How to Cope with a Triggering News Cycle
There’s been a lot of ink put towards writing about enraged women lately. And I think that’s great. Women are enraged and we have every right to be. These Kavanaugh hearings have been incredibly triggering, re-traumatizing experiences for so many of us. And to see President Trump openly mocking assault victims who speak out feels like a punch in the gut to top it all off.
But I for one don’t explode, I implode. And I think it’s important to speak for women like me, who aren’t so much enraged as devastated. I’m devastated. I’ve been crying over the news a lot – often in public, since I’ve been traveling for Bossed Up work these past few days in particular. Crying on escalators. Crying walking through airports. Crying listening to news round-up podcasts and playlists designed to distract me from it all. It feels inescapable.
I wish I could feel more enraged. Instead, I find myself brokenhearted, disgusted, and exhausted.
To me, I see the Kavanaugh hearings as a nationwide conversation about women’s basic humanity. On the one side, a man’s professional reputation and promotion are on the line. A promotion, mind you, to a lifelong appointment to the highest, most revered court in our land. He’s not facing jail time; this isn’t some criminal proceeding. This isn’t about proving anything beyond a shadow of a doubt or even about punishing him. It’s about whether Brett Kavanaugh has the character to become a Supreme Court Justice.
And then on the other side, we have women, namely Dr. Ford, but also others, who are begging for their voices to be heard; for their perspective on this man’s character to be taken into account or at least considered as he seeks his rise to extreme power.
And whether or not our nation helps this man to power sends a message to so many women – millions of us who are survivors of assault, rape, and violence – about whether or not speaking up about our abuses even matters at all. About whether we matter. About whether powerful men should have the right – and feel justly entitled – to whatever it is that they want.
How to Cope
I don’t know what’s going to happen next, and while I’m trying to be hopeful, I fear that we might still live in the kind of world that told Anita Hill her voice didn’t matters years ago when the Senate appointed Justice Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.
But whatever happens next, we can’t let it paralyze us. We can’t succumb to the horror of it all (no matter how reasonable that might be) and allow ourselves to be consumed by it.
So here’s what I’ve been trying to do for myself to cope with such a triggering news cycle and encourage you to do, too.
1. Get it out
I’m typically so focused on practical, tactical action-taking that I forgot the value of a good old-fashioned vent-session until recently. I called up my dad – the man who originally got me involved in politics and campaigns because he was our household’s resident TV-screamer. He’d shout at the news back then, and he’s the perfect person to shout into the void with now. I felt so much better after getting it all out through talking with my dad, especially hearing some one who is older, quite male, and quite pale, empathizing with sexual assault victims and calling out Kavanaugh for the entitled jerk that he is. Did we change anybody’s minds or sway any Senators? No. But did I feel a lot better? Hell yes.
2. Do something useful
Venting can feel good, up to a point. Then I’ve found I crave substantial action-taking. When it feels like there’s nothing you can do, you end up feeling helpless, and that’s a terribly depressing state of paralysis to be in. I always subscribe to the philosophy, “think global, act local.” So for me, I’m looking for ways to contribute to organizations here in Denver helping sexual assault survivors in substantive ways. That might not keep creeps off the Supreme Court, but it helps somebody in need, and that makes me feel like the world is just a tiny bit less bleak.
One of my favorite tactics – one that really speaks to the campaigner in me – is a fundraising effort the Maine People’s Alliance has started. They’ve raised over a million dollars in pledged funds to give to an opponent’s campaign if Senator Susan Collins votes to confirm Judge Kavanaugh. Learn more about the controversial campaign here, and chip in if you’re looking for a way to take action!
Finally, nothing beats calling your own Senators. You’re their boss, remember? They represent you. So take a few minutes today to blow up the phones in their offices – both in state and in DC – to tell their staff how you feel about the Senator’s vote to either confirm or reject this nominee. It takes just a few minutes and let me tell you, many of these ancient Members of Congress are persuaded by the volume of calls their offices get WAY more than your emails and online petitions. So call now!
3. Turn it up
Once you’ve vented and taken productive action, it’s time to focus on self-preservation. For me, music is integral part of healing and emoting in a healthy way, so I made myself an uplifting playlist I’m calling my Patriarchy Survival Playlist on Spotify. It’s pretty short, but it does the trick and helps me remember that while injustice may seem omnipresent, the arc of history if a long one, and the world will keep turning. If you’ve got song recommendations you’d add to this, by the way, I’d love to hear ’em!
4. Get loud
I think part of why I love creating a playlist is just the act of getting LOUD can help when the world seems to bleak. Sing along at the top of your lungs in your car. Let it all out at karaoke night or just belting your heart out while you do the dishes. Getting loud makes you feel powerful and helps reduce stress. Science even says that screaming (hopefully into a pillow or somehow without alarming the hell out of people) can help reduce your stress, too.
For me, I’m wailing on the drums these days as part of my coping mechanisms, and can’t recommend it more. In a world that is sending a clear message to women – especially women survivors – to stay silent, getting and staying loud in a visceral way is an awesome reminder of our own power over ourselves and our voices.
5. Get moving
On a similar note, we have to stay strong, too. I’m not just talking about mental, emotional, and political strength, I’m talking about physical strength, which also leaves me feeling so much more ownership over myself, my body, and my life.
When I landed in DC last week for Bossed Up Bootcamp, I’d been on a long flight and wanted nothing more than to wallow in my hotel room drinking wine and raging on Twitter. But instead, I signed myself up for a boxing class on Classpass at a nearby gym. Let me tell you: kicking and punching a bag for an hour was the best form of stress relief I’ve found in a while. If you’re in DC – definitely give Urban Boxing DC a try.
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6. Get together
Finally, none of us can weather this storm alone. Anyone who attended the Women’s March or the March for Our Lives can tell you: there’s power in people coming together in solidarity. Join a #StopKavanaugh vigil in your area, or just get some girlfriends over for wine and whining if that’s what you need. But don’t crawl under the proverbial covers and stay behind the keyboard on social media for too long. It’s isolating and depressing. We need to feel surrounded by allies to get through this together. So take it upon yourself to organize a get-together, a service project, or some time with a like-minded friend who you can vent and decompress with.
I myself struggle with this. When I’m bummed out, I retreat and withdraw. But it only makes matters worse.
So I’m doing all I can to keep moving forward by remembering that I’m far from alone in being horrified by recent events. Even when injustice feels in our face and all around us, we have to stand with one another in solidarity during these tough times and remember that with November right around the corner, we can have our say in the ballot box if not in Congress right this moment.
How are you coping?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below and welcome any suggestions for how we can all better survive such troubling news cycles like this one – together.
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