It was about 16 months ago that I scheduled an appointment with my doctor, a woman who had developed great rapport and had earned my trust and respect, in order to mumble and skirt the issue and then cry when telling her I no longer felt able to cope with my anxiety on my own.
It had been a life long struggle and over the years I had found any number of methods to cope with it, obfuscate it, ignore it, pretend it was something else altogether, but on that day after a frank conversation with my partner I tiptoed in to the appointment ready to admit defeat.
That’s what it felt like. Admitting failure. Giving in. Being weak.
I know now that’s not at all what I was doing. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I wasn’t quitting. I was leveling up.
I’ve talked before about how it took some time. It did. And it took some adjustment and fine tuning of the medication. It took some getting used to not feeling the same sense of urgency and panic at every little thing. And though I was still very clearly me, there were so many little things that changed.
I was talking to my friend the other day and how we stumbled upon this exact topic I do not recall, but I confessed that I used to find it impossible to throw away sauce packets. Soy sauce, hot mustard, taco sauce, honey, hot sauce, fake parmesan, vinegar, yellow mustard, ketchup. We had a cache of them. Tucked into drawers. Stowed in a canister. On top of the fridge. I never used them.
Well except the Taco Bell sauce packets which I routinely put on my cottage cheese. Because of course I do. But other than that, no. Never. And I kept collecting them every time we got takeout more of them would accumulate.
Some of them may have been older than my daughter on day about 10 months ago when I was trying to get something out of a canister on the counter and encountered them.
It was near overflowing, some of them were sticky, which meant something had leaked and eventually everything would be sticky. And instead of sorting through them I took the container to the trash, dumped it out, and then put it into the sink to wash. It was simple. I mean… it was wasteful. But it was so simple. I identified the problem, I solved the problem, I didn’t obsess or freakout.
It was only later that night that it occurred to me that I had never willingly thrown away a sauce packet.
Why? Because what if? What if I ran out and I needed it suddenly. What if sauces were outlawed and I needed to make them last. What if we hit an industrial dark age or apocalypse and the sauce packets became a commodity of sorts? What if I needed them. I don’t want to waste them. And what good can come from tossing them out or saying no when asked if I need them.
I was hoarding sauce packets because I had crippling anxiety. Anxiety that told me it wasn’t okay to throw them out. NO MATTER WHAT.
I was thinking about that today as I was walking to meet a friend who messaged me earlier today letting me know he’s in town. We decided to meet for lunch and then cowork from a local coffee shop. So I went about my morning work. One meeting had cancelled but several people needed to speak to me so I filled in what is normally a very scheduled day with conversations that needed to happen. Then lunch. Then coworking. Then I stopped by the farmers market on my way home, because I’d seen them setting up on my way to the coffee shop. Even my evening took an unexpected turn. Today, in reality, looked nothing like the day as it had been scheduled. But it was constructive. And it was delightful. And here I sit back at home (where I thought I would spend my entire day because I was never planning to leave the house) and I’m reflecting on how nice it was. How normal. How calm.
For so many people I guess this just sounds very ordinary. A day that just happened. A day that wasn’t painstakingly planned to every detail.
For me it’s a revelation. What’s the saying?
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”
For me it started with a single sauce packet.