Panic At The Grocery Store


My favorite place to have a panic attack is Wal-Mart (TM). I don’t know if its the large open space, the flourescent lighting or all the other shoppers that set me off, but something about Wal-Mart (TM) is panically delicious.

I can be walking down an aisle, carefully plucking things from the shelves when *bang*, panic attack. I start breathing like I’m giving birth to a llama and my eyes dart about wildly looking for a place to hide. The water aisle—perfect! I dodge into the water aisle and try to slow down my hammering heart. I remind myself that everything is ok. (Most of myself doesn’t believe this). I try grounding myself by noticing what I smell, see, taste, feel, and hear.  It ain’t working.

At this point, I’m trying to decide whether to abandon my cart and bolt the fuck out of here or stay and ride this mother out.

I choose ride it out and continue hiding in the water aisle to get myself together. I concentrate on one sound (the air handling machine) and block all others out. I look at my shopping list and assess how much further I have to go. This attack occurred smack dab in the middle of my shopping.  The thought of having to return to Wal-Mart (TM) the next day to finish the deed of shopping was enough to push me into action. I went rolling off down the water aisle toward the rest of the store.

Before leaving the safety of the water aisle, I dissociate a bit to make the noise, light and people more tolerable. Just a little break from reality.  Dissociation is on a spectrum from mild daydreaming to disorders.  Bascially, I space off in an attempt to give my brain some quiet time.  Almost 1/3 of people say they occasionally…”feel as thought they are watching themselves in a movie.”  4% of people say they feel that way 1/3 of the time.

So I’m not alone in my dissociated world.  A third of you are tripping on oxygen just like me.  Attempting to get it together by repeatedly saying, “Snap Out Of It!”  Eventually, things come back into focus and I’m, relatively speaking, all together again.

I have had panic attacks that required me to stop what I was doing, in most cases shopping, and leave my cart sitting like an orphaned child in Wal-Mart (TM). This sucks on a couple of levels. First, like I said earlier, I just have to go back and do my shopping all over again. Second, I’m upset that my illness reared its ginormous head and I had to leave the store. Third, I feel guilty that someone is going to have to restock all my crap.

But today, I’m feeling confident about my chances of beating this panic attack and finishing my shopping. I’m saying my affirmations.  I’m imagining the fun things I’ll do when I’m finished shopping.  I’m congratulating myself on being a badass and continuing to shop in the midst of panic. Then I misjudge a curve and jam the metal cart into my hip. “Dammit!” I hiss as a young mom and her sweet child eyed me suspiciously.  I lower my gaze and send out “I’m Sorry for Cursing” vibes to the mom.

I keep my head down to avoid any unnecessary contact with other people.  Its not them, its me.  I am just not that good at adulting.  I can put on a good show for a while, but then I get tired and need a nap. 

I put the dog food in the bottom of the cart…and I’m DONE!

Now I just have to put it all on the conveyor belt, pay for it, load it in the car, carry it in the house,  put it all away and make meals out of it.  I knew there was a reason I didn’t want to be a housewife.  Its actually a shit-ton of work and I don’t know how women work full time and get all their errands done.  Ultimate respect for that.  You all get the SuperPerson award.

So I’ve got no room to fuss about the little bullshit things in life that I have to do.  Its just that, sometimes, that fuss builds into a clusterfuck and I  find myself  hiding in the water aisle at Wal-Mart (TM).  

Where’s your favorite place to have a panic attack?  I would really like to hear about your experiences if you’re willing to share.  Sometimes sharing even makes the experience lose some power over you.  Its really cool when that happens.

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  1. I could not stop laughing at “I start breathing like I’m giving birth to a llama” 😂 Partially for the image, and partially because I’ve never heard a more accurate description of my panic attacks! I suffer from CPTSD and depersonalization is a really big part of my illness. I dissociate all the time both for protection and unwillingly as part of an episode. My “favorite” place to have a panic attack is in the bathroom at work! Loud and constant noises tend to set me off, and when your work involves answering lots of phone calls, there’s ample opportunity to panic 😉 Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Thank you so much for reading my entry.

      Ah, yes, the “panic attack in the public bathroom” is always a great one. It must be difficult to do your job when you get stressed. Heck, it must be difficult to do your job period.

      I also get triggered by loud and constant noises. I try just to breathe through it and stay in the present.

  2. This is SO me. For almost a year I couldn’t even step foot into a grocery store. But most of the time my problem was getting there. The car is hands down my bodies favorite place to freak out in. I had my first panic attack while driving, it was terrifying! Now I have some major PTSD from it. I blog about mental health too! So happy we’re not alone. It’s so comforting to know someone else understands exactly what you’re going through. Cheers!

    1. I’m so sorry your body doesn’t like the car. I’m sure that is quite limiting.

      It is really nice to meet someone who “gets it”.

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