High Anxiety

You visit
without warning
unlike a gentleman
come to call

my heart races
with terror
when you wend my way
you can make
the mightiest fall

I wish I could stop the
flutter in my chest,
the fear from things
unseen

Anxiety,
I don’t like you
please pack up your bags
And leave!

Bed, Bath & Trauma

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(google)

Christmas Tree Shops is/are one of my favorite stores. I haven’t figured out if the store name is considered singular–as it would be for a collective noun like “family” or plural since “Shops” is plural. Any guesses? For now, I’m going to assume it is plural.

Christmas Tree Shops’ (“CTS”) parent company is Bed, Bath & Beyond.  Although the former has a better selection of products than CTS, I tend to prefer CTS for the prices–much cheaper. That being said, a co-worker informed me yesterday that there was a Bed, Bath Beyond / Barnes & Noble / Whole Foods store complex (not exactly a mall) near our new office space on Vesey Street, so I had to venture forth. I knew it was raining, but I wasn’t expecting the blustering winds, spray and cold. It didn’t feel like early June. I was wearing a jean jacket over my blouse and had my mini urban umbrella, which wasn’t cutting it.

I was on a mission to continue looking for small items to spruce up our home. We are in the process of doing a short sale and our realtor’s photographer is expected at our house early next week; after the photos are done, our house will be listed. Last weekend I got coasters, a throw pillow, a couple candles and a glass jar with beach glass (or at the least the package said it was) in the shape of fish at CTS. Having done more online research about pre-sale home staging, I decided I needed more throw pillows for the master bedroom, a bowl of balls like they have in corporate apartments (see Better Call Saul episode 6, season 2, “Bali Ha’i”) or fake fruit  for the dining room table, and other sundries.

The Bed, Bath & Beyond on Greenwich Street was smaller than the one I normally go to in Paramus, NJ, claustrophobic, even. No ball of balls to be found and the throw pillows I liked were all around $34.99 (too expensive for a short sale). I ended up with two plush gray-blue bath towels and a hand towel–both on sale.

Determined to find that bowl of balls or anything else, I kept repeating the circuit: around and around, from BATH section to BRIDAL section to BEDDING section with overpriced DK sheets and pillow shams to KITCHEN section to SCENT section to OUTDOOR DINING section and over and over. I couldn’t stop, as if possessed. Then I started to feel dizzy. I looked at my watch: 1:35, still 25 minutes to get back to work, and the walk was 10 minutes. Around and around I went. I was lightheaded, and my hands were shaking, and I desperately wanted to find the cashier but he/she was not in sight. Oh my God, what’s going on, I thought. Trapped in Bed, Bath and Beyond! Now I knew what the “Beyond” was for.

Finally I saw an “EXIT’ sign, which I assumed would lead to the cashier. At last, a kindly cashier beckoned me. He was smiling, which helped a great deal, as I was trapped inside the maws of a full-blown panic attack. I smiled at him, or at least I thought I was smiling. Perhaps I looked manic or even insane. I didn’t know. All I knew is that I wanted to purchase the murky blue towels and get the hell out of there.

“Did you find everything you were looking for?” he asked, cheerfully.

“Well, I was looking for a bowl for the dining room or living room, and I couldn’t find it.” I was hoping this made sense.

“Oh, you mean to use as a centerpiece?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, we don’t have many of those; this store is smaller than most of them.”

“Yes, that’s what I thought. I wondered if I had missed something.”

I inserted my chip card, my eyes not focusing well.

I thanked him and left.

I found it difficult to put one foot in front of the other; my hands were still shaking. I was pulling in enormous gulps of air, audibly. It felt weird.

On the downward escalator, I scanned for seating downstairs, but there was none. I took a mild sedative, and faced the tempest.

It was colder and more blustery than before, or so it felt.

My knees felt like blocks of steel; my feet were partially numb. When I entered Brookfield Place, I plopped my soggy corpus onto one of the uncomfortable benches, vaguely watching shoppers popping in and out of J. Crew and the other chi-chi stores. It was 1:50 p.m.

After a few minutes, I dragged myself to the escalator, then took the elevator to my floor. Eating a sandwich at my desk was a gift from God. I felt like I had experienced a shock, a trauma of some kind. But it was all within myself.

No more Bed, Bath & Beyond for me. At least not for a while.

 

 

 

Panic in ShopRite

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“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”
–Tallulah “Lulu” Stark

shoprite at night 2pill-bottle
photos: Erica Herd

The problem with being in a hurry or multitasking is that you lose things. For example, I lost my meds in Shoprite last night. At least I think I did. I don’t know where else they could be. I keep the bottle in my purse and take a pill every morning at the office after breakfast. Today they were gone. They could have fallen out of my purse in the car—still have to check tonight—or in the parking lot. Maybe my cats incorporated them into The Hide & Retrieval Game, which consists of shoving various objects, such as paper balls, toy mice and keys under the sofa, stove, and dishwasher. Then they go about the business of retrieving the objects, reaching their furry arms under the furniture and appliances and sometimes getting them stuck! That’s where I come in. Judging by the dozens of paper balls, toy mice, rubber bands and paper clips I find when cleaning behind the sofa, their retrieval attempts have not been very successful.

You might ask what kind of meds I lost, and why don’t I simply call my doctor for a refill. Well, I could. The pills are of a delicate kind, not your garden variety blood pressure medication, migraine pills or acid reflux reducers. They are of a psychotropic nature, something one might want to keep private, especially in a small town. I have long abjured medication of this nature, as I witnessed my mother’s life-long relationship with psychotropics that seemed to do her little to no good; I always thought that taking pills was the sign of a weak mind, and that wasn’t me.

My first panic attack in New Jersey occurred in ShopRite. When we first moved to NJ from Astoria seven years ago, I was unaccustomed to the vast aisles of food and frenzied shoppers. Why the frenetic energy and so many scowls on suburban faces? It made Key Food in Astoria seem downright mellow.

First the attacks came on once a month, then once a week, then they escalated from every other day to almost daily. Enough! I’d wake up with one and could barely get dressed for work—a sense of dread overcame me, clammy hands, palpitations. I was diagnosed with “panic disorder.” And yes, the “crazy” gene seems to run in the family. My maternal grandmother was a “nervous” person and endured electroshock treatments back in the day.

Of course I can call the doctor—actually the nurse practitioner—for a handful of pills to tide me over till my appointment on Saturday, but I wonder if she’ll think I sold the “missing” pills. Probably not, but I wonder. The stigma still exists around people dealing (I don’t like to say “suffering,” sounds weak) with mental illness. Too bad we can’t treat it like a physical condition or disease that simply requires chemical intervention. We aren’t living in that world yet.

Back to ShopRite and the search for meds. My husband works an earlier shift than me, so he went to ShopRite and asked, but no dice. It could be: (a) I didn’t lose them in the store, (b) I dropped them in the parking lot, (c) another shopper found them and kept them, (d) another shopper found them and threw them in the trash (see my earlier post, “Runaway Shopping Cart”), or (e) none of the above. Hopefully they are on the floor of the Pathfinder or under the sofa and the cats are having a ball.

Well, there you go, I found them in the passenger’s seat of my car. Thank goodness for small blessings, and meds.

To learn more about the Blog for Mental Health 2014, please visit A Canvas of the Minds. With your help, we can continue the path towards de-stigmatizing mental illness.