The thought of having lunch alone in a coffee shop is heavy enough to make my fight or flight instinct to kick in. Spoiler alert: I’m not a fighter. Why does the idea of eating lunch in a cafe take up so much precious space in my anxiety rolodex?
I’ve recently started seeing a therapist. This is my first time in therapy not led by a psychiatrist. Rather, she is a highly educated, certified therapist. Now that I’ve seen both psychiatrist and therapist, I can confidently say there is no comparison of the two. One can prescribe pills and the other is truly invested in everything that the pill-prescriber doesn’t have time to explore.
That isn’t to say that a psychiatrist won’t engage in psychotherapy, but it’s been my experience that the majority of the appointment is spent discussing how my mood is today compared to before medication. It’s a continual check to make sure they’ve prescribed the proper medication and dosage. During these appointments, I often visualize the psychiatrist completing their paperwork for the drug company: “patient indicates that they’re happier; success”.
My therapist assigns homework each week. I respond well to homework, because it gives me a deadline. I have difficulty with motivation without an outside pressure (like a deadline).
One of my assignments this week is to enjoy a workday lunch break outside of the office in a nearby coffee shop. It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Then why has such a simple assignment caused me hours of anxiety, with the entire luncheon scenario playing through my head again and again?
I don’t enjoy being still in public.
Since I’ve been assigned this piece of homework 5 days ago, I’ve thought countless times about the details: which day will I do this? What time should I leave the office? What will I order? How long should I sit? What will I do while I eat? Blog? Read?
Just as I do with all task items in my life, I invent excuse after excuse to delay.
Monday: “it’s too busy to eat lunch outside of the office today”.
Tuesday: I make it inside the coffee shop and stand in line. There’s 6 people ahead of me and the line isn’t moving quickly. I talk myself out of it. I convince myself that the staff is just far too slow and by the time I am able to order, my lunch break will be over and I won’t have time to sit. I leave, walk across the parking lot to a grocery market and buy a pre-made sandwich and eat it in my car.
Wednesday: “it’s raining out and I don’t want to sit with damp hair and clothing while I eat my lunch. Besides, I still have 2 more days to try to accomplish this”.
The anxiety continues; elevates, even. What if I chicken out the next 2 days as well? I’ll have to go to my therapist and admit that I didn’t complete one of my homework assignments. How utterly embarrassing to have to admit that I got in my own way of enjoying a mid-work-day latte.
This is typical for me: I put things off until there are repercussions. This is why I need the homework, why I need the therapist, why I need to adjust my brain.