A woman looking up at an intimidatingly tall grocery store

My MS: Adventures in Grocery Shopping

I’ve always loved going to the store. At least up until my MS worsened enough that I could no longer ignore it. Then, my trips to the local supermarket became less like adventures and more like misadventures (or, what I call MS-adventures). Let’s see if you can relate.

How did I get here?

Up until recently, I lived about half a mile from the shopping plaza.

Still, during my last flare (the one that resulted in an MS diagnosis), I would find myself shopping not at the store down the street, but at a store in a neighboring town.

12 miles away.

I would literally find myself walking the aisles of said box store thinking, “how did I get here?”

Zero memory of the drive to the store

I had zero memory of the drive there, and even in the middle of the store, I’d need to reorient myself (which isn’t hard to do in this national chain with smiley face price tags).

It’s not even a store I would normally prefer to shop at. I despise their awful buzzing fluorescent lights, and the sheer size of the place fatigues me just thinking about it. Meanwhile, a gorgeous supermarket that I love stands about half a mile away from there. It’s as if I’d meant to go there but kept on driving instead, until the road ended and I found myself at the box store by default.

Silver lining

The price savings would be a plus if it weren’t for the 24-mile round trip, so I’ll just check off the “yay, got out of the house this week!” box on my MS bingo card.

I used to be able to keep a list in my head

Ahh, the days when I could keep a list of 9 or 10 items in my head when I went to the store. I used to count on mnemonic tricks like making poems out of the items on my list:
“Tomatoes fennel peas
Avocadoes cheese”

Not anymore. Well, I still try. I even make acronyms from the first letters of the items:
BAD IS OK = butter + Advil + detergent + ice cream + olives + Kleenex

But in the meantime, my smartphone grocery list does all the heavy lifting, even when there’s only one item I need.

Yes. I said ONE.

Silver lining

Usually, I discover something else I need anyway, so that one-item list functions more like an icebreaker for retail therapy. Cha-ching!

The rollating grocery cart

My biggest MS symptom? Fatigue. During a flare, it’s all-consuming. Still, sometimes I need to visit the store, if only for more coffee to fend off the fatigue.

When I get there in this state of heavy-legged lethargy, my eyes tend to scan for spots near the entrance. I’ve never asked for a handicapped placard, so that’s no option.

One day I remembered something my late mother-in-law did. While at the nursing facility, she used a walker, but on Grocery Tuesday, she used the grocery cart as her personal Rollator.

Now I just cruise by the shopping cart corrals and find a spot there if I’m fatigued. It’s much easier, with an “instant walker” at the ready, unless that day’s cart rustler is overzealous—but those folks get promoted too quickly to be a problem.

Silver lining

Walking into a grocery store with a cart as my sole support makes me feel like I at least look normal, even if my legs are all janky or feel like concrete posts.

Aisles like jigsaw puzzles

I love doing jigsaw puzzles, especially ones with myriad food labels. But that’s in the privacy of my own home, where I can get up and walk away when the images begin to swim before my eyes.

The canned food aisles look just like these jigsaw puzzles, except there are thousands more pieces to put together and the whole thing’s in 3-D.

I’ve literally leaned on my shopping cart “walker,” my head buzzing, my ears ringing while staring at all the brightly colored products with no ability to identify any of them. The sensory overload is surreal.

Silver lining

At least you can eat your grocery store “puzzle pieces” afterward.

Label blindness

The chief complaint that led me to see a doctor—and ended with an MS diagnosis—was losing my ability to read. I could see just fine, but reading was impossible.

Grocery store labels, no matter how big their lettering, are impossible for me to read if I’ve hit a wall of fatigue. Put a can of Comet in front of me next to a can of shelf-stable parmesan cheese, and I wouldn’t be able to read the difference.

Silver lining

My sense of smell checks out fine, saving me from countless calls to the poison hotline for eating Comet on my linguine.

Have you experienced shopping MS-adventures? Do share!

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