Category Archives: Panic attack

What Social Anxiety Feels Like: “The Grocery Store”

I lie face down on a sunny patch on John’s man room carpet.  I massage my forehead, to try to relieve the dull ache.  Dora The Explorer plays upstairs, as Megan enjoys her quiet time. Over the baby monitor, I hear Tara roll over and sigh dreamily.

My whole body hurts, as if I’m coming down with the flu. I’m so tired of feeling like this, I really need to call the doctor about adjusting my medication.  I’ve been telling myself this for weeks now. Maybe on Monday I will be brave and actually call.

“So are you ready to go?” John crouches down and rubs my back. I blink back tears. He doesn’t notice.

“Yep.” As I struggle to my feet, my thoughts flash from a facebook “some cards” joke (Motherhood: when a trip to the grocery store alone is like going on vacation.) to a vision of stabbing myself in the stomach. I am so incredibly weak, and so pathetically selfish. (What is wrong with you? You have two beautiful daughters, a loving husband. You better start enjoying them, start enjoying life, or something is going to happen to take it all away. Grave illness. Car accident. Divorce. And you will deserve it.)

I slip into my coat, put my hands in my pockets, grip my hand sanitizers. One for each hand. They give me a brief moment of comfort.

“Have fun,” John chuckles and kisses my cheek.

“Thanks,” I manage a smile, and head out into blinding white.

In the car I turn the music on full blast, because after all, I can. I sing along. I take deep breaths. I mutter a few prayers that the girls will be safe while I’m gone.

As I drive into the parking lot, my stomach sinks and my heart starts beating faster.  I feel angry, and at the same time I feel guilty for feeling angry. Saturday. Far too many people here. I contemplate going right back home, but I cant. We need food, damn it.

I speed walk into the store. I try to breathe slowly, to relieve my increasing dizziness. As I frantically manoeuvre my cart through the produce section, flashing polite/ apologetic smiles at the other shoppers, I realize I am much better off when I bring the girls with me.  They help me stay focused. They help me see through the fog that now clouds my brain.  They give me someone to talk to. They make me brave. Right now, I am scared. Scared I will run into someone with my cart. Scared the women with highlighted hair and stylish boots look down upon my Joe Fresh jogging pants. Scared I will catch a disease from opening fridge doors.  Scared everyone can tell I feel like I’m going to pass out.

As  I race for the aisle with the laundry detergent, I long for my precious daughters to be here with me.  Saying hi to the old ladies and making them smile. Dropping stuff on the floor. I wish I could breathe in the scent of baby shampoo from their hair, kiss their foreheads. Ironically, this would be for my own reassurance.

Mercifully, I make it to the checkout line without losing consciousness. I take some deep breaths, silently say a few prayers for protection against the grocery store germs as I wait.

A pretty blond woman and her two teenage sons are waiting in line behind me. They see someone they know the next line over and start chatting. Everyone else around us who waits seems impatient, or perhaps it is just me.

My turn comes. I catch my breath as the service clerk who helps bag the groceries goes on break before helping me.  There are a lot of people waiting behind me. I must get my groceries bagged. Fast. My hands tremble. My armpits sweat. The cashier starts helping me bag the groceries, and for some reason this embarrasses me. The pretty blond lady and her sons, preoccupied by their conversation, have advanced too far in line, and block the interac machine. One of the teenage sons hovers over me as I clumsily stuff groceries into bags. I am on the verge of panicking.

I awkwardly ask ask the mother with twins to back up so I can pay. I’m so dizzy, it’s as if I am drunk.

“Hey, no problem at all. It’s all good.” The teenage boy who had been hovering gives me a sincere smile. He’s a lovely young man, and he’s my undoing. I stare through my tears at the pin pad.  It takes an eternity for the payment to go through.  I want to smile at the pretty blond woman and her sons as I leave, but I fear my tears will overflow. I look down, and briskly push my cart away.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk