One morning last week, I woke up in a cold panic. I'd just had an anxiety dream in which I was watching a Donald Trump political rally. Hordes of depraved Trump supporters frothing at the mouth had violently descended upon a man for asking a question about LGBTQ rights.
Even scarier than the dream itself is its similarity to the violence that has actually taken place at recent Trump rallies. On March 10, video footage emerged of a white Trump supporter punching a black protester in the face in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Not long after, a Trump rally in Chicago was postponed after fights broke out between Trump supporters and protesters. Trump himself has egged on his violent supporters: "Knock the crap out of 'em," he told his crowd in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Feb. 1 — "I will pay for the legal fees."
Trump has suggested the acts of violence represent his supporters' "tremendous love and passion for the country." For others — myself included — they represent a major source of agitation and anxiety. Combine the violence with Trump's immigration agenda, racist remarks and confusing stance on women's health, and you have a perfectly defensible reason to be stressed the hell out over the possibility of a Trump presidency.
Trump Anxiety Is Real
Christina Crisostomo, 25, couldn't sleep for three hours after hearing the reports of violence in Chicago. "The main thing I keep thinking is how can any person of color feel safe under a Trump presidency," she told Mic.
"Even if he doesn't win, I think he's emboldened people and opened up the way for hostile rhetoric to turn into hostile action," she continued. Crisostomo says she's now feeling "helpless." "It really feels like he's released some sort of pressure valve for people, who now feel justified in saying or doing racist things," she said.
Olivia, 26, is no stranger to Trump-related anxiety. It's "bad enough" thinking about how a Trump presidency would impact her life as a queer, female adult, Olivia told Mic. (She asked that we omit her last name for this story.) But she's had heightened anxiety imagining elementary school kids learning about the U.S. government with Trump as the example of a president.
"This is the first time I've thought about small children having to come to terms with someone like Trump as the icon of America on the world stage, about teachers and parents having to explain that this is who we decided best represented us," she said.
"He'd openly teach bullies that what they're doing is OK, and teach kids being bullied that they should never expect that to change unless they sink to hitting back," Olivia told Mic.
Therapists Are Sympathetic
"I think the disturbing thing people are finding with Trump, in particular, is some of the comments he's made have condoned violence in some way," Nicole Amesbury, therapist and head of clinical development for the service Talkspace, told Mic. It can be "anxiety-producing," she said, when his supporters begin expressing themselves in extreme ways — like with violence at rallies.
"I think it's very scary for people," Amesbury said. "It feels like there's unrest."
Elections in general can be cause for anxiety, according to Amesbury, because they combine two things: uncertainty and change. "Obama is not an option, so we know that there is going to be change — but we don't know what it's going to be," she said.
"Obama is not an option, so we know that there is going to be change — but we don't know what it's going to be," Amesbury said.
In recent months, clients have also been complaining about the "overload" of campaign coverage in the media. "Most of the talk I hear is that people really feel edgy, agitated and annoyed at all the coverage — just the sheer amount of it being pushed at them," Amesbury said. "The whole campaign process happens earlier. There's more talk around it than before."
Other clients seek help dealing with political debates on social media. "Friends are fighting among friends in a way that isn't a friendly debate," Amesbury said. "It can get very nasty."
Massage therapists, too, are fielding Trump-related grievances from clients. According to the Washington Post, Virginia massage therapist Amanda Long "has grown accustomed in recent weeks to clients laying down on her table and bellowing, 'Can you believe this guy?'"
But if Trump Wins, There's a Silver Lining
In a 2010 study published in Social Science Quarterly, researchers examined suicide rates among people who supported different candidates in state elections from 1981 to 2005. Perhaps surprisingly, the researchers found lower suicide rates among residents who supported losing candidates.
Why? In times like these, "It is thought that this happens because elections tend to connect people and add to social cohesion," Amesbury said.
How You Can Cope With Election Anxiety
Get involved with the political process, Amesbury advises. If you stay in and hide, "the bullies win, because then they just get more power." Try volunteering for a campaign and supporting the candidate of your choice, and remember to be brave and have a voice, she told Mic.
For Crisostomo, who is a dual citizen of Canada and the U.S., the solution may be moving back to the Great White North. She's mainly thinking about moving for personal reasons, but if Trump won, she said it "would definitely be a contributing factor!" (For many people, though, relocating is too expensive to consider.)
But your mental health is hard to assign a price tag to. "I don't know how much of election season I can handle anymore," Crisostomo said.