15 Ways POTS Turns the Grocery Store Into an Obstacle Course

A blurry image of a woman pushing a shopping cart in a grocery store.
A blurry image of a woman pushing a shopping cart in a grocery store.

I thought it was just me.

I’ve recently learned it’s not uncommon for postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) patients (and possibly others) to rank the grocery store trip somewhere close to an obstacle course, on a list of undesirable weekly outings. A trip that unleashes a melee of feisty POTS symptoms, even when you’re quite certain you’ve been chasing recovery like it’s your job. The grocery store can set you back.

I’ve been on the other side of this story – the side where the grocery store is at worst a hassle or inconvenience and at best, a therapeutic mindless time of discovery, creativity, and social engagement. Because I know that side well, I can attempt to parse through a few glaring differences. Like other murky aspects of POTS, I thought it was just me, thus I have previously hesitated to do so.

Here’s a quick walkthrough of navigating regrettable obstacles your POTS pals may jump through at the local grocer:

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1. 11 a.m. on a Monday, when almost nobody is shopping. Because, one knows better than to show up at 5 p.m. on a Sunday, or a weekday for that matter. Bullet dodged.

2. Parking. That was not so bad. I got a spot. Three tires are in the yellow lines. I didn’t hit any pedestrians. Let’s do this, Wegmans. (Feeling good, heart rate about 85.)

3. “Getting me a buggy today.” Because, while I used to get a basket then fill it to the brim with 84 items, I now get a buggy, even if I’m only buying three things. Gotta have something to lean on, for goodness sake, when the going gets rough. Random squatting in public (though not above me) can illicit odd glances when you just wanna get through a menial task without the added attention.

4. “Why am I here, again?” Oh no, it’s starting early. Memory issues and brain fog set in, even more so when the fruit selection is so vast and distracting. The grocery store is filled with its wonders and if you don’t just stare at the ground and keep repeating the list of needed items in your head, you’re sure to be thrown off course.

Related:The POTS Puzzle: Separating the PA From the Patient

5. “Slow and steady wins the race.” I want to be slow and steady so I don’t miss anything I might need, and also because, well, I used to enjoy the grocery store. But, I must speed walk, as there is a time limit. When it’s up, I turn into a pumpkin again. But speed walking presents with its challenges, too. Blind corners, other speed walkers not looking out for you. Someone catches you off guard and bam! Adrenaline, which you don’t need, starts to gush.

6. “Siri, why am I here, again? Can you call my husband and ask him what we need, again? What, no cell phone service? Forget it.” Nix plan A, just grab whatever looks good. Remember, you can’t cook dinners like you used to. Also, don’t forget to mind your increased salt intake requirements.

7. Rounding out toward the check out line. “Woah, everything in my shopping cart is junk food. Wait, what will we even eat for dinner?” Time for a quick touch-and-go through the freezer section. Where someone’s already done the work, and you just hit preheat.

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8. “Wait, what? Why is my heart rate 120? I can’t go to the freezer section, I’m already shivering. Wait, how did I forget to bring my water bottle in here. I know better; I have to keep that thing on my at all times.”

9. “Oh, is that my neighbor? I can’t run into anyone right now like this. I thought she worked. Why is she here right now? Where can I go? Is there a half-time bench somewhere in this grocery store?” I need a water break.

10. “Whatever’s easiest for you, I don’t care if it’s paper or plastic,” is how the conversation usually starts at the cashier. At this point, get me out. Why do I smell bad right now? I know I put on deodorant. At least I think I did. Maybe that was yesterday. I’ve already sweat through yesterday’s deodorant. Great.

11. “Oh that reminds me, I didn’t buy new deodorant. Too late, now.”

12. Loading up the car. “Wait someone hit my car while I was in there? There are skid marks and a new crack in my tail light. Fabulous.”

13. Praise God for a seat in my car. Spend about 10 minutes scrolling through Instagram while recovering from dreaded grocery store conundrum.

14. Back out, manage not to hit anyone in the parking lot again. Back to the homestead, where I manage to run into neighbor also unloading groceries from car. “Caroline, you look great! We should hang out sometime. I never see you anymore.”

15. I’m guessing her grocery store experience went a little differently. Clearly, she didn’t have a meltdown in the freezer section. How can she not see that I did?

For next week, we’re having delivered groceries for supper.

Getty Image by lovelypeace

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