• Nat

That Time Buying a Muffin Caused Anxiety


I happened to stop by a neighborhood one day to drop off some items to a non-profit organization. There was a local market with various vendors stationed around the block. Being that I had a meager breakfast due to my hurry in catching the train that morning, I was already hungry again at noon-ish.

My first instinct upon seeing a market vendor for bread was to make a beeline to check out their wares. I quietly observed from a distance as people selected an item from one of the item display tables before going to the cashier to pay for it. Simple and no fuss. It probably sounds ridiculous, I regularly use this 15-minute observation tactic to determine if it's "safe" to approach. On a milder level, I still felt anxious about interacting with the cashier. But I pushed down the feeling in favor of grabbing some food to sate my growling stomach.

I tentatively walked up and began examining some of the items. Different pies, brownies, cookies, loaves of bread, and other produce and sweets made from grain. I played a bit of pretend here for several minutes. In actuality, within half of a minute I had already settled on a carrot muffin. There were tags on the tables with the item prices but I didn't see one for the muffins. Another dilemma hit me. Oh great, now I have to ask how much it costs. I felt revulsion over that; not only because of anxiety over taking the initiative with a stranger but I have a strange dislike of my own voice.

I continued with my little charade of looking around the tables as if I was still in the process of choosing what to buy. Peeking over at the cashier, I saw she wasn't attending to anyone at the moment. I just decided to go to her then and there. She was glancing down at one of the glass displays when I appeared. I hated feeling the stutter and spike of my own heartbeat. But where there is a will, there is a way. I don't know how I managed to keep it together but I said hi. She echoed the word back at me. I asked how much for the muffin, and she told me I owed her $3.75.

My nerves once again haywire after I opened my coin purse. My anxiety rationalizes things oddly for me. In this instance, I had the persistent thought that I was being an annoying nuisance by paying with only coins since I did not have any $1 bills. I gave her 15 quarters; 4 quarters is $1 each and the extra 3 covered the 75 cents. Expectantly, I waited for her to take the money I placed down on the counter but she glanced at it for a beat and noted that one of my coins was a Canadian one. Another minor jolt of anxiety hit me over my mistake before I replaced the coin with another quarter. She accepted the payment and thanked me for the quarters since she needed them.

I didn't process what she said until after I walked off with my bagged muffin. Her response was exactly the opposite of what my anxiety was so adamantly telling me. It was a relief of how wrong I was about another person. This won't stop me from overthinking the next time I buy a meal but it'll certainly give me something to think back on as proof my fears aren't grounded in reality.

What I learnt from this particular experience:

  • Cashiers don't really care how you pay. It's part of their job to count money.

  • Anxiety can go up drastically but it always comes down at some point.

  • Carrot muffins are friggin' delicious and always worth the trouble.

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#socialanxiety #anxiety #panicattacks #food