Going to your work Christmas party when you’re just too scared to eat out EVER again is daunting.
The temptation to cancel was immense. That would have been by far the easier option.
But it would have meant missing out on the social aspect, the fun, the dancing and spending time with my work colleagues.
It’s important for work dynamics to also spend time outside work getting to know each other.
So I took a flask of soup and a tub of salad, my own little picnic meal. Sounds easy right? Well it wasn’t…
3 easy steps to taking part but not taking part in the food!
- Speak to the venue – We’d already done this. I had a ‘safe meal’ organised but I needed to speak to them to explain that I would rather bring my own food. They seemed to understand and were happy for me to bring my own but were not that keen on having to heat anything up so the next step was get organised!
- The picnic lunch – I took along soup (Glorious Foods Thai carrot soup) with me in a thermos and my own safe wheat free bread (Warburtons sour dough) and a little tub of dairy free spread (Vitalite). I also had the salad of dreams which was so huge it also made for left overs the following day. What made things harder was that they hadn’t actually cancelled my meal and staff continued to try to bring this food to me over and over again, one after the other. This was a kind of torture because I had done everything I could to prevent too much fuss. It did upset me but I just narrowly avoided a dinner table meltdown. I did have to ask one waitress to go and speak to her manager and leave me alone. I know they were just doing their job but there appeared to a huge lack of communication, despite my tearful phone conversation and subsequent emails to the manager. I am not that impressed so will be contacting them to explain how hard that was for me. It has made me doubly certain I made the right choice to bring my own food because if the staff were not made aware that a customer was so scared to eat out and was bringing their own food, would they have got a message that a customer on a certain table had a life threatening allergy? It worries me… the many many opportunities for potential mistakes to be made.
- Dealing with endless questions. Why? Why? Why? – This was embarrassing. It did provoke many conversations from well meaning colleagues which I had to respond with, “Please don’t ask me to talk about this. It’s something I need to do at the moment. I’m fine with it. So please respect my request.” Then I would try to change the subject. This was the hardest part. Some people just didn’t get it. And the more people who asked me the harder it got. I wasn’t ready for this conversation. I didn’t want to talk about it. And I didn’t want to overhear conversations… “But what is in that huge bag? Why won’t she talk about it? Why has she brought food?” So I absented myself momentarily. Deep breaths. Made sure I was sitting with people who understood and we were good to go. But the questions that came from staff were the worst because I had tried to organise safe passage for my weird picnic. After the gin and wine with the meal I didn’t really care but lots of that suffering was unnecessary.
What I would like to ask is that if you see someone behaving oddly. If they seem upset for no reason and seem unable to discuss it with you… back off. Let them do their thing.
If they are not putting anyone in danger, just try to understand that there might be very good reasons why someone has brought in a huge picnic. Having incredulous stares, people asking you again and again and the awkwardness afterwards… well it nearly put an end to my Christmas party. This may all sound like I’m being over dramatic. But it’s just the opposite. I’m really struggling and just want you to all carry on as normal and ignore me.
The serious anxiety and a now complete lack of trust in ever eating out have left me a changed person. After mistakes were made recently which left me seriously ill, I can’t talk about it but I’m OK now, physically, just not mentally.
I did thoroughly enjoy the evening but it was completely exhausting. I was able to let my hair down, laugh and dance with my work colleagues. I am glad I went.
I am still exhausted. The effort of shopping, meal prep and mentally preparing myself were immense. I also had to pay for my Christmas meal which was nice when everyone else got theirs provided gratis.
Oh how I long to just be able to rock up, and not worry about anything more taxing than which starter I chose?
Tonight I have a lovely quiet night in planned but I have packed my week with running. Including a 10k night run cross country, my weekly running club run and a run with a local women’s running group. That’s three runs! Running for me is a kind of therapy. I find it hard but I love it, the feeling of exhaustion afterwards – proper exhaustion not just mental exhaustion is powerful. The feeling of camaraderie and the complete lack of stressing and worrying that clears my mind really helps me. The exercise seems to energise me and give me some control over my raging emotions and it is completely acceptable to have copious rucksack snacks on hand with no questions asked.
Have you ever taken your own food to a restaurant or dinner? How did it go for you?