Living in chaos is exhausting

By Caitlin Kelly


photo: NBC News

It took me a while to figure this out.

The way that President Donald Trump behaves — a mixture I find both exhausting and toxic — is far too familiar.

He scowls.

He rages.

He accuses everyone who disagrees with him of trying to undermine him.

He’s flapped his hand at his wife in public as if she were a poorly-trained servant, leaving her behind as he ascended the White House steps — leaving the Obamas, instead, to escort her, each extending a gentle hand to Melania’s back.

He has every privilege and power the world can bestow upon him and it’s insufficient to his insatiable needs.

There’s no way to predict what he will say or do next, and millions worldwide are now on tenterhooks, anxious and insecure.

What fresh hell awaits tomorrow?

Been there, lived it and hated it.

I grew up in a family that had mental illness and alcoholism in it. You learn to adapt, even while you wish you didn’t have to. You’re constantly on-guard for the next draaaaaaama, the next mess to clean up.

Americans are learning to similarly bob and weave and dodge and feint to accommodate his incompetence and capriciousness.

How to cope:

We become hyper-vigilant, ever alert to the next catastrophe.

We anticipate disaster, ever ready to finesse it, no matter how scared or overwhelmed we really feel.

We’re confused, because what was said the day before — or 10 minutes earlier — is now different. Pivot! Fast! Do it again!

The cognitive load leaves us unfocused or less productive at work and in intimate relationships. We’re burned out.

Gaslighting is incessant, the denials of terrible things they just said. You heard it. You saw it. But…no, you didn’t, they insist. 

Four years of this?

I’m exhausted after a week.

37 thoughts on “Living in chaos is exhausting

  1. Thank you for saying this and it’s true. I found this post on this blog helpful. It’s called “Self-Care in the Age of Trump.”

    I’ve been forcing myself to write fiction (which is what I do), to engage offline with my colleagues and friends and family, and to watch my favorite shows and movies to give myself some down time. We all need to do this. And when my fellow warriors need their down time, I’ve had some of my own, so I can step up for actions until someone else is ready to take a turn. It’s how I’m currently maintaining.

    Keep the faith, y’all. Stick together, and raise hell. We’re all we’ve got.

    1. Right? I alternate between Twitter/FB and my various progressive friends and the actions they’re recommending and taking — and reading (my fave) UK shelter (design) magazines and looking at gorgeous fabric online.

      It’s a real challenge to rest/recharge/regroup and not feel overwhelmed by despair.

  2. I’ve been reading the NYT, following certain threads on FB and recently followed Rogue POTUS Staff on Twitter, and now I need to curtail it all because it is making me anxious and physically ill. I keep saying this over and over, but he is going to kill us all. Not with nukes, just by the all angst he’s created.

    1. The challenge is to detach and turn off and tune out….when it all feels URGENT ALL THE TIME. His goal is to keep everyone freaked out, off guard and distracted. Which also makes us feel like we have to watch his every move 24/7….and oh, yeah, we have lives and work and sleep to attend to.

      I think having the ACLU — with $17 m raised in TWO DAYS — will comfort some of us a bit.

  3. me too. and another protest for me today at the airport. sometimes i just have to physically do something to feel that i’m fighting the injustice and insanity of it all.

  4. And this perfectly captures the unrest in my mind as I watch the spectacle that is Trump politics unfold. It is tempting to recluse into a bubble of isolation but apathy is not the answer. I’m exhausted and I think that I need a distraction like how we would play pretend as children to escape the pain of our powerlessness!

    1. The challenge is to remember that we’re not powerless — even though we feel that way! I read the FT (global, British) and today’s headline on the front page says “global hostility growing.” While Trump refuses to acknowledge the nation’s global role, others do not…

      1. We are not powerless indeed and it may be our own personal commitment to transmit love and empathy in our daily interactions that creates the change we wish to see.

  5. Sometimes I think he does all of this to cover up greater misdeeds (like the conflicts of interests, releasing his tax returns….). Everyone’s attention are focused elsewhere on his actions and tweets.

  6. Everyone in the US has been forced into a relationship with an NPD narcissist. Although their day-to-day behaviour is unpredictable, it is also very predictable (and entrenched) over time. At the moment, he is in the idealisation stage. However, the criticism coming his way and his inability to cope with it will trigger some major devaluations and discards. A couple of months from now, he will do a purge and it won’t be pretty.

    I heard him described today on CBC as “a thug in a suit.” That’s exactly what he is.

    1. Having lived with an NPD narcissist for decades, I recognized all the signs (as you did, and many others)…The press did not. The public did not. Now there needs to be a major pivot to behave with him as one would with someone whose patterns are predictable — and controllable. How sad and how frightening that the President of the U.S. should be described thus. I don’t disagree, but look at the contrast from Obama. Talk about head-spinning.

  7. Well said. I still find myself wondering WHY we put ourselves in this position. This isn’t an attempt to bring up futile arguments about the election results. However, I do think that you may have shed some light on the emotional context.

    We (not me personally of course, rather the collective “We”) have put an abusive person at the helm of our country.

    1. Thanks for weighing in…

      If you have not grown up around these patterns (and many have not), you have NO context or history to even know what’s hitting you — even as it hits you over and over and over. So there’s tremendous cognitive dissonance and confusion, all of which serves beautifully to distract you.

      One of the patterns I know very well is CHARM. Ohhhhh, they’re so so charming — full of grandiose promises that you long to hear. Then, power attained, forget it. You gave them the attention and validation they craved and now you’re something to discard. In a family, you can (ideally) flee, sometimes for good. In a polity? Good luck with that. Those he bamboozled either didn’t know or didn’t care or…maybe…had some naive fantasy that he’d change once Commander in Chief. You know, behave like a President. Nope.

  8. Oomp! What I thought was another political commentary on the Trump-land saga hit me in the gut. I grew up and married into families with alcohol abuse and mental health issues and I have never seen in black white (and in so few words) the feelings associated with this way of life, form of existing really. Thanks again (the send time in a week) for your timely words.

    1. Thanks…and boy, did it take me a while to connect those painful dots.

      You know what it’s like to deal with these issues and they are sad and crazy and crazy-making and…we normally don’t even talk about them because it’s better (for me anyway) to move ahead and focus on better things.

      But the patterns are in there and so are the emotional reactions this behavior triggers. I left my family behind and don’t have a lot of interaction with them. But we are now STUCK with this man who has tremendous power to destroy our lives, and has already started to do so.

      Talk about feeling powerless and infantile again! 🙂

  9. Oomp! What I thought was another political commentary on the Trump-land saga hit me in the gut. I grew up and married into families with alcohol abuse and mental health issues and I have never seen in black white (and in so few words) the feelings associated with this way of life, form of existing really. Thanks again (the send time in a week) for your timely thoughts.

  10. You nailed it, Caitlin. And for those of us who did not grow up in exactly that situation, our mouths are agape because it is new to us, MOST especially compared to the leadership we experienced in the last eight years: a man with intelligence, grace, and class, doing his job in the face of, well, the ugliness that faces us now. Self-care while not hiding one’s head in the sand are essential. Along with dogged actions that reflect what we want our elected officials to do and how to behave. And really working that 12-step serenity prayer.

    1. Hey, good to hear from you!!

      That’s why I wanted to write this…people who already well know these patterns know exactly what’s going on and what it does to us, emotionally and intellectually — confusion, paralysis, divided points of view on what to do in response. Classic.

      But for millions of Americans — and others — and esp. the press, it’s all so bizarre and incomprehensible they are thrown back on their heels in shock. No. Must stay in the game and press this SOB hard every single day.

  11. I agree with you , I think this man is suffering from paranoia disease . But the question is:
    Why is he elected by the American people, does this mean that there is an imbalance in the US election law ???

  12. I think the toughest bit for us will be that we will need to learn–collectively–not to react. That’s what he does. We need to form our agenda and work it–not getting sidetracked by battles that don’t amount to much. That is tough to do in a personal life, let alone as a population. But, I have faith many of us are getting there . . .

    1. Had this conversation this morning with a fellow green card holder (German) about this.

      Doing anything collectively is also somewhat un-American…:-)

      We are losing/wasting a lot of momentum by failing to push back HARD on his appalling agenda, instead reacting to his every dodge and feint.

      Have you read this?

      View at

      And this?—ThEKobCTBm1W/

  13. Pingback: [BLOG] Some Tuesday links | A Bit More Detail

  14. He is a clown, so we can at least laugh. To prevent global depression. More worrying are the clowns he appointed to govern behind him. But we must not lose our sense of humour. Somehow. I give him two years at the most.

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