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  • Writer's pictureJane Leder

Tales of A Political Junkie

Dedicated to Nancy Agli

I'm a political junkie__well, a recovering junkie currently embarked on a self-prescribed detox program here in Mexico, a country thousands of miles away from home where all the hootin' and hollerin' from cable channels like MSNBC (which had been my channel [drug] of choice) and, of course, Fox__or should I say, state-run TV. Here, CNN broadcasts in Spanish only and, while my Spanish has definitely improved, it isn't that good. And then there all the apps on my phone: the New York Times, NPR, Politico, Daily Kos . . . Sure, I can simply delete them but like most addicts, I hold out the possibility that one day I'll be able to take a peek and move on, even though I know that, like an alcoholic who has just one drink or a heroin addict who shoots up one "last" time, I'd spiral down into the political hole. (My phone just beeped. Thankfully, it was a notification from SpanishDict that my word of the day is oso de peluche which translated means teddy bear.) A relief.

Those damn texts from every political candidate and political organization that I have supported over the last three years disrupt my day and my resolve. Donate $5 and I'm a major donor whose money will make or break a candidate. Fill out a survey ("Do you want a candidate who can beat Trump or who supports the issues you care about?" "Would you vote for a Biden/Kamala Harris ticket?" "How important is the age of a candidate?") and my opinion will make the difference and help elect the next POTUS. Hell, the beeps on my phone never stop. And I'm always just a tad bit curious. You know, maybe I've won a million bucks or the HGTV Dream Home.

The list of side effects of being a political junkie can be disastrous: anxiety, depression, even REM Behavior Disorder. A sleep specialist suspects that I'm suffering from RBD because, while we are supposed to be paralyzed during this stage of our sleep, I've taken to screaming aloud__words like "Help!", "Stop him!", and kicking my legs as if I'm running the last leg of a marathon.

By the way, my symptoms are not singular. There have been surveys about this stuff:

The American Psychological Association's 2016 "Stress in America" survey, conducted online among some 3,400 American adults and published in February of 2017, found that 63 percent of respondents regard the future of the country as "a significant source of stress"; some 56 percent "say that they are stressed by the current political climate." The 2018 edition of the survey showed that the number of Americans who view the future of the country as a significant stressor had jumped to 69 percent; those who saw the political climate as a source of stress had jumped to 62 percent.
And this stress has metastasized in an observable phenomenon: Clinical psychologist Jennifer Panning characterized the phenomenon as "Trump Anxiety Disorder," a specific type of anxiety in which symptoms "were specific to the election of Trump and the resultant unpredictable sociopolitical climate." Others on the right side of the ideological spectrum have classified this anxiety as "Trump Derangement Syndrome," a label that the president himself embraced.

Here in Mexico, I have a fighting chance of conquering my addiction. But an opportunity is not the same as a cure. I know I have to take precautions: don't sit or stand anywhere near a TV; turn my text notification off, delete all those political apps on my phone; don't engage in any conversations with Mexicans or ex-pats about U.S. politics.

One day at a time. Wish me luck.



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