Deb Brandon: Living in Radiant Color

Shopping Therapy

I could feel it in the periphery of my mind. Black storm clouds gathering, a hurricane fast approaching—I was about to overload and it was going to be a bad one.
My eyes darted around frantically, searching my surroundings for inspiration.
A Target store, just ahead.
Shopping at Target would be a perfect distraction—a maze of colorful displays, brightly lit with flickering fluorescent lights—just the thing to prevent sensory overload.
A niggling voice from the deep recesses of my mind questioned my decision. But I swept it away. I had to act now. Before it was too late, before I lost my ability to help myself out of the chaos in my mind that was overload.
Also, I needed to find a better pair of pants for yoga. I’d be sensible about it. I’d just get the pants, then leave. That way I’d get the benefit of the distraction without risking further overload.
The idea was brilliant. I couldn’t conceive of a better solution. I patted myself on the back. Not only had I noticed the early warning signs, but I was acting on them in time, before I lost all lucidity.
I deliberately slowed down when I crossed the threshold into Target. Perhaps if I behaved as if all was well, I’d fool the bloody brain into diverting it from its path to destruction. Leaning on the cart, heart thumping, I meandered through the aisles.
Swimsuits, blouses, skirts, pants. Yoga pants? Yoga pants!
My breathing calmed.
Black? Yes. The students at the yoga studio all wore black pants. Flared? No. The yoga teacher said she wanted to see how my joints moved. Leggings? Probably. She said form fitting. Ankle-length? Calf-length?
I could hear my heartbeat picking up. I took a deep breath.
Too chilly for mid-thigh length. Definitely not short shorts. Ankle-length would probably be too long. Calf-length. Size?
That niggling little voice stirred. I should go through  my mental checklist. I was proud of myself–I was being so sensible.
My balance was fine, more or less, I only detected slight vertigo, and the tears hadn’t reached the surface yet. It looked like shopping was doing the job—no signs of overload whatsoever. Why hadn’t I thought of shopping therapy before?
I turned back to the racks.
Size. Nothing tight for me. Large or extra large. I’ll take both and try them on. Brand? I was at a loss. I thought of using the price as a guideline, but the difference in prices was negligible. I looked at the tags again. Hadn’t Cindy mentioned Mossimo?
My inner voice again–time to reevaluate my state of mind. I was doing well. My breathing and heartbeat had stabilized, almost. Balance—fine, kind of. Tears—not that you’d notice.
On to the dressing room. It was a no-brainer: the Extra-Large bunched up. The Large was snug, but not tight.
The dressing rooms were right by the men’s wear. Mossimo T-shirts. Cindy said they were super soft. I could use a T-shirt or two.
Only three were 100% cotton. One or two? Perhaps all three. I shook them out. Definitely not the one with the pink stripe. How could I have missed it? Two.
I went through the checklist again. All evidence of tears was completely gone, except for a slight dampness, and my balance was fine, when I leaned on the cart. Not only was I not overloading, I was doing better than I did before entering the store. I was functioning at a high level and making sensible decisions.
A rack of denim button-down shirts. Other than the sleeves, the Medium fit well. It was a bit long in the sleeve. Actually, a lot long in the sleeve. Maybe too long? Way too long? I placed it in my cart—it was perfect.
I knew not to push my luck. I’d accomplished my goals and then some. Long checkout lines could be tricky. It was time to leave.
I made it through waiting in line at the checkout without any trouble. I did a quick self-assessment as I walked out into the parking garage. I was fine. Better than fine.
I surveyed my surroundings for my car, and felt a slight wobble. A sign of overload? But I was fine. Probably nothing to do with overload.
The wobble got worse, and worse– my thoughts froze for a split second. I had to find a quiet spot before all hell broke loose. The car. Before I started bawling. Right now.
I made a run for it, scrabbling in my pocket for my keys. I hit the car with a lurch, unlocked it, and threw myself into the driver’s seat. Slamming the car door shut, I plummeted into a full blown meltdown.
A few breaths after I scrambled my way out of the abyss, I plunged back in. Then again, and again.
Could it be that going to Target wasn’t such a brilliant idea?