“HOW IS EVERYONE ACTING SO NORMAL?!” I screamed, to everyone and no one, in my nearly empty subway car. Everything might have seemed normal to a naïve onlooker. Just like any other early evening commute home to Brooklyn on a Wednesday in early November. In fact, the sound of shouting or merely the presence of someone “acting crazy” isn’t particularly abnormal in the tunnels of the New York City subway system. Except that the seemingly crazy person shouting was me; and I don’t like shouting; and, at least up to that moment, my most insane moments in life—of which there have already been many—had taken place in far less public places. No, things were not normal, and I certainly wasn’t feeling normal.
It had all begun the previous night, nearly 24 hours prior to this episode on the subway, when news began to “break” that Donald Trump had been elected as the 45th president of the United States. I think it’s safe to say I wasn’t the only one feeling abnormal that day. And my screams were just the beginning….
To my great shock, the other humans in my subway car barely reacted to my frantic outburst. Some glanced at me, at my tears. Tears that had been slowly flowing down my cheeks and chin long enough to form little marks of moisture on my pant legs. Tears that were accompanied here and there by audible whimpers of distress. My discomfort and fear were quickly escalating as my state of mind began rapidly unraveling.
Now might be a good time to inform my readers that all four of my grandparents fled from and successfully escaped Nazi Europe by various means and that I have, since childhood, been obsessed with the Holocaust. It also might help to know that prior to the evening this story takes place, I had already been hospitalized twice for severe suicidal depression and had for nearly six years been taking an ever-changing prescribed cocktail of psychoactive drugs.
As I continued my underground journey, extreme paranoia began to eclipse all fear and discomfort. At the stop closest to my apartment, I did not disembark. This trip could be my last experience on the subway, I thought; I might as well keep riding to the end and then take it back while I figure out how to GTFO of this mad country. And, thus, the terrifying inevitability of a third world war began to cloud my consciousness.
In this mounting state of panic, my sense of time and reality soon vanished as my plan to survive evolved. What was my plan and what did I need to survive, you might ask? Here is where my depressive obsession with and depth of knowledge about the Holocaust becomes significant. Temporarily out of touch with reality, I felt certain that Trump and his people might already have access to voting records and could already be plotting an organized retaliation against those who did not vote for him.
Drawing from the story of my maternal grandmother’s departure from Luxembourg on the evening of the day the Nazis invaded her country, I suddenly felt certain that I didn’t have time for one last joyride to the end of the subway line. I must return home and pack a suitcase at once. Countless Holocaust books and memorial museums had taught me how quickly and lightly most Nazi victims were forced to pack. With this knowledge in mind, I began discarding any items I would no longer need onto the floor of the subway car. At least those things might be of use to others, I thought; and then, at the following stop, I exited onto Eastern Parkway.
I honestly cannot remember how exactly I got home from there, but I’m pretty certain that my determination to walk the few miles back to my apartment eventually subsided and I hopped in a yellow cab. At home, my mind continued to run wild as I attempted to pack my suitcase wisely, without concern for rational considerations like the fact that my passport had recently expired and ordering a new one was still lingering on my ever-growing “To Do” list.
For what felt like an eternity and was likely far less than an hour, I thought crazy thoughts and I packed for my big escape. As it turns out, the lines between a severe panic attack, mania, and psychosis are quite blurry firsthand. So I packed, and panicked; panicked, and packed…. Until, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the look of terror on my poor little puppy’s face. Seeing him seeing me freaking out beyond my wildest nightmares forced my body and, more importantly, my mind to freeze. I stopped packing, and to some degree I stopped panicking. Almost immediately, I began seeking help from my established human support network, which is where my history of mental illness blessed me with the existence of a personalized and memorized plan of action for moments of “crisis.”
Now, nearly two years later, after a shitload of self discovery, and hard work, and soul searching, and riding the waves of life’s ups and downs, I no longer subscribe to the belief that taking mind-altering prescription drugs benefit my state of mind. It’s been well over a year since I tapered off antidepressants and nearly a year since I stopped relying on medication to help me sleep through the night. These days my medicine comes primarily from nature, yoga, dancing, mindfulness, and meditation; and I have never felt better.
Today, I can state with abundant clarity of mind and relative certainty that a third world war will not begin the day after this upcoming midterm election. There are just a few other truths with which I would like to conclude this story. First, people risked their lives and died in the political movements that expanded the rights of voters in this country, so please go out and exercise your right to vote on November 6th! Second, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (the Nazi party) was elected to power in Germany nearly a decade before the start of WWII, so it is neither crazy nor unreasonable to be alarmed by the other-phobia, anti-media propaganda, and violent rhetoric of the current president and his party. Third, emotional support animals really can save the day—the puppy I got following a suicide attempt a few months earlier successfully thwarted the escape plan upon which I became fixated during my mental breakdown following the 2016 election. And, finally, regardless of the outcome of the 2018 election, if you’re not feeling “normal” know that you’re not the only one; and, maybe, come up with a plan for who you can call if the results have you feeling like you might need to scream out loud in front of a bunch of strangers in the subway.