They Knew Their Panic Stations

, , | Working | May 8, 2017

I’ve suffered from panic attacks and anxiety for almost 15 years, but in the past year, they’ve transformed from simple hyperventilation-style ones to completely debilitating ones which cause hyperventilation, sobbing, shaking, inability to move without help, and a severe stammer that makes what I say almost unintelligible. These attacks happen out of the blue much of the time, on an almost daily basis (up to 5 a day sometimes), but are also triggered by crowds and sudden loud noises

One day, my parents and I are at the supermarket when I feel the beginnings of an attack coming on. Within minutes, I’m clinging to my dad’s mobility scooter, trying to calm down. At the worst possible moment, one of the staff pushes a pallet of goods into the back, banging into a door a couple of feet from us and, as you might expect, it’s the catalyst for the attack going into full force. A couple of minutes later, I’m hunched over the scooter, crying, shaking, and trying to move but unable to do so.

My dad spots a staff member (I’ll call him Jim) and gestures him over, explaining the situation and asking if there’s anywhere I can sit down. Immediately, Jim says yes, I can sit on the edge of the fridge cabinet next to us, and starts pushing stock out of the way so I can sit safely. Once I do, he hurries into the back and comes out with a stack of plastic crates and sets them next to me, adjusting them until they’re the right height, and helps me to shift over to sit on them.

Meanwhile, my mum goes up to the front of the store to ask for a wheelchair for me to sit in. A few minutes later, during which Jim has been talking to me to help me calm down, and has told me he too suffers from anxiety, another staff member shows up with my mum (I’ll call her Jill) and a wheelchair. She and Jim help me into the chair, Jill explaining that she has debilitating panic attacks too, so she knows what I’m going through. She gives me a bottle of water and offers to push me to the front of the store, but by this point I’m able to use my upper body (my legs are still not working properly), and much of my stammer has cleared, so I say I would like to try to continue with the shopping. She says she thinks that’s a good idea, not letting it beat me, and she and Jim leave us to carry on with our shopping, after a few more assurances from us that I’ll be okay.

It may not sound like a lot, but to be treated with such kindness when I felt like a complete fool was such a relief. We’ve already taken in a letter to the store to tell the manager what great staff he has, so I hope they get some kind of commendation. They absolutely deserve it. It just goes to show that sometimes staff really can go above and beyond their jobs and really care about customers.

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