Going to a new restaurant might seem like a very simple thing. But for someone like me, someone riddled with anxiety, it can take a lot of courage to be able to actually do it. Why? I wish I could tell you. Logically I know that most any person can walk up to a register and order food and pay and walk away with, well, the food. But somehow I envision becoming the laughing stock of the entire establishment for taking too long or not knowing where to pay or not placing the order correctly.

Last week I was fortunate to take an extra day off work, which coincides with my son’s independent virtual learning day. He usually finishes by lunch time, so in order to give my husband some space while he works from home, I decided I would take the kids on a small outing. There’s a free pumpkin patch with kids activities in a nearby town that I have never been to, and just a few miles from there is a small diner that I have heard rave reviews about and have driven by several times but hadn’t eaten at. So I thought we would all adventure out that way and see what we could make of the afternoon.

Here’s the thing, it’s not a typical drive-through burger joint. It’s an extremely small place, they have drive up/walk up window and barely any parking. I had no idea if I could call and order in advance, I had no idea if I was to order at the window or go inside. As we drove I could feel that familiar rock in my stomach, which usually turns into cramps. My heart rate was slowly increasing and my palms became sweaty. I had pored over the menu extensively before we left the house so I knew what to order. But then on the way I started to doubt myself. Maybe I should have ordered ahead? There was nowhere to park after all. But maybe you’re not allowed to? So I kept driving.

It all went fine. We had to wait for about 5 minutes after we ordered in an awkward spot in front of the diner but we got our food and headed to a nearby park with a few picnic tables and enjoyed our lunch. The kids had a great time just being out of the house. The pumpkin patch was quiet, we were the only ones there. The kids played and wore themselves out. We bought some tiny white pumpkins which the kids loved decorating once we got home. In the end, I had nothing to worry about.

But this is life with anxiety. It can be a simple task like asking a bartender for a drink menu (two weeks ago, it took me 5 minutes to get the nerve to do it) or anxiously awaiting a reply from a friend for an hour and in the meantime assuming he had died or was upset with me (he was fine). The way my anxiety manifests is with rapid heart rate, sweaty palms and stomach cramps often leading to urgent bathroom breaks.

If I am not careful my anxiety can lead to bouts of depression. Yesterday I realized I was heading down that road again after being very anxious the day before. So I did some self care for a couple hours-curled my hair, put on make up and an outfit that made me feel good, went to Target and bought some mascara and a purple pumpkin I didn’t need along with the groceries. I am better now than I used to be, counseling was a big help in this regard. I don’t tend to spiral too far into my depression anymore but I am a constant work in progress.

As I talk to more people, mostly online, I realize I am not alone in this. Though I wish people didn’t feel this way it helps to know that it’s okay that we do have these struggles and that we are not alone. Perhaps being more vocal about mental health issues and sharing our stories will help break the cycle of suffering in silence. At the very least I want others to know that it is okay to not be okay, it is okay to seek help or do things that help you to feel better even if it may seem selfish, and to reach out for you never know who is out there willing to help you back up.

“And the answer that you’re seeking
For the question that you found
Drives you further to confusion
As you lose your sense of ground

So don’t forget to breathe
Don’t forget to breathe”

-Alexi Murdoch, Breathe