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“20 Minutes Inside My Head Inside the Grocery Store from Hell”

“After retracing the aisles in search of my husband, I finally spot him in the corner of my eye and I realize I have zero eggs. Suddenly, I am overcome with feelings of incompetence and rejection. I have run out of energy, I am emotionally drained, and my first thought is to blame my husband for the whole ordeal. But it’s not his fault. It’s nobody’s fault. I am me and, clearly, I cannot accept me. Not right now, anyway.”

Here we are in the grocery store… again. My husband asks me to get the milk, cereal, and eggs. “OK. Three things. I can memorize those.” We go our separate ways to “divide and conquer,” as we like to say.

Except, I conquer absolutely nothing before getting distracted between produce and dairy. I find myself in the bread aisle picking out enticing cake flavors and frosting colors. I am suddenly so overwhelmed with options that I decide to buy one from the bakery section. Quickly won over by a coconut macaroon cake in the freezer, I order my brain to refocus.

After putting the cake in the basket (wait… what?), I head down an aisle filled with bright colors, candies, and decorations. Why? Because a lot of people are in the aisle so surely I must need something there too. I grab something totally unnecessary that my kids will love and finally make it to the milk section. Bombarded with varieties and prices and thoughts of other activities to be done that day, I feel myself begin to erupt with anxiety and tension I wasn’t expecting.

“You know what? I’ll just grab one of each and let him decide. But first, I need a cart with wheels in order to accomplish this mission.” While making my way to the store entrance, I see a vacant cart ahead. “Perfect,” I say. I load the cake into the cart. Astonishingly, a woman comes toward me. “Hey, that’s my cart!” she freaks. For goodness sake, get me out of here. I don’t like this (feeling) and clearly, I don’t belong here.

Grabbing my precious cake, I continue to the front of the store and I quickly grab a cart with no rightful owner. “OK, I got a cart,” I say under my breath as if I’m about to run out of oxygen. Keeping myself together, I remember the task now is to load each of the six varieties of milk — skim, whole because it’s on sale, 1% because I like it, 2% because the kids like it, soy unsweetened because he’s on a diet, or soy sweetened because it tastes like a milkshake and I will need one when I am finished here. Done.

[Click to Read: Grocery Shopping Is the Worst. Make It Better With These Tips.]

Because cereal is the perfect companion for milk, I head toward that aisle. The thing I love about the cereal aisle is that you can’t miss it; it’s the whole aisle. The problem now is that there are so many choices. I can’t recall the cereal he mentioned. Instead of freaking out, I calm myself and grab the most expensive (unintentional), interesting kind of cereal I’ve ever heard of because, “Hey, it sounds good and I’ve never tried it.”

At this point, I’m feeling emotionally run-down and still overly embarrassed from the shopping cart episode. Wanting to cover my face with my hands and let the tears flow, I decide now is not the time or place to do so.

After retracing the aisles in search of my husband, I finally spot him in the corner of my eye and I realize I have zero eggs. Suddenly, I am overcome with feelings of incompetence and rejection. Clearly I have run out of energy, I am emotionally drained, and my first thought is to blame my husband for the whole ordeal.

If it wasn’t for him delegating this not-so-easy task, I wouldn’t be in such a crazed mess. But I’m exhausted now. This trip through the grocery store has required enough energy to last all weekend. But it’s not his fault. It’s nobody’s fault. I am me and, clearly, I cannot accept me. Not right now, anyway.

[Read: Shop ‘Til You Drop No More]

Apparently, there is a threshold for people like me. Each morning, we awake to confront the battles before us. Very much wanting to overlook our difficulties and combat our struggles, we know the process is a far reach but we refuse to give up. At the end of the day, though, we know we have made it only this far, which feels not nearly far enough, and it is difficult to appreciate the resilience it required to get there.

It’s in moments like these that I think of becoming a different me: yoga me, writer me, dental assistant me (hey, it could happen), workout me, and yes… even the better grocery shopper me. But while I’m spending so much time thinking of where I want to be and who I want to be, I’m ignoring the essence of who I should be… and that is the real me. Even if she inadvertently steals a shopping cart from time to time.

I Hate Grocery Shopping: Next Steps


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Updated on March 23, 2021

3 Comments & Reviews

  1. I didn’t know other people got overwhelmed at the grocery store. I hate going there so much.

    Once my boyfriend realized how much it stresses me out, he started going with me. Having him there makes it so much easier to stay on task, not get overwhelmed, and not get bogged down by choices! Sometimes it happens with other stores, but grocery stores are the worst, and the one I have to go to most frequently.

  2. I despise shopping because it requires being around people. Large numbers of people make me feel overwhelmed before I even get in the store from the parking lot. Before the pandemic I would go very early in the morning, sometimes at 4 or 5 am, just to avoid other people. But most stores where I live are no longer open at those hours. Grocery pickup has become a life-saver for me, one I will almost certainly keep using long after this pandemic is over.

  3. I couldn’t even read most of the article. I just skimmed it. Grocery Stores and malls have stressed me out since I was a kid. I always hated Christmas shopping – the hoards of people and crushing crowds and all the things to look at and decisions. My husband would bring me every year “just to window shop” which is the craziest thing in my mind…why do people look at things they can’t afford or don’t need? I would rather stay home with the people and things I need and love. This pandemic has been, in many ways, a blessing for me. I shop online now and I get my groceries delivered (I tip well because I’m so grateful). I get to stay home with my family and I don’t have to stress or have anxiety attacks in the aisles. I also get exactly what I need (the shopping app saves my favorites) so I’m done in under 10 minutes every 10 days. Our stores are open but I still have groceries delivered – for my own sanity. I tell my kids: if you’re not having fun, stop doing it. For 30 years I hated the grocery store. I stopped doing it. And I’m so relieved. My doctor treats me for anxiety but I’m still glad I made this decision. It is worth it.

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