Before Trump, I was just another news junkie.
I was a functional addict. Could fake my way through a normal conversation; talk about Zika bugs, Frank Artiles’ Hooter girls, Burmese pythons or traffic on the Palmetto without once invoking Michael Flynn or James Comey.
I was attentive, back then, to the controversies dogging Metropolitan Miami. If these were normal times, I would be all set to write about malfeasance in Opa-locka or that Miami deputy city attorney who compared medicinal marijuana to pedophilia.
But no. I’ve got nothing. I’ve been laid low by what Hollywood screenwriter Sam Friedlander has diagnosed as Trump-Induced Anxiety Disorder.
For someone like me, addicted to political news, the stuff cascading out of the White House these past few weeks has been like capping off a yearlong bender with a visit to a crack house. I’ve taken on the physical aspect of a fentanyl zombie, staring with raccoon eyes at my computer screen, bouncing back and forth between the Washington Post and New York Times websites, then over to McClatchy, Politico, The Hill, Naked Politics, Mother Jones, New Yorker, Drudge, Atlantic, Weekly Standard. (If I’ve forgotten one, for God’s sake, don’t remind me.)
Oh, I take a break from the news sites in the early afternoon to catch Spicey flailing his way through the White House daily briefing like a bloodied boxer back before concussion protocols required the ref to stop the fight.
By evenings, I’m so far gone that a sober recitation of the days’ news on NPR no longer does it for me. Not enough kick. Nowadays, I need the cheap high of cable TV news. Need the discordant chorus of some pugnacious news panel just to keep me going.
To be followed by sleep fractured by nightmares of Steve Bannon, his jowls covered with a three-day beard, discovering a cache of Syrian refugees cowering in my basement. Dawn comes. Trump tweets something outrageous. The cycle starts anew.
Back in 2003, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer decided that progressives were suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome, which he described as “acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency — nay — the very existence of George W. Bush.”
Nowadays even a right-winger like Krauthammer can suffer Trump paranoia. In a May 4 Washington Post column, he wrote about “the insanity, incoherence and sheer weirdness emanating daily from the White House, with which we’ve all come up with our own coping technique. Here’s mine: I simply view President Trump as the Wizard of Oz.”
“Loud and bombastic. A charlatan. Nothing behind the screen — other than the institutional chaos that defines his White House and the psychic chaos that governs his ever-changing mind.”
In February, when the Trump roller coaster was still chugging up that first steep incline, the American Psychological Association released a poll indicating that “the current political climate is a very or somewhat significant source of stress for more than half of Americans (57 percent).” For Democrats, the stress toll was 72 percent.
Katherine Nordal, the APA’s executive director, concluded that “the stress we’re seeing around political issues is deeply concerning, because it’s hard for Americans to get away from it. We’re surrounded by conversations, news and social media that constantly remind us of the issues that are stressing us the most.”
That same month, in Psychology Today, clinical psychologist Jeremy Clyman reported that since the Trump election, “virtually all of my clients” have come down with a “palpable and perpetual societal angst.” Clyman advised that we “minimize news intake and emphasize healthy distraction in your free time.”
Clyman’s advice recalls lyrics from songwriter John Prine: “Blow up your TV, throw away your paper, go to the country, build you a home. Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches, try and find Jesus on your own.”
The Daily Dot has reported that “Trump anxiety is taking a toll on Americans’ health,” blaming his politics for sleep loss, depression, anxiety and pain symptoms. Worse, “stress eating is sky high.” Me? I attribute my latest 10 pounds to Trumpism.
More proof of Trump Induced Anxiety Disorder comes from Britain, where a window-blind company has sponsored a website that tracks nocturnal tweets as a measure of worldwide sleeplessness. The U.S. apparently leads the globe in insomnia. So-called blue regions, areas that voted for Hillary Clinton, suffer most from sleep deprivation. Meanwhile, folks in red states like Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Arkansas, Alabama are fast asleep by 11:30 p.m., oblivious to the sleep disorders their votes caused the rest of the world.
According to The Washington Post, even Trump’s own White House staffers are exhausted and on the edge of collapse. The conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page complained about the “weeks of pointless melodrama.”
Trump ally and Senate President Mitch McConnell, looking a little zonked himself, told Bloomberg TV, “I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House.”
There’s even talk among the chronically sleep deprived of impeachment.
Me? I don’t think I could bear going Trump-less cold turkey. The withdrawal would be unbearable.