172 days.

That’s how many days since my last Starbucks drink and boy, how much life has changed since.

I remember that day very clearly. I had just gone into Target to make a return and had gotten my regular drink (iced coffee with white mocha) before making my way over to the soap aisle to see if there was any antibacterial soap left (the panic buying had already started). There was an employee in the aisle, telling everyone the hand sanitizer had sold out right at 8 a.m., and so I settled for the all-natural, non-antibacterial soap that was on the bottom shelf where no one could see.

The next day, our state had its first confirmed test.

Two days after that, schools were closed.

A week after that, the whole state was under lockdown, businesses were closed, and toilet paper was gone.

How much could life change after a simple coffee and Target run? But oh, how the world did change. 

And while life has kept moving and others have ventured out much sooner than me, I didn’t rush to Starbucks right away after lockdown was lifted. Why? 

One word: anxiety. I suffer from anxiety. 

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I’m anxious anytime my son rides his bike outside and the neighbor kids start getting close.

I’m anxious anytime the doorbell rings and I wonder if the person on the other side is standing far enough back or has a mask on.

I’m anxious anytime we have a lawn visit with the family and I see my son’s hands go near his face before I’ve had a chance to wash them.

I’m anxious when we bring groceries home because I don’t know what’s lying on the surfaces of my food.

I’m anxious anytime we venture outside this house because I don’t know how safe others are being or who they’ve been in contact with.

I was so anxious the first time I had to take the kids to the doctor, I was praying with my rosary in the car and carried it in with me on the verge of a panic attack. 

COVID has taken my anxiety to a whole other level and it’s debilitating.

My family says I’ve stopped living and these words hurt because I’m trying to take steps back to the outside world, but it’s controlling my life. 

So yes, while others ran to Starbucks (or whatever their guilty pleasure is) right after lockdown lifted, I’ve stayed in self-imposed lockdown because of my anxiety. And don’t get me wrong, I read my Bible every day. I read all that God has to say on fear (and there’s a lot He says about it) but this is a mental health condition. Fear and anxiety can control your life; they can take over and be the only things you’re fixated on. 

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So to my family and friends who don’t understand, let me take the baby steps I need to get back to normalcy (or what’s now the new normal). Be a little understanding of my mental health and be patient with me.

I’m trying, I really am, but I want to take this at a pace that I’m comfortable with. 

Today I had my first Starbucks drink in 172 days, and yes, it made me anxious as I waited for my first taste of normalcy. My hands were sweaty, my chest was tight, and my face was hot as I made my way closer to the drive-thru window. My voice was shaky as I told the barista this was my first time doing this since March. She could tell I was emotional and she smiled (at least underneath her mask) and said, “Well, welcome back, friend.” I immediately started crying. Not because this felt normal again (because it didn’t) but because it was me facing my fear, facing my anxiety and I was proud of myself. 

Will everything change overnight again after I devour this coffee? Probably not because I want to take this slow. No, I won’t be running out to Target with the kids in tow anytime soon. And I probably won’t be returning to Starbucks 3-5 times a week again. But this simple, (pumpkin spice) latte, is a step in the right direction. It was the last thing I did prior to lockdown and it’s the first step out of my self-imposed lockdown. 

It’s my first step back to the rest of the world.

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Courtney Devich

I am a mom of two little ones (God blessed me with one of each) and a former HR leader turned stay-at-home mom. I write with a heart for the mom struggling with mental illness, but I write about all things motherhood, marriage, and faith on my blog, Her Strength & Dignity. You can usually find me in the Starbucks line at my local Target, watching Fixer Upper, or chasing after a toddler (or two) in my home in Michigan.