It's not a well-kept secret that I enjoy shopping. I'm a girl, I'm Jewish, I was raised on Long Island - it's sort of my birthright, no? I enjoy the whole process, the looking at stuff, the trying to find something I love that looks good at a good price.
In the past couple of years, though, I haven't enjoyed it so much. I do like finding clothes for the girls, but when it comes to shopping for me, not so much. I've especially found I get tense and uncomfortable at the mall or at the outlet center - places I would always love to go in the past. I'll leave the girls with my parents or the babysitter, expecting to have this wonderful day of selfishness, and it doesn't materialize.
I'm fine for 20-30 minutes, but then I start feeling strange. Like I'm alone, naked, and vulnerable. Like I'm supposed to be somewhere else. Like it's wrong for me to be there when my girls aren't with me. I guess it's sort of like an anxiety attack. I end up not having much fun, only buying clothes for them, and hurrying out of there with this terrible feeling of guilt and doom that I can't understand.
It finally dawned on me a few days ago. I feel like I did when they were in the NICU. When everything was wrong, because my babies were in the hospital. I didn't go out much, but I did go to the mall once or twice and to the outlet center once (to buy clothes for them, of course). Maybe that was enough. But it's something of a relief to realize that this confusing reaction is probably related to PTSD.
It's also something of a disappointment, because I have been in therapy for this and really thought I was doing a lot better than that. I know I am in some ways, you don't have to point that out - I just really didn't realize I could have such a visceral reaction (I have had times when I've had to leave, heart pounding and about to cry, and I can't understand why) to an activity not directly related to the NICU. I would understand if this happened at the ped's office, or the lab, or even the drugstore. But the outlet mall? That was pretty much a dark horse in the PTSD-inducing race, don't you think?