Dread, Fatigue, Anxiety, Exhaustion, and Escape Dreams or How I'm Dealing With This Bullshit
It started as an off feeling: Sluggish digestion. A morning fatigue that wouldn't lift. And intense, crazy dreams whose themes—running to catch a train that didn't stop at my station—suggested anxiety. Was this the expected tiredness that so often comes with a shift in season? My brain's response to the dull, gray weather and shorter days? I brushed off my feelings at first. I'd been working on the weekends and taking care of home maintenance needs. Of course I was tired and stressed. That was all...or was it? As the malaise continued, I started to review my life—a process that only added to my stress and its myriad mind-body effects. Something was off, and I didn't know what it was.
To distract my mind from my body, I clicked through the daily news. Might that be responsible for my elevated anxiety? It was shaping up to be a race to the midterms, so possibly. But I couldn't stop clicking.
And I couldn't stop crying at odd moments: While riding a bicycle. Reading a feel-good news story. Calculating the best use of a spare hour. My tears came, hot and wet, accompanied by guilt and confusion. I wasn't sad about anything—at least, not consciously. So what was going on? Why did I feel so off? How could I fix it?
I tried meditation, reiki, sound healing. I let myself sleep in. I tried exercise and healthy eating, then extra dessert and a silly movie. Nothing worked for long. The body fatigue, dread, and exhaustion came back every time.
Until clarity struck.
I was in fight or flight mode, my body processing the ramifications of the allegations of sexual misconduct by Brett Kavanaugh and the excuse of said behavior by the right.
I hadn't expected to feel so rocked by the allegations of sexual misconduct against Brett Kavanaugh, nor the Republicans' attempts to brush these over and confirm their guy.
I am that lucky, rare woman without a #MeToo story.
While most of my friends have stories—outright assault, disrespected boundaries—the worst it gets for me is strange men demanding that I smile or yelling out homophobic insults on the street.
Yet there I was, fighting tears as we march up to a confirmation hearing and back in time.
While I may not be a victim of sexual assault, these last weeks have been a reminder that I can't mistake that for safety. My body is in a fight or flight pattern—unable to find rest at night, watching my back even in sleep, and prone to uncontrolled emotional outbursts.
I was a child when Anita Hill gave her testimony—old enough to know that sexual harassment was wrong, while not old enough to understand the power structures that gave the accused a path to power.
It's chilling to think how little things have changed in the years since Hill's testimony. To have to confront the frightened male egos that lash out at women, gaslight victims, and seek to excuse rapey behavior with "boys will be boys"' logic. To count, among the many reasons I'm grateful to be queer, a pass on getting killed by a jealous husband or boyfriend, the way half of female homicide victims are. As Dan Savage, gay advice columnist, is fond of telling male readers,
Men are afraid that women will laugh at them, while women are afraid men will kill them.
I tuned out politics when Kavanaugh was first nominated, because tuning out at times is an act of self-preservation in today's political environment and because his nomination seemed assured to pass. They had the numbers. With Ford's allegations, I found myself scrolling articles and editorials, fighting a queasy feeling inside. Straight or gay, all women all lose when the men who hold positions power disrespect women's bodies, choices, and voices.
In Kavanaugh's angry bluster, I recognized every wealthy white guy I knew, in high school and since, who felt entitled to women's attention and was prepared to grab it if he did not get it. Every man who believed that he was owed something by the rest of us by virtue of his gender and skin color and sexual preferences—owed something above and beyond equity, parity, fairness, consent.
Finding the root of my recent anxiety relieved some of the pressure. It's not burnout or a coming cold or the change of seasons. It's a deeper, more pervasive rot. The change we need is both systemic and individual.
And that change is going to come. I hope that one or more Republican senators finds conscience enough to deny this guy a spot on a court where he'll be able to take out his rage on women's bodies and women's choices.
If that doesn't happen, change will come the hard way.