Melting Down in Target

Recently this is something my toddler and I have in common. On Friday I decided to be brave and take Greyson to Target even though it was during his afternoon nap time. I know every mom reading this is gasping…you don’t mess with toddler nap time. I knew I was tempting fate, but we also had ZERO diapers in the house, so we HAD to go. Meltdown or possible blowout with no diapers…both seemed pretty scary to me.

His morning nap time had run unusually long – he takes after a younger version of me with his sleeping habits – when I used to be able to nap for hours and hours. This was before my anxiety got so bad, when it was depression I was usually battling and I could sleep for hours just to shut out the world. Now I take medication to sleep at night, otherwise my mind would run all night long with hypothetical questions (what if we have a tornado, what if there is another terrorist attack, what if Greyson isn’t hitting all his milestones, what if we have to move to someplace scary, like Detroit…it goes on and on) – impossible to shut off. As I sit here writing this now, it’s 2:30 AM and there isn’t an inkling of tiredness in my body.


But back to Target.  Greyson cried in the car, and when I put him in the cart to ride around, and when I wouldn’t give him my car keys. Whining and crying through the aisles (we were already there so why not grab a few extra things we needed) I tried to pacify him with toys I had brought and his sippy cup of milk, but nothing was working. It was like shopping with a little octopus in the cart. He grabbed everything within reach and either threw it in the aisle or cried when I took it away. I mean we really didn’t need newborn size binkies, a DVD of Despicable Me, or any clearance Easter candy…so more whining, more crying…

Our grand finale was in the middle of the toddlers’ clothes section. Greyson grabbed his sippy cup of milk and threw it out of the cart. He was so tired and I had pushed my luck. The top flew off and milk splattered all over the carpet and probably on the display rack of cute pink bathing suits next to it. I took a deep breath and flagged down an employee. We made it home in one piece, the little guy finally got to nap and I also learned a very important lesson about messing with naptime.

Friday was a day I had to take a Xanax before leaving the house. My anxiety has been especially bad since the news of the man who committed murder on Facebook Live had been spotted in Erie, Pennsylvania and then killed himself. I generally never watch the news but my husband had mentioned this to me in an off hand comment.

Why would this particularly set me off? Well, Chris and I lived in Erie about 3 and a half years ago. It was too close to home. The same thing happened last year, September 23rd when the shootings at the Mt. Vernon, Washington Macy’s happened. I froze up, I couldn’t breathe and my anxiety went into overdrive. I had shopped in that Macy’s more times than I could count, since I had grown up about 25 minutes south of there. I couldn’t get it out of my head that I had stood right at that cosmetics counter numerous times. It played over and over in my mind.

This event triggered the worst anxiety attack I have had to date and it happened in Target. Apparently Target is where the Hartsburgs like to have their breakdowns – which is unfortunate because I love Target. I still love Target – not the fact that I can’t ever get out without spending less than $50, but still, I heart Target.

This anxiety attack set in suddenly. I always take the same path around Target, just one of the many weird compulsions that comes along with my anxiety. I had noticed a random man wandering around the store and my heart started to race a little. My palms were clammy and I was covered in a cold sweat. I continued around the store feeling like I was underwater and my hearing was distorted.

This random man was probably harmless but my thoughts started spinning. He walked past the cosmetics aisle I was standing in and there it came. Full blown anxiety attack. I gripped my shopping cart, body shaking, sweat dripping down my forehead, feeling like a boulder was crushing my throat and chest. Nothing felt real and my mind raced trying to think of any doorways I had seen, that I could run to and out of. I was convinced this man was there to commit a shooting. My brain had taken over and I froze. I frantically rummaged through my purse for my Xanax and dry swallowed one, waiting out the chest pain and racing heart. When it finally stopped, I raced to the checkout lines and paid for my items. When I got home I cried.

These are the kind of events that I know trigger me. Other times, I have no idea where it comes from, why that feeling of impending doom settles over my chest and crushes it until I feel like I can’t breathe. But looking into Greyson’s face, even when he is having a meltdown in the middle of Target, will always be my anchor.


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