One day a young woman needed groceries.  Her parents suggested she walk to the store, a block away, and pick up a few things.  She couldn’t do it.   She felt anxious.  She believed that everyone would be staring at her, and saying bad things about her.   Her parents said they would buy her groceries but they would like her to make a list of what she needed.  After she made the list her parents said “thank you, that is the first step and that’s helpful.”

The next time she needed groceries her parents invited her to come in the car.  “I’ll come,” she said, “but I won’t get out of the car.  People will talk about me.”“That would be wonderful.  Make your list and come in the car,” they replied.  She sat in the car while her parents shopped.  They did this a few times and each trip her parents said “We are so glad you came and thank you for the list.”

One day her mother invited her to walk the block to the grocery store.  She said “let’s go for a short walk.  Maybe we’ll get as far as the grocery store but if we don’t that’s okay.”   They got halfway down the block and the young woman said “That’s enough.  I have to go back.”   Her mother said “Sure, we can go back.  I’m so glad you got out for some fresh air.  Good for you.”

The next time they went in the car her mother said “I am just going in for bread.  It looks like there are no line ups.  I’d love it if you came with me.  They went in together and the mother got the bread.  In the car her mother said, “I think we should celebrate.  You did so well in there.  Let’s get a treat.”  Her mother got a treat and at home they shared the treat with the father, who celebrated with them.

After several short trips together to the store when it was quiet, they tried something new.   They went to the store together but didn’t buy anything.  They just looked to see where things were.  Another time they took a short list but they still didn’t buy anything, they just looked for the things on the list.  One day they went in together and the young woman looked for an item, found it and paid for it.  The clerk helped her count the change.  The next time she looked for two items.   On the day she wanted to buy granola bars she and her mother practiced reading the labels.  She learned to check for fibre, sugar and calories, and then to check the prices.  Then her mother said let’s go.  But that was the day the woman said, “Wait, I have to find two more things.”

By now the paranoia was gone because her medication was working.  She was much less nervous, even a little excited that she was beginning to know where things were on the shelves.

She had only one problem left.   She could find everything she needed, but how would she get it home?   She didn’t drive and the groceries were too heavy to carry.  She and her mother talked to the manager.   He said that if she shopped on Thursdays they would be able to deliver her groceries to the house.  What a discovery!

The young woman is now proud of her accomplishments and she feels much better about herself.  The clerks know she needs help sometimes with counting change. She knows how to find a worker to help her find things.  She can read labels and make healthy choices.  And she gets her groceries delivered for free!   The whole process took about a year but it was worth it.  And everyday her parents tell her “we are so proud of you!”   There is only one step left and that is to make the trip by herself and she thinks she can do it very soon.  But if it takes a little while, that’s okay!

About Sheila Morrison

Sheila is an accomplished freelance/creative writer, community volunteer, and public speaker. She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The mother of an adult daughter who lives with mental illness, Sheila is a passionate advocate for mental health initiatives which respect and support individuals and families. Sheila calls her daughter her hero.