Cleanup In Aisle 7, Please

RA Guy Adventures of RA Guy

Yesterday morning, I started my Friday in my usual way: I left my house at 10:00 am, in order to go to physical therapy. (I rarely ever make commitments before lunchtime, but I will make an exception for PT.)

During my session, we did some of our regular therapies: heat, ultrasound, and electrotherapy. I was a little surprised that toward the end of my hour and a half of treatment, I somehow managed to fall asleep, even though strong currents were being applied to a major contracture which had formed in the muscles along my upper back.

Yes, I was tired…but I was looking forward to the afternoon: my first afternoon of the entire week that was completely free. Finally, I could start my weekend half a day early. I had made it through another week!

But first, I would stop by the grocery store and pick up a few items, before I headed back home. Physical therapy and grocery shopping often go hand-in-hand. First, because they are located in such close proximity to one another. Second, because the timing is optimal: I find non-weekend late mornings the best time to do my shopping, as this is usually when the store is the least crowded. (I wouldn’t dare step foot in a grocery store on a Saturday!)

There I was, weaving my way throughout the aisles, with no problem at all. Two boxes of Barilla thin spaghetti. A bottle of (hot) ketchup. Some saltine crackers…regular and wheat. Six containers of fresh–and heavy–fruit juice..but as long as I got them into the shopping cart, that would be the end of my efforts. (A bagger always loads the bags into the taxi for me, and then on the other end the driver unloads them to my front step.)

And then, something happened as I turned into the next aisle. My energy levels dropped down to absolute zero. I could barely move. My first impulse, as I stood there frozen, was to ditch my shopping cart, leave the store, grab a taxi, and go home. But I knew that I didn’t have even close to the necessary strength that would be required to pull of this series of events by myself.

The more I thought about things, the more I realized that hanging on to the cart was the only thing that was keeping my upright. And as I became less aware of what was going on around me, there was one aspect of the environment that registered in my mind like never before: grocery stores rarely, if ever, offer a place to sit. And while I still can’t believe that I even considered such a thing, I started to ponder the possibility of just laying down flat, right there on the floor in the middle of the canned vegetables aisle.

But I called my partner on his cell phone, and told him what was going on. When he too suggested that I just drop everything and go straight home, I told him I couldn’t even do that. “I’ll be right there–stay where you are,” he told me. And just as quickly as the call started, it ended.

I somehow managed to get to the next aisle: refrigerated beverages. I pulled a bottle of Gatorade off the shelf, and gulped it down, all the while imagining those old-school commercials (back in the 80’s when Gatorade really was just for athletes, and had a strange taste) where pixelated squares showed a body’s electrolytes and whatever else being replenished. Nothing seemed to happen, so I started eyeing a can of Monster Energy Drink. I decided against it though, as I started to envision the nightmare scenario that could result from having so much caffeine and taurine in a body that could barely even move.

Before I knew it, I saw my dedicated partner nervously speed-walking down the aisle toward me. (And I swear, he got there so quickly, he must have flown to the store.) In a matter of minutes I was on my way back home, and the tears were freely flowing. In the past I have had many occasions where my energy levels have dipped when I’m by myself out in public, but it had never been as severe, as overwhelming, as the incident that had just taken place.

Going through such a severe episode while in the comfort of my own bed is something that I’ve only just gotten used to, after many years of “practice.” Having to do it while I was alone in a store was something that I had no experience doing. In the end, though, I made it through everything that happened, and my partner’s quick actions showed me that I was never really as alone as I might have thought.

I spent the rest of the day resting and sleeping in bed; something that I plan to continue to do through the rest of weekend.

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!