Political Trauma: Navigating Two Sides of Healing


Champlain sunset, taken by Preston Banas (’24).

Facing emotional crises isn’t uncommon for college students as many encounter important aspects of their lives, such as mental health and politics, in unexpected ways. Nearly two years ago, my traumas and unresolved remorse were unfolding at a frighteningly rapid pace. This was partially because of the growth that everyone undertakes during their college experience, but the isolation of quarantine forced me to take a closer look in the mirror. The realization that I was an emotional abuse victim – and perpetrator – shook my core to the point where I had to rebuild it. I became a blank slate because I felt so uncertain of how to approach people. My unhealthy tendencies affected others and put me in situations that I frequently refused to hold myself accountable for.

It pains me to say that I have made people upset due to being tone-deaf and cruel regarding charged topics for years. Every one of these instances carry weight both on me and anyone else present. Immersing myself in conservative circles and media that are insensitive towards minority groups for years was extremely unhealthy. The transition from feeling joy and pride in this to gut-sinking remorse and shame was abrupt and contrasts in a way I cannot describe. My upbringing was extremely difficult to deal with, and viewing people as one-dimensional stereotypes was one of my harmful and inexcusable means of coping with it. I’m not the victim, but there is difficulty in letting go of regret and managing to find and embrace a new role that is right for me.

I have made a shift from contributing to a voice that says “There’s only two genders, change my mind,” to “There are more than two genders, I changed my mind.” Healing from my trauma and finding self-acceptance has allowed me to come to terms with my gender identity. This has made me less agitated and more free, calm, and compassionate, rather than controversial. Making Republican Club posters is one of my biggest life regrets.

I have opened up about my trauma recovery and newfound political sensitivity to friends, family and acquaintances. I don’t mean “political sensitivity” stance-wise so much as in attitude and intentions, although all of that has changed for me. It’s hard to not feel hopeless about making up for my past, but apologizing and being open about the consequences of tense discourse has helped significantly.

Not everyone has a political calling, whether intellectually or emotionally, and I certainly did not. Outspokenness about trauma and sensitivity has been a suitable and preferable path for me. It’s more universal and constructive. It makes my heart plummet that I built a foundation of hatred before arriving at this point, but I hope that, moving forward, I can heal and reverse that damage. Prioritizing causes over political judgements can not only heal old wounds but build new, promising foundations.