The 2020 Election Cycle is Giving Me Anxiety

As the race has accelerated, so have my unease and apprehension

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Photo by David Everett Strickler on Unsplash

Today my boyfriend told me that in the past two or three months, he’s noticed my anxiety ramping up. I’ve noticed it too, the presence of unsettled restlessness has become more frequent. This isn’t anxiety caused by stressful situations or occurrences in my life. It’s that pervasive kind that comes with generalized anxiety, the kind I take medication for daily.

My first thought is that maybe I need to adjust my dosage — after all, it’s been a while since I’ve had to change anything. In the last few days, though, I’ve developed a theory about why I’ve been feeling the way I am.

The last presidential election cycle was in 2016, which was one of the most difficult years of my adult life. It all started in April, when I was wrongfully terminated from a job I loved. It turned my entire life upside down, I lost my independence, my confidence, and the life I’d started to build after my divorce. The depression I experienced throughout that year was compounded by the loss of five people close to me, having to fight for unemployment, financial difficulties, a bad job market, my best friend losing her father, and finally, election night.

My feminism and the light of possibility that our country was really going to do it was a beacon in darkness. Then it went out.

I was devastated when Trump won. I had all of this hope for Hillary and I was so sure that she was going to win. My feminism and the light of possibility that our country was really going to do it was a beacon in darkness. Then it went out. I had no idea at the time just how much damage this presidency would do to our country, but I knew it wasn’t going to be good.

It’s been four years, and I’ve grieved and largely moved forward from the things that I experienced that year. But our experiences make us who we are, and the memories of them are in our DNA. I certainly would not claim to have PTSD, but I’m starting to realize that the feelings and trauma inside me are sitting a bit closer to the surface than usual.

I didn’t watch the Democratic debates this week. I haven’t been researching the candidates. Bernie Sanders came to my state last week, and several friends went, and I found myself contemplating why I can’t seem to get excited about him. In fact, I can’t seem to get excited about any of the candidates.

I haven’t been this avoidant of politics for decades. I have strong convictions, and I always vote. I believe our political system is pretty screwed up, but at the same time, it’s one of the biggest ways for us to express our desires and make our voices heard. In the last several presidential elections, I’ve shared my thoughts, I’ve looked into the candidates, and I’ve been excited and vocal.

Getting my hopes up about anybody feels terrifying after what happened last time.

This time is different. Getting my hopes up about anybody feels terrifying after what happened last time. I want to get excited about Elizabeth Warren, who is my closest match on the issues, but I can’t help wondering if voting for her would be throwing away my vote. I hate that I am having trouble convincing myself to embrace the possibility of such a fierce, impressive woman.

I’ve always been critical of people who vote on one issue, for example, voting for conservative republicans because they’re pro-life without considering what else they’re pro. Now I find myself in a situation where I feel like I’ve got tunnel-vision myself, and all I can see in that narrow window is please, anyone but Trump.

For years, I hesitated to identify myself as an empath, but I’ve finally developed a sense of acceptance about it. I’m a highly sensitive person, I always have been. As I’ve gotten to know myself and opened my heart, it’s only amplified things. You just can’t have the ups without the downs.

I’m realizing that I’m going to need to monitor myself closely during this election cycle. As my friends and the world in general start to talk more and more about the candidates and Trump starts to rail harder against his opponents, it’s just going to get more intense. My four-years-ago self is going to become less opaque, and I’ve got to figure out how to remember that now isn’t then.

I’m petrified we’re going to have four more years of Trump.

Right now, I’m afraid. I’m petrified we’re going to have four more years of Trump, that no matter who we vote for and how high our numbers are, it won’t be enough. I’m concerned the amount of damage four more years would do and how close so much of this seems to the dystopian societies in the novels I like so much.

I’m not sure I have an answer, or a strategy. Sharing my feelings is the first step to recognizing that they’re valid, that even if it feels silly to be triggered by this, that doesn’t stop it from happening. Maybe for now, acknowledging my feelings is enough. I hope that I’ll figure out a way to feel happier and healthier as this year goes on, and to throw my support back in the ring.

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Polyamorous, loud laughing unapologetic feminist, rad fatty, and epic sweet tooth.

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