Restoring Our Dreams: Trump’s Reign of Abuse is Over
It’s time to move out of survival mode and into the light of healing from the trauma of America’s worst president.
This morning, I experienced a lot of firsts. I have never cried during the National Anthem before. I’ve never been moved to tears by Jennifer Lopez or been so sentimental hearing songs about America. I’ve never been so deeply touched by an invocation prayer. I found myself incredibly moved by Father O’Donovan’s words:
Be with us, Holy Mystery of Love, as we dream together. Help us under our new President to reconcile the people of our land, restore our dream, and invest it with peace and justice and the joy that is the overflow of love.
On the capital steps today, instead of power, I saw joy. Excitement. Plans and dreams. This is the antithesis of everything we have heard and absorbed for the last four years.
The thing about abusive relationships is that you rarely realize how abusive they are until they are over. Sometimes you begin to see it, and that’s why you decide to leave it. But it’s afterwards that the real discovery begins. Extracted from the situation, you start to see, more and more, how not okay things were. That’s when you can get out of survival mode and recognize the trauma you’ve experienced.
My heart ached in the way of something forgotten, of something desperate to be remembered.
My friends and I have been talking about it this week — how as inauguration day grew nearer, we found ourselves really feeling how awful it’s been. When Biden spoke on the evening of January 14, I found myself in tears during his speech. My heart ached in the way of something forgotten, of something desperate to be remembered. He said so many things that evening that never would have escaped the lips of the person who purported to be our leader for the last four years.
He recognized the cruelty of our grief.
And almost exactly one year later, nearly 400,000, 400,000 of our fellow Americans have met the same cruel fate. Countless families and friends left behind with unrelenting grief and guilt, anger and frustration. And the emptiness felt by the loss of life is compounded by the loss of our way of life.
He showed compassion for our suffering.
Some 400,000 small businesses have permanently closed their doors. And it’s not hard to see that we’re in the middle of the once in several generations economic crisis with a once in several generations public health crisis. The crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight and there’s no time to waste. We have to act and we have to act now.
He acknowledged how his predecessor failed us, and gave us hope he would do better.
But the vaccine rollout in the United States has been a dismal failure thus far. Tomorrow I will lay out our vaccination plan to correct course and meet our goal of 100 million shots at the end of my first 100 days as president.
He recognized that America has a hunger crisis that’s been ignored. He recognized that people of color are experiencing this crisis at higher rates. He recognized that this is wrong. He recognized that we have really big problems with poverty and that people deserve a higher minimum wage, that there is a climate crisis, that a moral obligation exists.
And he didn’t just say these things. He meant them. After four years of being gaslit, of no acknowledgement of pain and suffering and social inequities, someone walked in the door and said I see you. You won’t be forgotten. It’s not right. Let’s fix it.
I’m not an idealist, and I’m the first to admit that Biden certainly wasn’t my first choice for our next President. Kamala Harris was not my first pick for a woman in high office, either. But they are compassionate, and human, and 100,000 times better than what we had. They have plans already for so many things I want and agree with. They’ll certainly do.
We have all had to protect ourselves from the horror of watching Trump wreak havoc on our home, our friends, our families, and our values. Now that he is gone, we have work to do to return to our former selves.
My feelings during Biden’s speech last week highlighted to me exactly how traumatic the last four years of having an awful, awful person with no soul as a president have been. I cried several times as he spoke. Hearing him apologize for grief, pain, and lives lost, hearing him acknowledge that children in OUR country need food, hearing him acknowledge all of it and that people deserve more. All of it is a reminder that the person in that office for the last four years cares so little about all of us.
The feeling of being neglected and lied to by someone who is supposed to be protecting you is incomparable. Layers of betrayal and desperation just to be seen, to have a human connection, build until you may not even remember who you once were. We have all had to protect ourselves from the horror of watching Trump wreak havoc on our home, our friends, our families, and our values. Now that he is gone, we have work to do to return to our former selves.
I recognize my reactions, my feelings, and the start of a path to healing because I have been here before. This is not my first go-round with a narcissist. I am no stranger to trauma, to neglect, to being told I am not worth a second thought. These things so many of us have felt as Trump looked down on us are not just a difference of opinion. They are classic traits of an abusive relationship.
This morning, Twitter user sheologian posted the following:
So, if you are new to this protracted trauma first you feel very light and then immediately after you feel very heavy. Your body may actually get sick. You may have some flu like symptoms over the next few days. All of this is very, very normal. Do not be alarmed.
Your body is not responding to a real, imminent threat. Your body is responding fully to the threat that is now gone.
Right now you may feel a feeling you have never felt before and cannot articulate, and may be questioning that feeling. Of course you have never felt this way before. We have never faced a threat like we have for the past 4 years, before. Again, very normal.
Oh hey — one other thing. When you have been anxious for years about something you don’t just stop being anxious. You typically transfer it to something else to worry about. This, too is very very normal. Your brain has become hypervigilant out of necessity.
To expect it to just stop being anxious is unrealistic. Be gentle with yourself.
This is important. When you have walked on eggshells for years, it’s hard to remember what it feels like to step normally. Healing is not easy. When physical wounds heal, there is bruising and tightness and itchiness. When emotional wounds heal, there is a stretching inside. As you begin to break through the shell you’ve created to protect your heart, you expose the hope that has been shadowed. It might sting.
Give yourself grace. Allow yourself to expect more from someone who has promised more. Allow yourself to begin believing in possibilities again.
You will feel relief, surely, but sometimes you will not know where to put it. Your eyelids may grow heavy. You may finally sleep without dreaming. You may feel weightless, like you are walking on air. You may laugh. There are still things to feel anxious about, sure, but there will be other ways in which we can feel a safety that has been long absent.
Give yourself grace. Allow yourself to expect more from someone who has promised more. Allow yourself to begin believing in possibilities again. Nap. Drink champagne. Cry until you are out of kleenex. Take care of yourself. Recognize that the trauma you are feeling is valid, and that you are not alone. It is okay to admit that it has been really, really terrible.
I grieved when Hilary Clinton lost the last election. I believed in her, and I believed it was going to happen. I grieved again when Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the race. Despite these disappointments, watching Kamala Harris take the oath of office, I was all in. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of watching a glass ceiling shatter before your eyes.
This is our beginning. I’m knocking on wood when I say that the peaceful transition we feared would not be possible is happening. And I feel something today that I haven’t felt in a long time. I feel hope. True hope, bubbling up from within me. We are on our way.
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