This year has taught me a lot, but most importantly, it has taught me to put my mental health first. And with that, I learned to choose my mental health over fighting about politics with my family. I was blessed with the terrible mix of being sensitive and outspoken about politics, which has led to a lot of embarrassing tears at the dinner table.
Growing up, I’ve always been outspoken around my family, but when I was younger, I didn’t have an overwhelming opinion when it came to politics. Like most kids, I honestly just believed what my family told me. As I went through middle and high school, I heard new perspectives and decided to educate myself. Once I began to form my own opinions, I recognized that they were pretty different from many members of my family.
When I started to share the things I was learning, I realized quickly that some people I talked to were unwilling to listen. Instead of being able to have an open conversation, I felt judged just for having a different opinion. Many times the conversations quickly turned into me versus everyone else at the table.
Eventually, I wasn’t fighting over politics with them, but just begging to be listened to and not interrupted. I found myself easily frustrated while trying to voice my opinion, and I’d often break down from the stress of the conversations. This year, the conversations around politics seemed to only get worse with the election and other hard-hitting topics. I felt like I needed to voice my opinion more than ever, but the conversations went in circles until I ultimately felt defeated.
I found that talking politics can be a slippery slope that turns into personal attacks. Often times I am younger than the family members I am speaking to. So, they would try to shut me down with words like “you’re too young,” “talk to me when you have a job,” and so on. I realized that if I can’t be respected for having a difference in opinion, it’s not worth my energy to engage in these conversations.
After years of this endless cycle, I realized how damaging it could be on my mental health when I was back home for the holidays. When it comes to politics, it’s extremely hard to agree to disagree, but sometimes it’s worth it. I can’t change everyone’s minds, but I can choose my own happiness.