It’s been over 10 years since a jolting panic attack that was triggered by the need to call the kind folks at my local Chick-fil-a and it only continues to look clearer that I needed tremendous support for my mental and emotional well-being. I used to dodge facing the things that caused anxiety which only perpetuated experiencing anxiety. The emotions and triggers we feel in our body are messengers that I had to re-learn how to listen to. I suffered from anxiety until I was finally able to advocate for my well-being but the cost was steep.
The details of what was present in my life during that season are blurry today. My marriage was complicated. I juggled my husband’s work schedule of being gone for weeks or months at a time leaving me a solo mom. Speaking of moms, my relationship with my own mother had a unique dynamic and stresses that I carried. I was also committed to serving in a church that I had wanted to leave for years but was terrified of disappointing others and the potential judgment it would cause.
I still drove my peppy yellow Nissan Xterra so this was definitely prior to 2009. I went through the drive-thru at Chick-fil-A for the kids and myself then stopped in to eat lunch at my in-law’s business only to realize one of the meals I just paid was not included. I felt the need to call and let them know for a future reimbursement and report that the experience was rushed, leaving me inconvenienced. No big deal, right? Wrong.
I made the call that didn’t kill me even though I felt as though it would.
I nearly cried and literally shook while it felt like forever for me to actually make the phone call. Logically, my physical response did not compute. It was completely overwhelming and totally alarming. I made the call that didn’t kill me even though I felt as though it would. The kind manager apologized and assured me that on a future visit I could redeem what I paid for if I would just let them know, which I never did.
I don’t think I shared the event with my husband or anyone else. The experience left me with a feeling of something being very off within myself. I stood in the bathroom doorway and told him that I think I needed to talk to someone. He asked me no questions and was quick to tell me that I did not need to see a therapist and ended the conversation with, “you are stronger than that.” My heart sank and confusion swirled because I felt anything but stronger than whatever “that” he was speaking of. The lack of support in this conversation was another warning I didn’t heed.
I’ve never been clinically diagnosed with an anxiety disorder although I am certain that’s what I suffered. I eventually left that church, the difficult marriage ended with his death and after much support from a therapist, I severed the relationship with my mother. I became an advocate for myself and now have a trusted inner circle that includes a coach and friends who are supportive of healing transformation.
Anxiety looks different for a lot of people. For me, it showed up after years of denying my own needs, values, and desires for the sake of satisfying the same for others in key relationships. The cost was my overall emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. Now, I would not hesitate to ever let Chick-fil-a know they shorted me some waffle fries. I now feel safe using my voice to support myself in all sorts of ways. Heck, I even walked away from a program this year that was full of people I love, admire, and respect. It only took me two weeks to confidently say, “this isn’t a good fit right now” where previously I remained committed for YEARS out of fear. That alone is evidence of transformation and growth. Insert the praise hands!
I’m thankful for the message in the mishap from the blessed establishment that is our beloved Chick-fil-a. It was a wake-up call to get my attention although things got way worse before I was able to take matters into my own hands and receive therapy. I can’t help but wonder how many other wake-up calls I ignored along the way and how much suffering I could have avoided. On the other side of where it hurts is a freedom that can only be accessed by facing the pain and fear. I couldn’t go around it, I had to go through it. The cost of ignoring the triggers and warnings is steep but the value of experiencing overall well-being is immeasurable. Waffle fries are great but so is living with way less anxiety.