warriorqueen at 8:23 PM on November 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

You don't mention what triggers you exactly. If it's hearing his voice, make sure your devices are on mute while browsing. If it's seeing his image, browse the web with intentionality and perhaps install an extension that loads pages without images. Can you take a break from the media (TV, radio in the car, internet)? If you want to stay on Facebook, can you make a friends list of just the people who don't post political content, and follow that? -- or unfollow (or ask a friend to grab your account and unfollow for you) the political posters?

Since you might not be able to avoid the particular thing that triggers you, perhaps think through how you'll respond caringly if/when you feel triggered. If you see an image, you can make a plan to move your eyes away, take 3 deep breaths, say a chant, bring up a photo of a cute animal, do a meditative body scan, name your feelings and thank them for doing their best to defend you, etc. If you know your plan, then you know there's something that comes after that trigger, and you will have control not necessarily over your reaction, but over your response. There is a sphere of control that you have in this world where so many things are out of our control.
posted by ramenopres at 8:53 PM on November 20, 2016
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:25 PM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks, y'all. After posting, I realized how impossible this is going to be. He's everywhere.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:48 PM on November 20, 2016

Do some easy grounding exercises – as simple as "I am [here in place], the trees are [description], the sky is [description]..." are there birds singing? people walking their dogs? families out together? Are you at the office? Are there people drinking coffee/tea/getting ready for lunch? Observe, breathe, then just sit with the reality you're in at the moment (preferably news-free ;) ). You're really good at catching beautiful nature scenes and I know you run – both can really help too. I purposefully go without a thing other than my phone and keys; no music, no podcasts. There are mornings that a flock of geese will fly by a-honking, that a neighbor's friendly dog will trot up to me and sniff the latest cat scents, that one of the houseboats on the Seine has a resident doing something or other. Letting myself be fully in that moment and not in a bubble, helps me feel whole and with agency. For some reason headphones alter that for me, and since you're also a nature person I suspect it could help too.

Focus on things that go on. Not as an escape, but because they're true. I keep saying this in other threads too, but we've got to remember what is normal in order to protect it. If we lose ourselves in this fight (and I say that as someone who risks doing that too), what happens when we're on the other side?

And since you know my history a little, coming from that godawful family background of mine, here's my biggest survival tip: be true to your heart/soul. Use whichever term – heart or soul – resonates with you; I do mean heart as not just passing emotions but as who we are as individual human beings. When we're true to ourselves with a fearless sincerity, even the most difficult situations have a guiding light in them, which is knowledge of our own sincerity and that the people we love and trust also have that sincerity. This is a powerfully worthy circle that lifts each of us up. You know that feeling you get when you get something as simple as your best friend's picture of their newest cat? And because you know this friend, you have a pretty good idea of what's going through their heart and mind with this newcome fuzzy carnivore. And how that's enough to lift your spirits in ways that no longform article on whatever could do. Focus on those little moments.

Know you're not alone. Sometimes a bit of anger helps too; I remind myself of what I've always known, which is that these fuckers are trying to get our goat on purpose. Yeah well fuck them man, I still know what it means to love my furballs and value true friends. Obviously only in balanced doses, but y'know, anger is also a facet of being true to oneself. Sometimes we're just pissed off, and that's how it is, and accepting it can transform it in unexpected ways.
posted by fraula at 1:19 AM on November 21, 2016 [7 favorites]

I'm gonna rephrase "fearless sincerity" because I don't actually mean fearless. The greatest courage is to recognize your fear and still be who you are. Being afraid in this situation is perfectly normal.
posted by fraula at 1:23 AM on November 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

After posting, I realized how impossible this is going to be. He's everywhere.

True. So the only thing you can hope to control is your internal environment. I agree with previous posts advocating no news. In addition, read good fiction; listen to good music on your commute. Don't watch TV. It sounds extreme, but it's really not. Bury your head in the sand for a bit if you have to.

Avoid Facebook, Metafilter and other internet communities. Sorry, Metafilter, I love you but yeah, I would definitely avoid a LOT of the internet as long as you're feeling this fragile.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:06 AM on November 21, 2016

Thanks, y'all. After posting, I realized how impossible this is going to be. He's everywhere.

It's really easy to not see or hear him though. We don't watch the news on TV, I don't have a Twitter, I curate my Facebook extensively. I severely moderate my perusal of The Washington Post for the time being. My house, morning commute, job (I am a university professor), and hobbies are all Trump-free. I guess if you work in government this might be hard, but the things I look at all day at work are student exams to grade, and student faces while I am teaching them. Occasionally I look at primary source documents when I am researching, or the faces of my colleagues when we are in a meeting. At home I listen to my husband and our cats, and a cooking show on our Roku box. I look at knitting and fanfiction. Most days I don't see the Orange One's face or hear his voice at all.

Even when I'm in public I can protect myself. I went out to brunch the other day and the television in the bar was showing a CNN interview with Mike Pence, and I thought, "Nope, I don't want to see his stupid face", so we chose a table that wasn't facing the TV.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:19 AM on November 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

After posting, I realized how impossible this is going to be. He's everywhere.

He is, but your abuser is not. So work on separating the two. When you feel triggered, say out loud (or however it works for you) "That is Trump. It is not X. X and Trump are not the same person. I removed X from my life. X cannot hurt me anymore."

Take pride in the distance you have placed between yourself and the person who abused you. Your life, your head, your heart - these are places you have made safe for yourself by separating from someone who deliberately caused you harm. Don't let Trump into those places. He doesn't want to be there any more than you want him there. Don't give him any more power than he already has.

Donald Trump can and will do a tremendous amount of harm. But none of us are individual targets of his. He is not intentionally looking to harm you. He is looking to enrich himself. It is all about him, not about you. In that way he is the opposite of an abuser.

(I am saying this as much to myself as I am to you - so thank you for this question!)
posted by headnsouth at 5:24 AM on November 21, 2016 [11 favorites]

Thanks for asking this question. I've had the same issues. I've tried much of what people have mentioned above, but it's tough to completely cut out TV and Social Media. I've been watching a lot of Netflix and have hidden lots of "friends" on FB to keep them off my feed as much as possible.
posted by OkTwigs at 6:55 AM on November 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Does your workplace have an Employee Assistance Plan? They're available on short notice until your regular therapist appointment.
posted by dlwr300 at 7:17 AM on November 21, 2016

I've started scheduling my media exposure to safe times and spaces. This has helped because knowing it's on the schedule has helped quell the compulsion to check media all the time, and keeping it to safe times and spaces means I don't spiral out as much because I can take care of myself when it happens.

In terms of time, this means exposure happens half an hour in the mornings before work, rather than at night. This is so that I don't lie awake at night thinking about the dark future that awaits. It also means that I can go to work and be distracted from thinking too much about it. In terms of space, this means that I need to be home so I know I can express my emotions freely. When it's not time to deal with the media, I don't read/watch/listen to the news, I don't read Twitter, I don't read Facebook, I don't listen to the radio or podcasts. If people want to get in touch with me, they can text, call, email, or wait until the next scheduled time. I know it doesn't solve the more random instances of having to deal with this, but scheduling has helped change the number of times it happens from "constantly, because I'm always checking the news" to "once a day". Which is a tremendous relief.

I hope you find a solution that works out for you soon. Hugs.
posted by rhythm and booze at 11:01 AM on November 21, 2016

I'm kind of in the same boat. I used to listen to NPR radio daily on my commute and have switched over to podcasts, where I can control the topic by skipping ahead if I need to. Also podcasts that focus on the humanist tradition. The World in Words is a good one for this -- each episode looks at a different language (often obscure languages, but sometimes Spanish or English) and how we use language to relate to the world around us and to each other. I also like the History Chicks. Trying to connect more to people in reality rather than simply through social media. Saving my social media time for the early evening and only allowing myself 15 minutes on facebook a day (I set a timer). I do this only because I'm involved in a couple of very supportive groups, but at the same time every new piece of Trump-related news (and some of the commentary it gets) fills me with despair.

Work is a little challenging because we are a federal agency, but I'm trying to stay focused. I take more quick breaks than I used to two weeks ago: step away from the computer, walk around the office, that sort of thing. I've explicitly had to tell one coworker I need this to be a Trump-free zone (she voted for HRC and wanted to pundit the outcome in the days following), and she's respected that. I'm really struggling with what to do come January and I have to pass that man's smirking portrait twice a day....
posted by basalganglia at 3:34 PM on November 21, 2016

As I said upthread, I have a browser extension to replace the T name/word. Because I work with kids I chose Bumhead rather than something like vrakatar's more accurate nomenclature: Orange Shitstain. The beauty of a word replacing extension, especially with a SFW replacement, is that it becomes so ubiquitous that my brain is starting to accept that that is his name! Everybody in my digital text world now calls him Bumhead - Merkle, Metafilter, Michelle all call him Bumhead. It gives me confidence, courage and grins.

Though I had to double take and correct a copy & paste when a photographer's credit name turned up as SBumheadf.

I always thought that word-replacing extensions were for light-hearted fun. But the Donald's name is doubly dangerous because of its noun/verb connotations. It has subliminal thrust. Removing it from textual life has been liberating and very beneficial for my mental health... and I am not a US resident.
posted by Thella at 12:31 AM on November 24, 2016

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