My panic attacks often trigger in public environments when I am by myself. Retail chains such as Walmart, Target, Costco, Sam's Club or really any large building with lots of people and fluorescent lighting are a HUGE trigger for me. I'm okay, usually, so long as someone else is with me. But if I go in alone, or I lose sight of that 'safe person', I begin to panic. I can just be browsing along through some products and suddenly realize, "oh no, I can't see the person I was with". Or if I am by myself, just the thought of "I'm going to have a panic attack in here" is enough to send me into one.
There was one time when I went shopping with a friend inside of a Sam's Club and we became separated while she went to one area of the store, and I went to another. I had left my purse with her in the shopping cart, including my cell phone, and had no way of contacting her to find her immediately. I began to panic tremendously. "I'm going to pass out. I'm going to fall down right here and cause a big scene" is all that was going through my head in the middle of the store. I couldn't find my friend, I was surrounded by strange people, and the only thing I could think of to do was escape the store as quickly as possible.
Now if you're familiar with Sam's Club, it's one of those stores that is membership-only. Which means you have to show your card to get back in. My card was in my purse, with my friend whom I could not find. So I had to suck up my pride and tell the door greeter that checks your membership card that I was experiencing as panic attack and needed to get some fresh air before going back in to locate my friend so that she would let me leave and re-enter the store once I had calmed down. I was mortified, but it was the only thing I could think of to do without completely losing my mind in that store.
It's episodes like this that make me terrified to shop alone. If I get panicky in the middle of shopping, I can't just leave my shopping cart, leave the store, and come back in to resume. Not unless I want to tell some random person what is going on so they'll watch my stuff. Who's to say I'd even feel comfortable going back in the store within a short amount of time? Sometimes it takes a while before I calm down enough. And let's face it, the bulk of the population does NOT understand panic disorder and thinks we're just crazy loons.
So that's my store about shopping and how my panic disorder affects it. Does anyone experience the same?