I can’t stop listening to the news. I can’t stop reading the news. I can’t stop thinking about the news. Election Day is Nov. 3, and consuming any type of media about the dreaded date sends me spiraling into cycles of fear and doubt.

Though the news causes me anxiety, I feel a responsibility to keep myself informed about the happenings of the world around us. However, with each headline I am reminded about how little control I have over the fate of this election. I can’t change the fact that neither of the people running for president would be my first choice. Nor can I change the fact that I live in a country with a two-party system. I can’t eradicate the Electoral College. I can’t stop Donald Trump from refusing to denounce white supremacy. The list of things that are out of my control goes on and on and on

Not feeling in control of the world around me isn’t something I want to get used to because, to a certain extent, we all have plenty of control in how we want to shape the world. We can shape our world through actions as small as how we interact with our neighbors, peers and friends, through what we choose to post on Instagram and how we work at the ground level to rebuild our own communities. Yet, when it comes to the election season, I feel like all I can control is who and what I vote for, as well as convincing others to vote and talking to the Republicans in my life about why they should vote blue. 

Though I don’t consider myself a Democrat, I have voted for the Democratic Party in every election that I am eligible. Many of my leftist ideals are not encapsulated in the policies of the Democratic Party — I am in favor of the common ownership of the means of production as well as a direct democracy. However, voting Democrat in this election will bring the administration closer to my viewpoints rather than voting for a third-party candidate or for the Republican Party. 

I have noticed that I have been feeling more anxiety regarding this election than ever before. Perhaps it’s because I am more knowledgeable about politics at the age of 21 than when I was 17, or maybe it’s because this is the first presidential election I am old enough to vote in. It might also be that this year feels entirely different than years past. In my senior year of high school, I could have never predicted that my last year of college would be spent social distancing because of a pandemic. 

In the days leading up to the first presidential debate earlier this month, I stayed up late at night playing out all the possible worst-case scenarios in my head. I bit my nails to a nub waiting in line to vote early at the city clerk’s satellite office at the University of Michigan Museum of Art. Like many voters this year, I opted to vote early to avoid exposure to COVID-19 in overpopulated Election Day lines. 

However, voting early gave me as much anxiety as the potential exposure to COVID-19 would. It’s hard for me to trust that my vote will be counted when the Trump administration is actively engaging in voter suppression and relying on it to win the election. 

Since last year, I’ve developed the bad habit of twirling my hair into small knots whenever I’m stressed. In light of news such as this, I’ve cut out at least ten stands of my twisted hair. This habit reminds me of how I felt on the night of the election in 2016.

I was sitting in a coffee shop with my best friend, my anxiety at an all-time high, as I switched between tabs on my computer with college applications and the polls. When I saw Trump gaining more electoral votes than Hillary Clinton when states like Michigan were called, I expected my heart to sink in disappointment. Yet, I was only numb. I guess this was my way of coping with fear. 

Cynicism as a result of anxiety about the election can lead to political apathy, which has caused many eligible voters to opt out of voting. I too have felt and recognize the feeling of a lack of control that election season brings, and the cynicism that follows. 

The day after Trump was elected, I walked around school like a zombie. I listened as my fellow classmates screamed “Trump 2016” from the corners of the hallways of my public high school in Marshall, Mich. I teared up in my economics class only to have my teacher pull me aside and say, “It’s alright … he has Mike Pence as his VP. Pence is a good man.” The words weren’t comforting then and they still bring me feelings of unsettlement now. 

I’ve dealt with generalized anxiety for most of my life. The battle to defeat the worrisome thoughts and troubling fears is a lifelong one. During election season, this battle seems all the more daunting, especially amid a pandemic. However, not voting because of my anxiety during election season is giving up what little control I do have as an American citizen. I wish I could say casting my ballot a few weeks ago eradicated my anxiety completely, but that is far from the case. I’m not sure I ever won’t feel anxious about the state of our nation. 

Our country’s politics terrified me when I was 17 and they terrify me even more now. Perhaps it will get better and perhaps it won’t. I’m hoping for the former, yet I’ve grown accustomed to accepting the latter.

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