Donald Trump and Mental Illness

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I’ve spent my entire life around mental illness and personality disorders. Just about everyone in my family has dealt with depression. One relative has diagnosed bipolar disorder. My mother would likely never see any sort of mental health specialist, but I’d be greatly surprised if she didn’t have bipolar and histrionic personality disorder. In my own brain, I’ve got some PTSD, lots of anxiety (mostly social and generalized), have had bouts of serious depression, and moderate-severe OCD. I’ve been working with counselors and therapists off and on for the past decade, and I’m in a good place now. Things could always be better, but they’re more better than worse these days as a result of medication, meditation, and hours of work a week I put into self-improvement.

Mental illness sucks just like any illness sucks, and it sucks that we still don’t like to talk about it. The nasty stigma remains, and it is the modern day mental equivalent of leprosy. It needs to be out there more because it exists in all of us, yes all of us. Before you shout “Nope, not me,” think instead of mental illness as you would physical illness. Some people get cancer. Some people get hives. Everyone gets a cold. They are all illnesses. So, while you may not suffer from schizophrenia or OCD, you’ve at some point suffered from an exaggerated anxiety or panic, or perhaps a bit more sadness than you would have expected from the onset of winter. This is all mental illness. And one day, probably long after we’re all gone, we’ll hopefully get to a point where we can talk about these things like we talk about the common cold. Although who knows, since there is still a huge stigma around more serious physical illnesses as well.

All of this brings me of course to Donald Trump. Ha! Got you, sucker.

The world has now split into what seems to be two, and only two, camps. Those who think Donald Trump is the savior of the United States, and those who think he’s an awful man. I’m in the latter camp, but before you say “hell yeah!” and stop reading or “fuck you!” and stop reading, I’d like to mention that Donald Trump is my grandmother.

I grew up with Donald Trump. Not literally, but the shared traits are oh-so-familiar to me. Words that change meaning every other day. Respect that is constantly demanded. Loudness that is more important than correctness. Their way or the highway. A compliment gets you everything, a personal criticism is never, ever forgotten. Stuff like that. These are the traits of a narcissist. And Donald Trump is a textbook, and extreme, narcissist. Now, there have been plenty of people that have been in power and have done good things and have also been narcissists. But like anything else, narcissism is a spectrum. We all have basic narcissistic traits, and one could argue that’s even more true now that we are the curators of our own museums with social media. But extreme anything is often bad, and The Donald is on that extreme end.

True narcissism stems from a deep down resentment of oneself which is so harmful, destructive, and unpleasant that the person constructs a persona – a shell of protection – and that persona is often self-glorified to a magnificent perfection. This is not a choice, per se, just a trial and error of early life experiences that cull together over time. Most narcissists aren’t aware of this – the innate reality of the disorder doesn’t allow true self-analysis. The deep problem is, the magnificent persona isn’t real. It’s a shiny gold plating on a turd, and the most important thing in the world to that person is keeping that shiny gold plating intact so people don’t see the turd within. That’s why Donald Trump spends so much time and energy defending “himself.” It is the wall that prevents home base from becoming exposed.

Now, you may say “Bullshit, no one hates themselves that much, give me a break you idiot.” But this, just like any severe disorder, doesn’t just show up as a letter in the mailbox and afflict the sad SOB that opens it. It is a result of severe trauma. Trump’s father was basically Gordon Gekko. Imagine Gordon Gekko as a father and what that could do to a son (while pretending the sequel to Wall Street doesn’t exist).

My grandmother was an incredibly dominant woman that refused to give up her place in the spotlight to her daughters, and when one of them (my mother’s sister) was killed in an accident, that pressure only compounded for my mom. I wasn’t around for that, but I grew up four miles from my grandmother, and I saw the way she treated my mother. I loved my grandmother, and one of the toughest moments of my life was reconciling with the fact that I was her favorite, and that she did not treat anyone else in the family with the way she favored me. Not my brother, not my father, and not even her own daughter. To me, she was a great woman. To them, she was a controlling bully. But she told me the things I wanted to hear. That I was smart. That I was strong willed. That I had good things coming. Words like that helped shape me into the person I am today. It wasn’t until much later that I realized with a heavy heart that the same woman used those same traits to beat everyone else in the family down. Once I did, my own mother made so much more sense to me. Her histrionics were a direct result of being a dominated woman trying to find a way to assert her own identity. Who you are always finds a way to come out, and the more you’re not allowed to, the bigger the potential for an eruption.

It took me a long time to see that, to understand that, in my grandmother. It didn’t take me nearly as long to see that in others. Once you’re “in the circle,” habits and traits are easier to spot. It’s like the brother of a friend of mine. Kid’s a heroin addict and no matter where he goes, he’s instantly in trouble with other junkies. New job at the market, random strangers walking by on the street, doesn’t matter. My friend and I just look at each other and shrug and say, “How the fuck do they always find each other so easily?” I’ve never “known” a heroin user in my life, and Johnny can’t turn around without having someone he’s never met before offer to sell him dope. Once you’re in, you’re in. Once you see the signs, you see them everywhere they exist. No more shadows.

And that’s Donald Trump. The man is a textbook narcissist. If you want to know everything there is to know about the man, about who he is, what he’ll do next, why he contradicts so much of what he says without regard, and even why he spends so much time and energy belittling celebrities on Twitter (and also why he will most likely never do the same to a person that isn’t “famous”), read up on NPD. The “what” will make so much more sense once you gain a strong understanding of the “why.” It will also scare you even more if you thought the guy was a bad choice for leader of the free world.

So now, let’s play a little game. Let’s pretend that this assumption (and it is an assumption, because I’m no medical professional and could be entirely wrong here) is correct and that The Donald has a bad case of the NPDs. Now let’s turn the spotlight to the different kinds of supporters he would have.

Person A is unaware of what NPD is, what it means, and how it affects them. Trump is just “a guy telling it like it is.” A man not afraid of being a man. A little rough around the edges, but he gets things done. I can totally understand this position, but if that’s you, I beg you to read up on NPD. Not that it will make any difference with Trump one way or the other, but because it will give you a new understanding of a dangerous kind of person and maybe help you avoid these types and the damage they can cause in your intimate life and relationships.

Persons B and C are both looped in subconsciously to what an NPD personality is, but there is no overt awareness. There can’t be, because if there were, they wouldn’t be aligned with him in the first place. Narcissists are like rattlesnakes. They can be handled, but only if necessary but really the best idea is to just smile at them and walk slowly away. You’ll end up hurt. You always will.

To narrow it down further, Person B is a part of what’s now being called “collective narcissism.” They aren’t necessarily narcissists themselves, but like the “winning” characteristics of the group they are a part of, and the groupthink involved shares many narcissistic qualities. I.e., “we’re the best, you’re the worst, if we perceive you’re attacking us we’ll attack you twice as hard cause you’re all pussies and we’re the best.”

Many of the young adults that feel like since they are Americans and have been told and sold that they’re better than everyone else on earth and deserve to be showered with riches but for some strange reason (not because that isn’t how things work, though) they aren’t fall into this category. In my opinion, this isn’t all that dissimilar to extreme sports fans. Trump is the new Dallas Cowboys, the new “America’s Team.” EXCEPT THIS ISN’T MEN THROWING A BALL FOR POINTS AND DOLLARS, THIS IS REAL FUCKING LIFE. But I digress.

Finally, there’s group C. People also unaware about the underlying personality disorder but instead of aligning with it, they self-victimize and fall into line. My mother had shades of this with her mom. She has this with Trump. I can almost tell that she hates the man, much like I can almost tell that part of her hated my grandmother. But it’s normalized. It’s what she knows. Love and respect and family and everything can’t exist unless the person giving it to you is giving it to you conditionally, or with force, or with some other side order of unhealthiness. You know those people that always date the wrong person but wonder how they always end up with a scumbag? And you’re like “how the hell did you not see this from date 1?” I know it. People told me. I even tried to avoid it, but I couldn’t. Because it was all I knew. I grew up homeschooled with only two women in my life; mom and grandma. And who they were taught me all I knew about women. I remember walking into therapy years ago and my dude asked me what I wanted to work on and I said, “the last four women I’ve dated were all the same kind of emotional manipulators and I swear to you right now I never saw it coming, but this can’t be a coincidence.” It took years to break out of that cycle. Just another thing we’re so close to that we can’t see it, and another thing that requires informing yourself about and working hard to overcome.

I wrote this because everyone is writing about Trump and it’s trendy. But also because I’ve seen everyone discuss and argue and try to explain what Trump is saying and doing, and even those discussing why are mostly coming at it from an angle that he’s some sort of mastermind of distraction that can expertly throw attention off the issues and onto Alec Baldwin’s impressions like a PR Edgar Bergen throwing his voice to Charlie McCarthy. But as a fan of Occam and his razor, I feel the truth is much simpler than that. One just needs to know where to begin. And that place is somewhere I, unfortunately, am all too familiar with.