My Surreal Supermarket Experience During the Coronavirus


Am I in a Black Mirror or a Star Trek episode?

By Lisa B. Hillman, MSW, LCSW
Owner/Director Exceptional Wellness Counseling

Image from popular mechanics

Let me start with a little background. First off, in graduate school I was told not to “disclose” or “share” too much about my personal life as being a therapist is always about the client. While this is true, there is a benefit to sharing personal information when IT IS in service of the client. So I would like to share my surreal experiences today in hopes that it might help all of you reading this to know that I SEE YOU and understand how WEIRD and FRIGHTENING this all feels.

How can shopping be surreal?

For the past few weeks, I have been on autopilot. As a business owner (Exceptional Wellness Counseling has 16 therapists and 3 admin) and therapist, my team had to switch things into high gear and create safety protocols. I had to make decisions that I NEVER in my wildest dreams thought I’d be making. We officially closed our office doors and are doing strictly teletherapy for the time being. This decision wasn’t made lightly, but for the safety of our community, clients, and team it had to be done. As you know, it’s been a few weeks into the Coronavirus nightmare and it seems that people are finally understanding this new way of being. The reality has set in and people realized this isn’t just a casual two-week thing and we are all back to “normal.”

Photo by Wesley Tingey

So you may be asking yourself, what does this have to do with the supermarket? Okay, I’m getting there (as my friends and family say, I like to make a short story longer). Because I’ve been so busy taking care of the business, my kids, dog, and even my husband, (at times⁠)  my husband has been great and he’s been doing the food shopping as well as getting some things delivered. I needed to go to the supermarket because I wanted to cook a Passover meal and needed to prepare. So I gathered gloves, a mask, and Clorox wipes and put them in a Ziplock. I pulled up to the supermarket and waited in line. Everyone was standing away from one another. Some people had on masks, some wore gloves, and others wore no protective gear at all. We were slowly let into the store, told to sanitize, and were given a freshly sanitized shopping cart. Walking through the store was strange, too. I looked at where everyone stood in relation to me, and thought to myself, what am I touching? What are they touching? I wish they would move a little further away…

Now, I get that most of you reading this don’t know me. But those people who do know me would describe me as optimistic and friendly, a person who could strike up a conversation with anyone, as well as someone who tries to find the silver lining in situations. These are probably some of the qualities which lead me to become a therapist.

However, as a person who is living during a pandemic, this experience felt like an episode out of Star Trek or Black Mirror. I felt like I was transported to a parallel universe. One that I do NOT like. One that caused discomfort from a food shopping experience. One that caused worry. Having a mask on for 1.5 hours was uncomfortable. It felt warm and different to breathe. When I asked someone a question, I had to speak loudly. Also, my eyeglasses wouldn’t stay on (a real pain) so I had to leave them in my car.

Upon checkout, I left through the dedicated exit and placed all of the bags in my car. Then I carefully took off my mask and gloves, ensuring that I did so in a way that wouldn’t cause further contamination. The next step was to use the wipes and then hand sanitizer.

Once I arrived home, the troops (my family) came out with gloves on and proceeded to bring each bag into the garage in preparation for the wipe down and removal of each item to ensure we weren’t bringing the shopping bags into the house. Truth be told, by this time I was EXHAUSTED. What used to be a trip to the supermarket (one which I did regularly) had left me feeling wiped out.

You are NORMAL — not crazy — for how you feel during this pandemic. 

Photo by pixpoetry

As a therapist, I reflect on the “why” (not a surprise, right?). I realized that I was feeling exhausted because I had never experienced anything like this in my lifetime. This was all new. I realized that during the coronavirus, each experience is completely different and it’s not yet part of my daily routine.

It also occurred to me that you may be having similar feelings, and I wanted to share that it’s totally “NORMAL.” How could you not feel exhausted? We are truly living through a historical moment.

My realization was as follows: be compassionate to myself and others. We are all in uncharted territory. There is no road map for this. We are learning and acclimating each day. The changes will continue to occur as we learn more information. Love one another and be there for each other in whatever that looks like for you and your loved ones.

Exceptional Wellness Counseling has put together free tips, webinars, and a newsletter because we want to stay connected with you during COVID-19 because the connection is vitally important right now. So the next time you go to the grocery store or do something that you’ve done a million times before and feel different, please remind yourself that it IS different. Our life as we know it has changed. We are here for you during the Coronavirus. Make sure you are there for yourself too!

Wishing you and your loved ones good health!



Lisa B. Hillman, MSW, LCSW Owner/Director Exceptional Wellness Counseling

Lisa Hillman is a mother of two daughters, ages 14 and 17. She’s also a wife and mom to a precious dog named Colby (who is really spoiled). She founded Exceptional Wellness Counseling (EWC) to fill a need in the community. EWC has locations in Manalapan and Shrewsbury NJ and accepts a variety of insurances.

Check out Lisa’s professional bio here!

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