Monday, November 21, 2016

Social Anxiety Guide To Calling Gov't Representatives

In the wake of the recent United Sates elections, calling your state and local representatives as a means of taking direct action and affecting change have become even more vital than ever. For those that struggle with chronic mental illness or anxiety, taking this sort of action can be even more difficult than it would be for a neurotypical person.  The artist Cordellia of echothroughthefog recently made a comic about how they pushed against anxiety, made those calls, and how you can do that, too! A transcript of the comic and more resources follow.




“How to call your reps when you have social anxiety”

There’s a LOT going on in the U.S. right now. Many people’s rights and safety are at risk. You’ve probably heard that one of the most effective ways to advocate for issues you care about, or stand up against dangerous policies and appointments, is to call your local representatives.
If you want to help but have social anxiety and find phone calls very intimidating, you may be thinking, “How do I do this?!” (An oversized telephone handset hovers ominously over the narrator with its cord spiraling around her body. She looks up at it with great concern.)
Here’s a step-by-step:
  1. Block off time on your calendar. Each call only takes a minute or so, but you might want to block off more time for your first call, so you can prepare your words & nerves. Don’t rush yourself! Scheduling is super important, otherwise you will perpetually delay calling.
  2. At the scheduled time, go sit somewhere quiet.
  3. Find out who represents you. Some places to look: House (http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/) and Senate (http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/).
  4. Write out exactly what you plan to say. It only needs to be a few lines, and there are lots of templates online that you can use. e.g. “Hello! I am constituent from city (zip code) and I am calling to urge Some Name to publicly…” If they have already released a statement, don’t use that as an excuse to avoid calling. I know it’s hard, but call anyway. Thank them and ask them to keep pushing.
  5. Take a deep breath. You can do this.
  6. Do this: dial. (This is the hardest part.)
  7. Read from your script. At this point, you’ll likely be sent to voicemail or to an actual person. The person will most likely be friendly and probably won’t have much time to talk, so you shouldn’t have to deviate much from your script. It’s a quick conversation.
  8. That’s it! Say “Thank you” and hang up.
You did it! If you’re thinking “Hey, that wasn’t so bad…”, call more people! And follow up with them next week, or even tomorrow, to make sure they keep these issues top of mind.
It is okay if your voice shakes. It is okay if you feel awkward.They get a lot of calls, so they don’t have time to judge you by how well you delivered your message.
Is is also okay if you can’t call.
This week, my best friend told me, “Do something that is uncomfortable but not harmful to your mental health.” For me, calling was enough outside my comfort zone to be stressful & scary, but not so far away as to use up all my energy. That might not be the case for you, and that’s okay. Do not beat yourself up about it. There are lots of ways to take action without picking up a phone:

  • Write to government officials
  • Create art that challenges and art that inspires
  • Donate, if you’re financially able, to organizations that fight injustice
  • Listen to immigrants, people of color, women, trans and non-binary people, people of all faiths and sexual orientations, and people with disabilities. Support their work. Amplify their voices.
  • Keep it up.
And here are some resources:
  • Emily Ellsworth explains why calling is the most effective way to reach your congressperson.
  • Sharon Wong posted a great series of tweets that helped me manage my phone anxiety and make some calls.
  • Kelsey is tweeting pretty much daily with advice and reminders about calling representatives. I found this tweet an especially great reminder that calls aren’t nearly as big a deal as anxiety makes them out to be.
Informational resources:
There are a lot of these, as well! These three are good places to start:

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