There are many emotional and mental challenges that I contend with that cause me to often feel ashamed but I have never felt as pathetic as I did earlier this week.
We’re all going through a challenging times. We’re separated from our family and friends and at the moment we have no true sense of when we’ll reach a point of normality – whatever that will look like after this. Loved ones are dying, people are afraid and we’re definitely all on this coronacoaster of emotions.
One of the biggest changes that we’ve all experienced is our ability to purchase food and other essentials. Long queues form outside supermarkets, one-way systems have been implemented in stores and we’re reminded to stay 2 metres away from anyone else who may be in the shop with us. Well I have been mostly going to the small, local shops but on Monday the time had come to go to a large supermarket. We’ve been making an effort not to order groceries online so that the precious slots can be saved for those most in need so of I set on my mission.
I am a people pleaser, I like to follow rules – not because I necessarily agree with them – but because I respect those that set them. I try my best at all times to have as little an impact on others as I can, especially any sort of negative impact. I struggle to handle the chaos of large shops at the best of time but as anxieties are running high in most people right now, I knew this trip would be a challenge for me. Once I arrived at the store I got myself into line behind the 12 or so other shoppers that were already waiting outside. I put my headphones in my ears and pressed play on the playlist I had created for myself. I love a bit of ‘boppy’ music to sway and jiggle to while I shop because it puts my head in another place, it distracts me from the external noise.
The good thing about these queues is that they tend to move quickly and so, as expected I started to move closer to the entrance. It was at this point that two people came up beside me on the other side of the barricade separating the queue from the path. It seemed that their fellow shopper was saving a place for them in the queue behind me and they wanted to join her. I had no problem with this. I know that the guidance is to shop alone but everyone has their own situation and it’s not for me to judge. Unfortunately the woman in front of me did take issue with it. She began quarrelling with the women claiming that they were cutting in line, breaking the rules and generally offending her with their presence. Once they had taken their place behind me, sensibly ignoring the woman in front, I saw an NHS worker go past. After the negativity I had just witnessed I felt the need to right the scales so I offered for her to go in front of me. Shortly after this we were all by the entrance and the angry woman ahead took her opportunity to complain to security about the women who had joined their friend. This was my first trigger.
I am doing my best to follow all the rules and guidelines, I am doing my best to make sure that if I see someone with a face mask and gloves on, I give them a good 2 metres space as they’re clearly feeling particularly vulnerable. I am generally trying to do the right thing but despite my best efforts I have been exposed to tutting, cold stares and head shaking when for whatever reason I have strayed from the rules – even just for a moment.
I don’t like getting in trouble, I don’t like to be thought of badly and the situation right now is a perfect storm for me at some point messing up and getting judged by those who are on high alert.
So now I was in the supermarket and I began my shopping. I was doing my best to shop inline with the one way system which is not always that simple given the store layout and my human flaw of occasionally forgetting to pick items from shelves on the first go around. However, with the music blasting in my ears I was managing to stay somewhat relaxed.
I worked my way through the supermarket, doing my best to stay away from people whilst still finding the items we needed. As I was looking through the different kinds of beans, because that’s who we are now, I picked up various cans and then replaced them on the shelves after determining that pinto beans were not what I wanted. It was at this point that I noticed a woman watching me, glaring at me. Clearly touching things was not ok in her book. Later I had to double back down an aisle as I had forgotten the korma paste I wanted, again my behaviour was met with a glare and had I not been listening to music I’m sure there would have been a fair bit of tutting too. As I left the aisle I saw a member of staff with a sign asking people to stay 2 metres apart. She had a look of thunder on her face and while there could have been any number of reasons for the expression, I was now in a more heightened state and I began to feel my heart race. I looked at my list hoping that I had found everything we needed and that I could start to queue up but what I found was that something I really needed was still not in my trolley and that it was in fact going to be back at the beginning of the shop. I slowly made my way back to that end of the shop only to be blocked by a member of staff. I explained my situation and her response was to say ‘you can’t go that way, but if you must be very quick about it, leave your trolley and hurry up’. Well, in my state of quickening heart rate, sweat beginning to flow, and my mind racing – I lost control. I let go of my trolley and ran. I ran to the front of the store, tears streaming down my eyes and unable to catch my breath. I grabbed my phone, knowing that the only thing that could help was to talk to someone who knew me well. Thankfully Nick picked up and immediately knew what to do. He got me breathing again but by this time I was sitting on the floor, red faced and the tears were still coming fast. A member of staff approached as well as another shopper. The customer asked if I could be taken straight to a till so I could pay and leave but unfortunately the member of staff informed us that she could not do that because of the number of people who would complain. She kept asking me what I wanted and when I’m in that state I can’t answer questions. I have to be told what to do.
So, again, I fled but this time I went outside and collapsed by a pillar. Another lady and her mum approached. I explained, through my struggling breaths, that I was having a panic attack and so she just stayed with me. She too, was struggling with anxieties when shopping which was why her mum was with her. Nick was still on the phone and between him and this lovely lady I eventually calmed down.
I didn’t get the shopping that day. I failed to get the things my family needed because I just couldn’t cope. I can tell myself all the things I would say to another person ‘you were brave to go’, ‘you did the best you could’, ‘you put your mental health first and that’s important too’, but really I just feel pathetic. I’m disappointed in myself. No one else I know has fallen apart so easily, no one else I know has added to the chaos that is the outside world right now.
I don’t have much more to say about all of this except please, when you’re out and about right now – have compassion, be kind.