My favorite place to have a panic attack is Walmart. I don't know if it's the large open space with birds flying around, the ugly fluorescent lighting or all the other shoppers that set me off but something about Walmart is panically delicious.
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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. 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 and racing mind. I remind myself that everything is okay. (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 hell 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 Walmart 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. Basically, 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 (source link at the end of article!).
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 somewhere in Walmart. 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 bad ass and continuing to shop in the midst of panic. Then I misjudged the curve going into the cereal aisle 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. It's not them, it's 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. And all of this is especially difficult when I'm fighting a panic attack.
I roll quickly up and down the aisles, trying to get what's on my list when all I want to do is bolt.
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. All of this is part of what gets me panicked. It's better when my son is home and he helps carry groceries inside.
But now, I will share with you a fantastic secret... Walmart Pickup. You can order your groceries online (they have a great search engine), drive to the pick up area, open your trunk and a wonderful Walmart employee will load all your groceries in the car...for free! I can't tell you how much this has improved my life. It only takes me about 20 minutes to order the groceries, the store is 5 minutes from my house and I simply call them when I've arrived. It's a beautiful thing.
So if you find yourself in the grocery store or any store, feeling panicked, try some of the techniques above. If you just can't make it work this time, then leave and try again later...the grocery store will still be there.
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. Leave a comment in the comment section below and let us know what you think!
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About the Author
My name is Lauren and I've been 'Mentally Interesting' since 1983. I've been blogging about mental illness since 2017 at www.mentallyinteresting.com. My diagnoses include Bipolar Disorder II, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I work every day to minimize my illnesses impacts through Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Affirmations and Group Therapy.