I unbuckle my seatbelt, then immediately reach for my mask. I realize suddenly that this is a habit I no longer need, but I add the mask to my purse; it eases my anxiety. I turn off my car, throw the keys in my bag as well, and head into the store, my stomach in knots.
Social anxiety is never fun, but it's especially worse after you've faced a pandemic. I feel like what a bear coming out of hibernation must feel, a little disoriented and hazy. This is my first time purchasing groceries in a store since the CDC announced we'd finally beaten Covid.
I look all around as I grab my buggy, nervously pushing it into the store. No one is wearing masks, which irks me until I remember we're out of the Covid hibernation. I can't take the ache in my stomach any longer, so I pull out my mask and put it on. My stomach calms, and I continue shopping.
Up and down the aisles I shop, a map of the store in my head. I plan out my trips beforehand so I can go in, grab what I need, and get out. I check the list on my phone, organized it by food type (dairy, meats, frozen, etc.), hoping to finish in thirty minutes.
Someone stops me, asking about the gluten-free noodles I have in my buggy. I inwardly groan, wanting to ignore the kind man and keep moving, knowing the guilt I'd feel would be worse than the anxiety plaguing my stomach now. I let him know where I got them, how they taste, and what meals I use them for. As I stroll away, I feel proud of myself. Others may see that exchange as nothing major, just a daily part of life, but I see it as a step forward.
I stop at the flowers, determining if I want a bouquet. I'm single, so purchasing flowers for myself is the only way I can get them. I decide on yes and pick a pretty bouquet of sunflowers and roses. Sunflowers are my favorite and instantly bring a smile to my face.
I find the book section, know very well I do NOT need to purchase more books. My to-be-read pile is taking over my nightstand. I find a few books, and choose only one, and put the rest back. I also find several books for my classroom, happy with the selection I was able to find.
I see someone I work with picking out grapes. I know it's rude, but I turn my cart around and go the long way to the check-out lane. I'm hoping they didn't see me. I'm just not really wanting to speak with anyone else. My brain has had all the interaction it can handle after the noodle incident. I roll my eyes at that thought. The man was kind, I can hardly call it an incident.
I head for the checkout lane, inwardly groaning at the line. I'd forgotten how long lines can get, and it seems everyone in town had decided to get groceries today. A lady behind me taps me on the shoulder and reminds me I don't need to wear a mask. Not wanting to face confrontation, I take the mask off, my stomach knotting up again, and thank her. I cringe inwardly at the thought of human contact, realizing it's something else I'll have to readjust to. I don't know that anyone thought of how many adjustments would need to be taken after Covid.
Finally, after what feels like years, but was in actuality 17 minutes, I reach the cashier. She's bubbly and chatty, and I try to keep up as she scans and I put the bags in my buggy. I'm sure she thinks I'm rude, but I'm mentally exhausted, trying to hold back tears. I already decided to order my groceries online, and just try to finish this trip.
I get to my car, unload my groceries in my trunk, return the buggy, and sit in the driver's seat. My hands are shaking and I'm trying to compose myself before I hyperventilate when I hear a honk. A car behind me is wanting my spot. My eyes tear up, and I back up and head for home.
Patience. I remind myself I need to have patience with myself as I come out of this hibernation and transition back into the "real world". It's going to be an adjustment, but I can do it!
I reach home and unload my groceries. I put everything away, then begin to make a cup of tea. A cup of tea should calm my nerves.
I sit on my couch and turn Netflix on, choosing a show I can easily get lost in. I watch and sip my tea, trying to unwind and failing. I continually have to rewind, as I cannot keep up.
I get up and put my cup in the sink, then head to my bedroom. I take my clothes off, knowing I should put pajamas on, but not finding the strength. I climb into bed, pulling on my sheet, my weighted blanket, then my comforter.
There is so much I need to get done. I have dishes to wash, laundry to fold, floors to sweep and vacuum, dusting to do, and reading to catch up on. Who knew a trip to the grocery store could be so emotionally exhausting? I feel like a failure in so many ways.
I push these thoughts out of my mind and try to simply fall asleep. Life postcovid is going to be difficult for everyone, but especially for those of us facing mental illnesses. I suffer from social anxiety, so being out and about large groups of people is going to be a struggle. I remind myself that I've faced harder situations and come out stronger before, this is no different.
I think of my friends who face depression, friends who face anxiety, friends who face bipolar disorder. I imagine what they must be feeling as they face this new world; is it really a new world though? Maybe it's actually an old world I just cannot remember. Maybe it's actually an old world I just don't want to remember.
I finally, finally fall asleep, dreaming of being a real bear, able to truly hibernate.