Why the Election is a Disaster for my Mental Health
While millions of Americans will greet November 8 with the utmost festive glee for it will mean an end to a season filled with negative campaign ads, Facebook arguments, and Tweets full of political misinformation, I for one, am in full panic mode. Having experienced depression and anxiety for the past 20 years and being an advocate and public speaker for mental health, it might surprise you to hear that I’m currently suffering from Election-Induced Mental Illness.
Although I’m unsure this would be considered legitimate psychological diagnosis, I am certain of all its symptoms. The more I think about Election Day, the results, and ensuing political aftermath, the more I cry, experience anxiety, and struggle with depression. Truthfully, I wouldn’t ever think that Washington politics could impact my mental and physical health. Yet, here I am pacing back and forth nightly like a tiger in a cage.
My social media feeds are drowning in the latest political scandal du jour. Friends, colleagues, and acquaintances are relentlessly sharing news updates from “reliable sources.” Television media has turned into a round-the-clock analysis of “Will Hilary win or will Trump pull a last-minute upset?” and my texts have been replaced with the obnoxious ding of breaking news alerts. All this stress and uncertainly has made me want to hide under the covers and reemerge four years from now.
I recall my first Presidential Election. I stood in line in the hot Arizona sun for hours waiting for the moment when a poll volunteer would hand me that little oval sticker that said “I voted.” I believed I was doing my civic duty and did it with pride. This was our forefathers goal; exercise and celebrate our right to vote and be a part of the democratic process.
The 2016 election is the furthest thing from their intended vision. Instead, it’s nothing short of emotional torture; sort of like a bad relationship. We are torn yet stuck. We despise what we see and hear, yet we keep reading and looking for more. Putting our two candidates aside, the vitriol that’s exuded from even the kindest people, the vicious lies, the partisanship shown by our media, have left us deflated and not hopeful for 2017. When the most commonly heard remark is “I’m voting for the lesser of two evils,” it doesn’t make for a confident American, nor does it do my mental health any favors.
Like so many Americans, my Election Day will be filled great trepidation. No matter what the outcome is, the downside will heavily outweigh any of the positives. And I’m sure you’re thinking; if it bothers your health, why are you investing so much thought? The answer is simple. Individuals who struggle with mental illness need our voices heard. More research needs to be done. More compassion in necessary. More funding for programs are needed. Our government plays a critical role in mental health care funding and reform. We need a leader who understands. We need a congress to show support. Right now, the outcome will provide neither.
Mental Health hasn’t been much of a topic this election season. It wasn’t discussed at either of the three debates. And while Clinton has outlined her plan, Trump has not. At this juncture, it’s either of their race to lose. That said, I will watch with fear, with panic, and with worry. I will rely on my mental health support system to get through the next few days and if necessary, will look to my emergency anxiety meds if needed.