by gillian mulder
TW: SOCIAL ANXIETY
Okay, okay, you can do this, just walk over to the cashier, give her your money, and leave the store.
I start to walk over to the cashier, with the milk jug I want to buy in one hand, my wallet in the other, and an empty tote bag on my arm, until I feel a heaviness in my chest, my stomach squeezing, and my face and ears getting hot. I quickly switch directions, and walk into a random aisle, looking at the stuff on the shelves like I’m going to buy something else.
What if she thinks I’m weird for buying just milk? What if she thinks I’m taking some of her salary away for having a reusable bag, because she won’t have to bag my milk? What if she thinks I’m a weirdo for only having a twenty-dollar bill for a jug of milk that’s only four dollars?!?!
I hang my head down as I feel the pain in my chest worsen, my heart rate rising, my breathing going faster, but not louder or else people might hear and think I’m weird, and my armpits getting sweaty underneath my sweater.
You can do it, just go.
I begin to walk over to the cashier, who I see is helping some other person, and immediately walk away. I walk over to the produce aisle and begin to pace around the supermarket, stopping at random places and looking at the products.
Calm down Andy. You gotta buy the milk like mom told you to, you can do this. I can do this.
I take a few deep breaths and feel my heart rate go down, as well as the pain in my chest slowly going away.
She won’t think you’re weird for buying only milk. People do it all the time, and it’s her job, she won’t care. She won’t care that you have a reusable bag, she’ll probably be happy that she doesn’t have to bag the milk for you, and she won’t care that you only have a twenty-dollar bill, lots of people don’t have smaller bills.
I lift my head up, walk up to the cashier register, and put down the milk on the conveyor belt and watch as she scans it, anxiety fills my stomach, but I’ve gotten this far, I have to see it through. I hold up my empty bag to show her I don’t need a plastic bag, but without directly looking her in the eye.
“That’ll be $3.99,” she says with a smile.
She’s smiling--smile back so she doesn’t think you’re a depressed teenager.
I smile back as I hand her the twenty-dollar bill from my wallet, and she gives me my change. I walk to the other side of the register, put the milk into my bag, as well as everything else in my hands, and walk out of the store.
The moment I get out of the store, a wave of relief washes over me.
I did it. Mission accomplished.
If you suffer from social anxiety, and you have a panic attack (like Andy here), some ways to help you calm down in the present are:
For more information, click here.
Overcoming social anxiety is a completely different story, with one way to do that by a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) approach. For further information, click here.
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