My husband, George, and I went to two grocery stores this weekend. It was the first time I have been to one since the end of 2010. We walked through the automatic doors at Jewel, a local supermarket, and looking to my left I froze and gasped, "Look at all that produce." It was almost as though I had never seen a grocery store before that moment. I truly had forgotten how much food exists in a grocery store and what it is like to experience that.
Sound silly? My world has been the rooms of my house, my back yard, my neighborhood, and the inside of George's car on familiar paths to specific doctors. I have had occasional outings to a friend's wedding, a couple trips to the Botanic Gardens and a trip to North Carolina and Iowa earlier this year. But, my daily life is the definition of a sheltered, home-bound life. I don't run errands and until recently I barely did chores.
The next day, we trekked to Whole Foods; Sunday at noon was a very crowded time to go, but it was when it worked for us. At one point, I was so overstimulated that I could not figure out what to do next and simply stared at my list re-reading the word "yogurt". "y-o-g-u-r-t" was a safe place from all the assaultive sounds, intrusive visual objects and bustling people. So George pushed the cart with one hand and held mine with another and led me around the store. Have you every looked at how many spices are available at your local market? That aisle alone freaked me out. I wanted to stare at each one and take each one in. Why? I don't know. My brain just needed to for some reason. George and I are going on vacation soon and we both know that I need to be exposed to more stimulation so that I can handle the vacation which is why we went to these stores together, but I did not expect to be so overwhelmed.
Fortunately, my chronic illnesses have all improved somewhat making it so that we think our vacation is a possibility. I have been working hard to increase my physical stamina. Three weeks ago I started walking on the treadmill five minutes a day .5mph (the slowest it will go) and worked up to twenty minutes and 2.2mph! I am more active around the house and these things will help me to tolerate the vacation better. But, my experiences this weekend made me realize that it is not just my body's physical stamina that needs to be increased. It is my tolerance of stimulation that needs to be increased.
Isn't life with chronic illness interesting?