This Election Needs a Trigger Warning

That was my tweet after the great Pussy Grab Leak of 2016. I was kind of joking. Now, after speaking to my psychiatrist – an actual medical doctor who knows about “medical medical” (as we used to write in scripts on Grey’s Anatomy because we were fake doctors and real doctors did that stuff) — I learned a lot about my reaction over the last few weeks to Donald Trump’s words and actions. And I learned that “this election needs a trigger warning” is no joke.

I’ve been sleepless, I’ve had trouble eating, I’ve been anxious and distracted, I’ve had moments of hopelessness. And I’m not alone. I’ve spoken to many other women and a lot of men who are having similar symptoms.

My shrink explained the biochemical element of what’s been happening. She says Donald Trump fits the classic definition of a narcissist. Narcissists see the world simply as a reflections of themselves. It’s as if everyone and everything they see is labeled “ME” or “MINE” (or “NO!” or “WRONG!” — sound familiar?) They are relentless about getting what they want and will charm or cajole to get it. And if that doesn’t work, they bully. They lie. They name call. They physically intimidate. Which triggers a reaction in the brain of the bullied person. It lights the limbic system up like a Christmas tree. It “moves on it like a bitch”, if you will.

The limbic system is responsible for “fight or flight” — a primal instinct hardwired into our brains which overrides our logical mind. Say an actual vicious Liger is about to pounce, what we don’t want is a lot of reasoning. We want our feet moving or that spear flying before we have time to think “wow, a liger is a fictional beast from Napoleon Dynamite! What’s it doing — gaaaaaaa!” (You were thinking. Liger got you. You’re dead.)

And Donald Trump is a world class, primal-style bully. He’s not bound by reason or facts or the social contract. He lives to dominate the weak. He was taught by his own father that life was a zero sum game. You win — or you’re a loser. And he’s made a fortune living by that code.

For months, we’ve been listening to Trump attack and belittle people he believes are lesser humans than him. Which is basically everyone. But he seems to have special contempt for people of color and women. He can barely go a day without tweeting or saying a racist or sexist slur.

Unless you’ve opted for a complete media blackout — for folks who’ve lived their lives dealing with men like this, it’s as if we’re being dogged everyday by the most pervasive, media-savvy bully in history. Last night, during the town hall debate, a female friend and I held out our hands to compare how hard we were shaking. My brother was moaning “she’s losing, she’s not punching back hard enough… She’s losing.” I said: “She’s not losing. Not with women.” I was sure of it.

Why was I sure? Because, in admittedly much lower stake situations, I’ve been in her shoes. Again and again, I’ve attempted to keep my head while a man tried to belittle me, tried to intimidate me, tried to manipulate me, tried to touch or fondle me — or literally tried to convince me that reality wasn’t real or that my thoughts and feelings were wrong. I would imagine a lot of women, LGBT folks and people of color know what this is like. As the “lesser” classes in America, we are the low hanging fruit of the bully world. We are told in a myriad of ways that we matter, just not as much. If a bully wants something we don’t want to give, or to simply  dominate us because it’s fun — they won’t hesitate to pull out their bag of tricks.

Earlier this week, I wrote an Instagram about fat-shaming and how, as a recovering anorexic, is enflames me. I got an incredible amount of support and received many heartfelt stories from others who struggle with their size or disordered eating. I never imagined that a few days I’d be writing about being a rape survivor — one who was afraid to talk about what happened because I knew I wouldn’t be believed, or worse I’d be blamed because I “asked for it” in any number of ways. But here I am.

I’m not ashamed of any of the things I’ve been through. It has informed my writing, enhanced my empathy and encouraged me to fight for a better world. A lot of what drove me to work on UnReal and Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce — and now my first feature To The Bone, as well as upcoming shows Dietland and Sharp Objects — was my desire to start conversation about sexual politics, body image, sexual abuse, media and recovery… 

But The Donald triggers the fuck out of me. My brain screams LIGER!! LEAVE THE COUNTRY, PACK UP THE KIDS AND GO! My body shakes, my stomach closes, my head aches and I struggle to maintain reason in the face of a limbic assault. It’s as if he’s in the room, screaming and looming over me with his sniffing, hulking body.

So if you’re experiencing any of those nasty symptoms I mentioned, you’re not alone. Be good to yourself. Take long walks on a beach at sunset. Light a candle — preferably one that smells like sweet, sweet pussy. And tell yourself, it’s going to be okay.

Because this time, the bad guy isn’t in the room. He’s running for president of the United States of America. And we all have power. To use our vote. Do it no matter what. Because it’s not just your duty to your country. It’s your duty to yourself and your beautiful self-protective brain — to stand up as a full human, a human who matters.