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Why Eating at Subway Triggers My Anxiety

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I live with mild to moderate anxiety, with the occasional swing into severe. I didn’t always know this about myself. In fact, it’s only been a few years since I’ve fully grasped what anxiety even means and been able to identify it in myself when it happens. This knowledge has helped explain a lot of things, like why I often freeze or can’t think straight when in a crowd of too many people or with too many stimulants like casinos or any store in the month of December.

The same thing happens when I’m presented with a long list of things to choose from, like at the nail salon. This is inevitably followed by decision paralysis.

“Hon, what color of nail polish do you want?”

“Oh, I don’t know. What colors do you have?”

“Well, that depends on what kind of polish you want, shellac or regular?”

“Umm, I don’t know the difference, sorry.”

“OK, shellac will last longer.”

“Sure, that one.”

“OK, just pick a color out of this box of 150 color choices. I’ll just stare at you and wait until you decide.”

Don’t panic. You can do this. Oh no…they have names too. What if I like a color that has a weird name that I don’t like and then I have to start all over again. Shit, she’s still staring at me.

“There are so many choices!” I say with an awkward laugh and a small smile. “Maybe you can get started and I’ll keep looking?”

I almost always pick a color I end up hating and then aggressively pick it off two days later (I should have just picked the regular nail polish). I then wonder why I ever get manicures in the first place. Then, months later I will see a friend with freshly painted nails and I think, “That’s so nice, I should treat myself to a mani”, and the cycle continues.

Food is another area that tends to trigger my anxiety. The moral dilemma of eating the right thing and making the right choice. Couple that with a business model like Subway and you can expect me to turn into a mumbling puddle on the floor. Here’s what my first experience of Subway was like:

Me: “Oh my god, I’m so hungry, and that all looks so good!”

Friend: “Right! I know exactly what I’m getting.”

Me: “Oh man, I have no idea what to get. What should I get?”

Friend: “I’m getting the Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki.”

Me: “Oooo that does sound good. OK, I think I’ll try the Italian BMT.”

My friend orders and moves down the line. I go next. “I’ll have the Italian BMT please.”

The guy behind the counter takes a deep breath and says: “Sure, what kind of bread do you want?”

“Oh, um. Whatever comes with that sub is fine.”

“You have to pick your own bread.”

“Oh wow, I didn’t think about that. Um, what are my options?”

Another deep breath and he lists off the breads. I pick one, who cares which at this point, but I eventually picked one.

“Do you want that toasted?”

“Does the sub taste better that way?”

“I guess. It’s up to you.”

Oh my shit, I just want the sub I picked. Just make me the sub.

“Sure, I’ll have it toasted, thanks.”

I slide over to my friend who seems to be talking to her guy behind the counter. Then my guy catches up to me and keeps asking me questions.

“What kind of cheese do you want?”

Now I’m starting to sweat. This is intense. I was not prepared for all these questions. What if I make the wrong decision? I don’t know how to make a sandwich, that’s why I came here!

“Um, orange?” (because my knowledge of cheese is based on color at this point in my life, and he understands. I guess Subway knows its clientele).

“Ok, what else do you want on it?”

At this point, I’m not even sure I want a sub anymore. On and on he asks me questions. What kind of bread? What kind of cheese? Veggies? Sauce? How much sauce? Salt and pepper? I’m so exhausted at the end and have no idea what I just created. I am almost afraid to eat my sub.

I certainly can’t, and don’t want to, speak for all anxious people out there. I’m sure lots of you absolutely adore Subway sandwiches. For me, the onslaught of questions is simply not worth the inexpensive sandwich. I’m now learning how to better manage my anxiety with the help of some wonderful therapists. One way that works for me is to remove unnecessary triggers.

Suffice it to say, I’ve sworn off Subway from my repertoire of fast food options for the time being.

This story originally appeared on Spaghetti Chaos.

Getty image by Evgenii And.

Originally published: September 27, 2022
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