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@Dressesanddemocracy - Politics & Mental Health

Updated: Jul 22, 2022

Hi! I’m Talia, and I’m a 23-year-old (almost 24) living in Washington, DC and working in politics. Today, I’ve been tasked with writing a blog post about politics and mental health, two things that are very present in my life every single day.

I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder when I was in college, but the symptoms that I eventually came to know as manifestations of my anxiety started far earlier.

From the beginning, I was an anxious child. I cried a lot. I was a worrier. About everything, all the time, at once. Somewhere in my brain, even though I had no reason to think so, I was convinced that eventually I was going to fail whenever I tried something.

I worried that I would fail all my classes (I didn’t). That I wouldn’t get into a good college (I did). That my grades would plummet (they didn’t). That I would get rejected from every internship and job I applied for (I did get rejected a fair amount, but I still got offers in the end).

There was even a time, about a year ago, when I was worrying so much I was convinced I’d never work in politics.

I have been fascinated by all things political since my 10th-grade civics class. I majored in political science in college, but I changed my mind about a million times on what I wanted to do. I considered law school, campaigns, working for the government. By my senior year, I finally figured things out (I wanted to do political communications), but by then, I was scared it was too late. I didn’t have an internship on Capitol Hill, and other students I knew with similar ambitions had leaps and bounds more experience than I did.

Graduating into a major economic crisis in May of 2020 didn’t help me either. I ended up eventually working in healthcare PR at a Public Relations agency, which was fine. My job was enjoyable. I thought, “This is okay. I can be happy. I don’t need to work in politics for that. This will be fine.”

And I probably could’ve been! But then I applied for my current job in politics on a whim.

My anxiety convinced me that it was a long shot, that I had little political experience on my resume, that I’d get either rejected or ignored for this role. To my surprise, I was asked about my availability for an interview.

My anxiety convinced me that I wouldn’t make it past the first round, but then I did and was asked to take a writing test for the job.

My anxiety convinced me that I’d bomb the writing test, that I’d somehow submit it with a big, glaring error that would ruin my chances. Instead, I got asked for a final interview.

Given that I called this my current job, it’s pretty obvious how things turned out. I’ve been in this job for almost nine months now, and I do love it, but my anxiety hasn’t stopped.

I still worry that I’m not qualified enough for my job, that I’m not doing well, or that I’ll be fired the second something goes wrong.

So how do I combat my anxiety, especially working in a high-stress field like politics? I have a few ways.

First, I’m medicated for it. I started on an antidepressant for my anxiety in college, and it’s been a lifesaver for me. My primary care doctor was actually the one who suggested it during one appointment, and I told him that I’ve thought about it but didn’t want to ask for pills. He assured me it was fine and suggested I just try them out for a while. I got lucky and liked the first ones I tried, so I encourage anyone who might be in a similar boat to just talk to your doctor about maybe trying medication.

Second, I have a really great team at my job. Working in politics is tough. The hours can be long, and the work can be high stakes at times. Having supportive coworkers that you get along with can be make-or-break for your work experience.

Third, I have a variety of outlets for my feelings. I hate being this person because I hate hearing about this, but exercise actually has helped my mental health (ugh, I know!) and it feels good when I do it. I also love reading. A lot of my friends who work in politics read a bunch of political books, but I prefer fiction that’s completely different from my own life. And speaking of friends, nothing beats a good old-fashioned vent session with a close friend when I’m feeling particularly stressed out.

Anxiety is something I’ve struggled with my whole life, and I’ll probably keep struggling for the rest of it. I often have to remind myself that my anxiety is usually wrong (it doesn’t have a great track record of my biggest worries coming true) and my huge fears aren’t going to come true. But that’s okay. It’s part of who I am. If you struggle with mental health and are thinking about a career in politics, it’s tough, but it’s so possible. And we sure as heck need more people who understand mental health making policies, so why not try to help?


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