If you have read anything about Eating Disorders it is typical for the person to mention something along the lines of, “I wasn’t able to socialize.”, “I isolated myself.”, “My eating disorder took away part of my life.”. Something to that extent. Announcing, in one way or another, that somehow their ED impacted their daily life beyond just the food aspect.
Typically, what I also find in regards to people with eating disorders is how quiet and reserved they are. Well, let me just say first of all, that was not me. I did sports, the play, student government, was voted most unforgettable; I just hated myself and eating. Yes, ok, as time went on I began to excuse myself from social events surrounding food, but besides that I was still a friendly, outgoing person. So I always thought I was the exception to this unspoken “rule”; another reason why I always thought, and continue to think, I wasn’t “bad” or “sick enough”.
One aspect that ED did stick his obnoxious self in was grocery shopping. I could barely manage it. Some people can’t stand grocery shopping, the people, the crowds and crying kids, spending money, whatever. For me it was so much more than that.
I would immediately be flooded with a sense of dread, anxiety, nausea. It was the thought of foods that I might actually eat and not just waste or let spoil, it was the thought of maybe buying something my ED deemed “unacceptable” for consumption, then what if I ran into somebody I knew and they stared in my cart with a judgmental chip on their shoulder.
It was a never ending game of grab it, look at it, contemplate if I would actually eat it and if I needed it, put item in cart, freak out, put item back. Sometimes it was several aisles later, “Oh God, I don’t really need to get sweet potatoes, they are so big anyway. Shit.” This was continuous with literally everything. “No, I don’t need graham crackers, I won’t eat them with peanut butter anyway and they will go stale… plus the calories!”
I would have panic attacks, unable to catch my breath, I would become flushed and sweaty, even dizzy. There were countless times I would make it half way through the store and become so overwhelmed I would just leave my cart, full with whatever I had finally made my mind up about, and attempt to make my sweaty mess of a self, back to the car.
When that began to happen I would either have my best friend come grocery shopping with me, not only for the support, but to help with my indecisiveness. When that failed I would just ask her to pick stuff up for me from the store and avoid going completely.
Part of treatment was going on weekly grocery shopping runs. I was able to get out of quite a few of them, scheduling my sessions during the time they would leave for the store. When they began to catch on I had to go shopping. The first couple times were very anxiety provoking, I didn’t say a word, just followed the group and pushed the cart.
I have been out of treatment since March and am able to grocery shop with almost no problem. Sometimes the fear is still there, the deciding on which foods to buy and I get increasingly anxious, but I just walk away. If I want it I’ll go back for it. Plus that can be avoided if I always made a list out beforehand, but who has time for that anyways 😉 but, so far, I haven’t abandoned ship…or cart… and left. It’s the little things, but I’m glad I can grocery shop again without the flood of intense fear and anxiety washing over me every time.
Trust the Process!