And That’s Why We Don’t Grocery Shop with Vertigo

High up on the list of easy-to-accomplish tasks is grocery shopping. For me at least, I don’t even have to hit a main road to get to Publix, it’s practically walking distance from my house.

You make a list. You grab a cart. You get your stuff, pay and get out.

It should be easy.

But somedays, for me, a simple trip to the grocery store can be something I have to amp myself up for all afternoon. Since I recently had a fainting spell and had to be sent to the ER in an ambulance, I’ve had a lot of anxiety about doing every-day tasks that take me out of the house alone. I went with my mom to get a massage last week and ended up rushing to the back bathroom to puke. That’s not a normal symptom for me. I might always be nauseated and have moments where I even start gagging—but full-fledged puking? Between the vertigo, nausea and abdominal pain, I suddenly feel like I have less control than ever.

I’m not really scared of fainting or vomiting, but I’m overwhelmed by the concern that it’s going to happen in a public place, especially when I’m alone. I don’t want to cause a scene by hitting the floor in the freezer aisle or abandoning my shopping cart to try and make it to the bathroom. I just don’t want to experience any of these things.

I’ve spoken with all my doctors this past week about some kind of treatment plan for just how bad things have gotten, but the consensus is that there really isn’t anything to do about it but wait for it to clear my system.

But in the meantime I still have to live my life.

So even though I wasn’t feeling well enough to go out and run some errands—I still had errands that needed to be run. So I took a deep breath, loaded my purse with dissolvable zofran, altoids, and Gatorade and got in my car. The more tired I get, the easier it is for my symptoms to overwhelm me. So I drove around the parking lot three times trying to find a handicap parking space that would cut my foot-travel down.

Once I was inside I pulled out my list and started going. But the store was really crowded and people were moving slow. I could feel the nausea starting to break through so I doubled my pace and started zipping through the aisles. I got to the cracker section and went to grab R.J his favorite flavor of cheese-its. But I couldn’t find it. I tried calling him to see if he wanted me to grab some other flavor but the call didn’t go through. I was stuck trying to figure out if I had enough time to call him back or if I should just move on. But then he called me back. Relieved I relayed my message and was met with…silence. The call had cut out. Frustrated I tried calling him back but hung up halfway through. I didn’t have time to dwell on cheese-its if I wanted to finish the rest of the shopping.

But as I walked away he called me again, I picked up but couldn’t hear him. He tried calling again and this time I just sent the call to voicemail. I was blazing through the aisles now realizing I wasn’t even looking at my list and was just throwing random items into my cart. I saw R.J calling again and I just picked up the phone and snapped, “Forget it!  It’s nothing! I’ll call you later BYE.” I figured he probably wouldn’t be able to make that out anyway.

I shoved a zofran and an mint in my mouth and tried to get through the freezer aisle. My eyes were watering from the queasiness and I realized that if I didn’t go to check out right now I was not going to make it out of there. I went to self-checkout and started running my items through the machine, praying that there wouldn’t be an error message that I’d have to wait for an assistant for. And of course there was.

Now I was throwing bottles of Gatorade onto the machine and then dropping them into the cart. Every time I lifted something heavy I started gagging. It was humiliating. I just wanted to get out. I shoved my card into the machine and ripped the receipt out before it was done printing. I bolted to my car, crying as I lugged my bags into my trunk then got into my seat and shakily started pulling out my emergency kit to inject myself with IV zofran. In the middle of this my mom called. I put her on speaker.

“I’m at Publix,” she said. “Do you need anything?”


Got home, and of course the only thing that actually went through during the seven-call exchange about Cheese-Its with my husband was the one where I snapped and hung up on him. So of course I felt awful about that. We try to never to talk to each other like that. It’s like a cardinal rule in our relationship. Just don’t be an asshole. Another thing that should be so easy!

We got in the house, he unloaded the groceries, I apologized— he accepted my apology, I proceeded to have a nervous breakdown. I realized I left half the stuff of my list and brought home frozen potato bourekas (?) Happy tried to cheer me up by jumping directly on my stomach.

The idea of losing my independence to do something as basic as grocery shopping scares me more than I can explain. I always try to push past my symptoms. Even if it means running the risk of fainting or vomiting at the grocery store. I really don’t want to have to rely on everyone else to do the every day tasks that don’t require an olympic medal. I mean, I understand that there will be days where I can’t do everything on my to-do list. And as my symptoms get more and more unmanageable my idea of a normal day is going to have to adjust and adjust and adjust.

PS—Yes, I know all about SHIPT and INSTACART. I use them on occasion but to use them every other day is financial overkill. You know what else is financial overkill? Grocery shopping while you’re so distracted that you ring up $60 work of items when you only went in for $30.

My life would make the most boring and dramatic reality show ever.