Yesterday, I voted! I was looking forward to it because it’s only my second time voting but as usual this anxiety ruined everything.
I voted for the first time in 2016. I received my sample ballot, I researched candidates and propositions, I prepared myself to vote. Because I know how difficult it is to interact with other people I try to prepare for anything that would require more time talking to strangers. We were scheduled to vote at a local high school; that made me more comfortable because I had been in the high school before so it would be a familiar place. I was ready, I had my sample booklet filled in, my husband came with me, and I was familiar with the location. Of course none of that mattered when we pulled into the parking lot.
My anxiety began to rise when I noticed the crowded parking lot. My husband had to circle the lot a couple of times waiting for someone to leave so we could park. The lot is rather narrow so us waiting was causing other cars to struggle as they squeezed between us and parked cars. This made me more anxious (Were these drivers getting mad? Were they thinking we were stupid for waiting for a spot? Maybe they thought we should park on the street.) I avoided eye contact with the drivers or their passengers but I caught a glance of a few of them and I prayed I didn’t see them inside. Eventually someone moved and we parked.
We walked over to a room opposite their gym and two ladies greeted us at the front door. They were checking off a list as people gave their name. No one asked for a form of ID which surprised me but I remained calm and told the lady my name. After signing her list she sent me to a different table where another person gave me a ballot and directed me to a set of specific voting booths; the booths were numbered. The room was rather crowded and we had to wait for an available booth. At this point I was sweating, not because the room was hot instead I was nervous about being in this small room, in the middle no-less, surrounded by people, having to wait while my two year old complained about everything.
Once I got to the booth I had a mini panic attack not knowing how to insert the ballot into this device or how to mark my choices. My anxiety kept rising, not only was I nervous and anxious being there now I was beginning to panic thinking everyone in the room was watching me have this meltdown. I know it’s only in my head and the people there were all busy voting and helping others, nobody was paying attention to me. However, I know visibly I had to be flushed and sweating, I probably looked as if I ran to the high school. I tried to calm down and finally figured out how to vote, I marked my choices and looked around to see what others did after they finished so I could do the same.
I walked my ballot to another table I was instructed to insert it into this huge metal box, they gave me my sticker and that was it. I walked out of the room towards my husband who was waiting by the door. I was so relieved to feel the breeze outside. I rushed my husband and son to our car and got in. Once inside the car my anxiety slowly started to come down, the AC helped cool me. My husband told me I did great,m and he asked how I felt after voting but I couldn’t really hear him. I couldn’t make sense of what he was saying, I was disoriented, I was still making sense of what happened but I answered him. I just wanted to get home.
Once at home I was able to relax but the tension I feel leaves me sore and extremely tired. It seems silly to feel this way for something people do all the time. I thought my second time voting would be different, but it wasn’t; although the room was empty I felt exactly the same but at least I voted.