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Would you like it toasted?

New situations can send people into a state of nervousness, others in a state of anxiety. It isn’t uncommon for people to feel either, but its severity may be the deciding factor for later reactions. Some people may be ready to accept new challenges despite their struggle, but other people may get to the point of possibly facing a breakdown. One particular experience for me was trying to order a Subway sandwich before I was diagnosed with anxiety.

I have never heard of anyone perfecting their first Subway sandwich order before. Yes, you go up there, see what kind of sandwiches they make, but no one goes up there knowing exactly what they’re doing. You have an idea because of the menu, and you get that first sticker about which bread to pick, but other than that you’re hoping the sandwich artist kindly asks you questions or you’re hoping the sandwich artist is kind enough that day to not mind a new customer.

Subway was something I wanted to have in over a long time. I had it back in high school when the 12th graders had to fundraise for their ski trip, but I had never personally ordered my own sandwich. I know my mother had, but that was ages ago and now she doesn’t recall how to do it. There are so many commercials about Subway on television that I felt compelled to finally try and buy a sandwich. I tried one time with my mother, but as soon as we saw the Subway unit, saw the menu and options, we quickly walked away and had Chinese food, instead.

It occurred to me, standing and looking at the menu and all the veggies, cheese, and bread, that I was really nervous about the process. I tried to hear someone make their order, but in a busy food court, it was near to impossible. Then, my body grew cold the longer I thought about it, and soon I was on the verge of a panic attack. The sight and thought of trying to order something that appeared to have a complex procedure began to scare me. So, I told myself that I would ask my friends and figure out how to order a sandwich, and mentally prepare myself for it.

Everyone had their way of ordering a submarine sandwich, but the process was still the same. You start with the bread, pick a meat, your veggies, sauce, any other seasonings, and whether or not you want to make it a meal. I was so hung up on the Subway menu, that it didn’t occur to me that it was so simple. The order can vary right at the beginning, but otherwise down the line it’s all the same. It threw me off because you go to a fast food joint, you ask for a burger and there aren’t that many choices to make. Suddenly, you have every choice to make. I tried again after talking to several friends and a couple of people who have worked at Subway to tell me the process. Nothing new came up, so I figured I would order a sandwich next time I was near Subway.

It didn’t work out as planned. I stepped away to the nearest table as soon as I saw the Subway unit when I was with my mother at the mall. I thought I could do it, but the moment I was a few feet away from it, my heart started pounding relentlessly, and my hands started to shake. The start of a panic attack. I pulled out my phone and quickly searched for the Subway site because I had learned during my conversations with my friends that you could order online. I did that as fast as I could and stalled from telling my mother about it. Fifteen minutes would pass until I could go up and pick up my order. I continued doing it three more times, that is until I received Subway coupons in the mail.

It was now or never when I had the coupons in hand and I was at Subway. I tried to find a way to order it online and apply the coupon there, but it wasn’t possible. I had to find a way to calm myself and just do it. I found myself unable to do it a couple of times, so I stopped trying. It was when I was formally diagnosed with anxiety and given medication to treat it did I find myself able.

I got into the long lunch line, playing with my fingers, playing with the coupon and trying so hard to listen to what the people before me were ordering. I only knew what my friends had said, “Just do everything as you did on the website and it’ll be okay, and they’ll ask you if you’re not sure about anything”. The person before me ordered and I froze a little when he essentially rapped out his order in a flurry that made me wonder if the sandwich artist even understood a word he said. Then, it was my turn.

My heart was still racing, but now my mind blanked out as I presented my coupon. I tried to do what the person before me did, but I stumbled all over myself. All I wanted to order was a foot-long sweet onion chicken teriyaki on Italian herbs and cheese, and a foot-long roast beef on Italian herbs and cheese. Unfortunately, my nerves had the best of me and I stuttered the order. It was unpleasant when we moved to the cheese because there was no sticker naming what cheese was present and no one explained what was available. My stomach dropped a bit when I had to ask because it felt so… awkward. Fortunately, the artists were kind and everything moved along without further incident. It was even better when the man handling the cash register gave me my order and gave me a bright smile with a thumbs up, wishing me a great day.

It was such a relief to get it over with. I returned to the table with my mother, placed the sandwiches on top, and simply collapsed in my seat. I was shivering, breathing a little heavy, and willing my heart to calm down. I was glad my anxiety medication had covered most of my reaction, but I still struggled. It was still up to me to stand up and just make the order. As soon as I calmed down, I felt so good inside having finally done it. Eating the sandwich felt like such a sweet victory because I knew I would be able to do it again in the future.

So many things occurred in this story. It was a conflict of self; trying to understand my anxiety, and finding a way to cope with it. It was a success fueled by the encouragement of friends; without them I wouldn’t have known what to do and how to deal with any of this. It was also a study of self; finding the courage to step out of my comfort zone after all the encouragement and practice.

I know not everyone will be able to overcome their struggles like I have, even in this kind of situation. There may be different factors that have them unable to buy a Subway sandwich. The idea is that you can ask for help and you should know yourself so you don’t push and pressure yourself into a situation that could hurt you in the long run. The hope is to keep the sandwich toasted and not yourself.