Panic at the Grocery Store

grocery1 grocery2

I could guarantee I’d have a panic attack in three places: the grocery store, the mall, and while driving. I didn’t (and still don’t) like to be stuck in the middle of a crowd. I worry I can’t get out fast enough if I feel panicky.

At church, I’m much happier sitting in the back, and at the end of the row. When we go to the movies, my husband loves to be smack in the middle to have “the best” view. I prefer closer to the back, and more to the right or left, not in the center. I love going to the movies. So thankfully, I’ve never actually had a panic attack there. But I still worry. What if I panic? What if I want to leave? There’s no quick way to get out. I don’t want to have to stumble past everyone, especially if I’m jittery, dizzy, and short of breath.  

The place that’s always been the worst for me — the supermarket.  No matter what, I’d always have a panic attack there.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the reason. It might be the bright lights, or maybe it’s the feeling I can’t get out quick enough if I need to, especially if I’m way in the back of the store. I used to hate (and sometimes still do) waiting in line with my shopping cart. People are in front of me, and behind. I feel pinned in.

There was one time I felt super panicky while waiting in line. I bit my finger to try to bring myself back to the present. I was surprised when I looked at my finger and it was bleeding. Oh no! I was afraid people would notice and think I was strange. Finally all my groceries were put into bags. I had to write a check. My hand was shaking, and my writing looked squiggly and hardly legible. I wondered what the cashier thought. Thankfully, she didn’t say anything. I rushed out, pushing my cart like the store was on fire.

Grocery shopping is a chore for everyone. But for me, it was something I dreaded. If I was feeling especially anxious, I’d tell myself, I’ll just go down a couple of aisles and get what I can. If I feel good, I’ll keep shopping. If not, I’ll check out, take my food to the car, and see if I feel like going back in. This was not an effective way to shop. Sometimes I’d throw items in the cart, without comparing them, or making sure it’s what I really wanted.

There was one person I completely connected with in my fear of the grocery store. Chef Paula Deen. One day I read about her severe issues with agoraphobia. I couldn’t believe it when she said she used to go food shopping, and just grab whatever was in the front of the store. And I thought I was the only person who did that!

Once my panic attacks were under control, it was the most wonderful thing to go to the grocery store and actually enjoy it. I’d stroll down the aisles like I had all the time in the world. I’d look at labels, comparing calories, fat, and sodium. I’d even get myself a latte for the leisure grocery experience, to celebrate my new-found freedom. It felt so good to feel normal.


 First image courtesy of The Brantastic Life.

Second image courtesy of  Buehler’s Fresh Foods.

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