17th February 2018 – now that Trump’s presidency is over, just 13 months after it started, I can look back on the breakdown I had that coincided with his failed term in office
In the wake of the rise and fall of Donald trump, I could speak nothing but word salad. Forgive me for this slight misnomer. I just haven’t found a better tag to hang on what happened. Trying to process what happened has brought me to writing this now; I need to reach for any descriptions that get close to the feelings I felt.
Here goes: I failed to connect with the basic meaning of words. As far as my writing goes, it probably seems that I still do. Bad jokes were a feature of that rambling street-roving/bed-ridden time, too. To anyone watching at the time, it must have looked like I was wilfully ignoring grammar rules. Words spilled out like from broken milk bottles. As they ran off the worktops and pooled on the floor, there was no way to put them back in order.
I’m sure I appeared to be enjoying the sound of my voice just as much as always. All the while, on the inside, I was captivated by the sound of my own furiously beating heart. Something like shock took hold of me. My nerves were smashed. Electrical fires went off at the heart of each frayed axon. Or so I thought. Whatever, it wasn’t the unequivocally tough response my team-mates desired.
In fact, this is all wrong. I shouldn’t use the phrase word salad. It’s unfair of me to over-egg the pudding when trying to describe my breakdown. Unfair to myself, too, since overstating things is what got me into such a broken-down position in the first place. It’s a longstanding habit.
I can just imagine myself in a final interview for a job in which embellishment and double-speak would be key strengths. The interview is going well. “I’ve always told fibs”, I say. “When I was at primary school, despite what was then a burgeoning pathological fear of nuns, I had the whole convent strung along on my own version of the Rocky narrative. I was amazed that they didn’t know the story. Even more amazed that they believed that I was a 9 year-old boxing champion”. This is true. “At university, I seduced two of my tutors using a mixture of bullshit and sycophancy”. This is also true.
At times I would stay in bed for almost the entire day, only getting up to relieve myself in the toilet. I never quite got to the point of wetting myself. Like I say, I shouldn’t over-egg it. Still, at these points it felt like feelings of any kind were at an incredible distance. Like water glimpsed across a vast desert landscape. Who knew what was real? Since I was the only one in a position to know what was going on, or report what I saw, no one could get a clear idea. There were moments when I thought about language and it seemed that words had in many cases been replaced by symbols. Mashed encodings of indecipherable characters rose up when I tried to put a sentence through my head. I might have been dying of thirst but I was adrift without a compass. I wandered, aimless and freezing, while the only drink for miles around was a frozen glass of milk lost somewhere in that snow storm.
Like I said before, this was not the display of strong backbone that my colleagues had hoped to see.
It began around the time that Trump was elected, though at the time I thought my up-and-down moods were just cycling along like normal. By the time he was openly attacking the most well-established media outlets, calling everyone a liar and disseminating not only hatred, which we’d become accustomed to during his election campaign, but also so many lies that no-one could see what was fact and what was fiction any longer, well, by that point I was acting like an angry fool. I’d lost all perspective.
I think the first true signs of the break came when I had an unexpected fit of screaming. My sister was the unfortunate victim and I still feel bad about the way I spoke to her. She made some off-hand comment about how Trump wasn’t that bad; he wasn’t the monster that people were making him out to be. I spent about twenty minutes arguing with her, though really I was arguing with my own ideas of what I thought she was saying.
At the time, when she was saying “Stop shouting at me, please”, I took it as more provocation. Here she was shouting at me, telling me not to shout. Replaying it in my mind now; however, I can see (or hear) that she wasn’t really shouting at all. I was just taking everything as provocation. Everything I did was rushed and at high volume.
I was sprinting round on my bike telling everyone to f-off. I would flick the vees at any little old lady, no matter how carefully she was driving down the lane. This was how caught up I was in my own fury. I can’t even remember what I was mad about, but it all happened around the time that Trump was ramping up his hate-mongering. He wasn’t to blame. Don’t get me wrong. He was just an idiot with the tallest soapbox in the world. The factor at fault was the non-stop hate-ticker-tape running in my head. I’ve apologised to my sister and I think, I hope, she understands. Love and forgiveness is all you need, I hope.
Anyway, not to excuse that break with good behaviour, but I couldn’t bring myself to look at the world the right way up. Everything that everyone said seemed to be a lie.
I, the tiny liar who had convinced his schoolmates that he’d been to Hong Kong in the holidays and made up whole narratives about taxi drivers who drank from vodka bottles while tearing through the Kowloon traffic, and giant marbles that needed diggers to be rolled round in downtown games, I was in a rage over lies. Nothing seemed right.
Yet the required response was, on my part, not forthcoming. The etiquette was, as always, far from me. Trump could lie. He could convince other people that his lies were true. I could feel some indignation, like a portly priest from a Thomas Hardy book, all ruddy-cheeked and parsimonious at the appearance of the travellers’ encampment on the edge of the village green, or like a Jane-Austen-laced bonnet-sporting mademoiselle with a precious Brontë cough, who, with no idea about how the world works goes into some lengthy, high-pitched jeremiad aimed at all the penny-pinching heart-string tailors of this world, but this indignation wasn’t going to get us anywhere. Especially not once it took over. Bouncing around like a perpetually hungry one-legged pigeon: this wasn’t the solution. I should have taken my opinions to a quiet courtyard and dashed their little heads on the flagstones. Ignore me: I’m not even sure what defines a flagstone as opposed to any other stone.
The point is this: in the time that Trump made his rise to power and fell so dramatically therefrom that, we hope, we pray, he’ll never return (a final, more moral bankruptcy from which there’s no redemption), I fell apart. I wasn’t there to help anyone. What would have happened if it really was the end of the world? Instead of being the hero at the heart of some Walking Dead scenario - instead of being the avenger who survives the apocalypse and brings communities back together – I’d be huddled under a blanket crying my furious eyes out. I can’t even say “thanks Obama”.
Let’s hope 2018 brings some better luck. Trump’s made a spectacular fool of himself by falling foul of the law on the grandest stage. Meanwhile, almost incidentally, I’ve learned something. I certainly feel more ready to tackle what comes my way, or accept it. I’ve learned from the heartache I gave myself. I think that’s the only way forward: feel the pain and move on with a better understanding of what to do next time.