Alter Post: a story about switching while talking with retail sales people

Have you ever felt under stress while shopping, especially for clothes or shoes or something you need but involved a lot of triggers?  Does the anxiety creep up on you?  Or does it build up and explode into “strange” reactions at odd moments?

If so, you are not alone.  This happens to us all the time.

When one or more of us are feeling anxious and stressed out or nervous about tasks and events that have to get done, our main reaction is to switch personalities so that the one most capable of handling the situation is in charge.

So here is a short story about how other people sometimes react to multiple alters holding a conversation out loud with each other while also trying to involve a sales person at a retail store.

Part 1: Work

My name is Angora.  I will be narrating since the others are not comfortable sharing on the blog at this time.  And while I did not participate in the actual conversation, I did observe the whole experience – including what happened afterwards.

Tuesday, the weather was rainy and humid.  All of us were uncomfortable because we recently did a closet purge and do not have a lot of clothes at the moment.  On top of that, most clothes do not fit because of recent weight loss due to stress and an increase in symptoms – not a relapse in anorexia (story for another time).  There was manager training at the office the last two days; the managers in my department and higher-ups from the parent company came to the office and spent a lot of time in our area.  To say I and the other alters who worked at the office felt self-conscious is an understatement.

I also felt angry and frustrated because my internet service provider has been causing problems with returning equipment and changing service.  Tuesday was the day we planned to address these issues and return soon-to-be late library books.  And since we were in the area and had time why not try on some clothes and see if there is anything worth buying?

At work, the important people (ones I work with regularly) know about the PTSD and DID so are not offended or shocked when my symptoms appear during interactions.  If it gets too awkward for them, we part ways until both of us can interact and communicate without misunderstandings.  Email is a wonderful tool for this.

They know that I and the alters who work there feel more anxious with guests in the office and higher traffic going through our area.  I told them; so did others.  They leave us alone except to say hi or ask questions.  So work was ok.  The monsters in our mind were not so lenient.  Very critical of our appearance and wardrobe choices Monday and Tuesday.

Part 2: Shopping

Decided to try out some items one of us saw online and liked.  Went to the store.  It was relatively empty, and not many sales people around to assist.  No one said where to put clothes after trying them on.  Frustrating because the items I liked did not fit as expected from the photos; and others were not in store yet.

So went to another part of the store to check out t-shirt selection there.  A sales woman walked up and greeted us.  She was young, maybe mid to late twenties, and some part of me decided not to trust her.  Maybe it was the way she looked at us.  Or maybe it was her body language; she was not a petite or slender like I am.  And sometimes people with her shape and size make assumptions or hold grudges against people with ours.

Don’t know; don’t care now.  The important part is that she triggered more anxiety in the system.  We started switching and became co-conscious.  The dominant alter stepped back to observe with me.  The others, ones who had been doing the actual shopping, came out to chat with each other and her.  We held a verbal conversation with each other out loud and included the sales person.

She was not interested.  I think she got scared and nervous because she turned away and started speaking into her headset.  We tried to ask her our questions, but she kept turning away and talking into her headset.  Eventually, we waited.  She walked away and disappeared into the fitting room.  We waited to see what she would do next.

This time, none of us felt shame or guilt about being ourselves and switching in front of a stranger.  We came to get answers and did not plan on leaving until we got them.  Especially not from a rude sales person who walked away and then gave us dirty look for still being there when she came back. 

The sales woman same back out with a stack of clothes in her arms, but paused when she saw me.  I looked her straight in the eye and waited to see what she would do.  With a wary, closed look on her face, she approached us.  Her tone of voice was cold, and her words clipped as she answered the questions. She used as few words as possible and kept her body turned partly away this time.

I thanked her and left.  All the while, the rest of us were feeling unhappy and frustrated at not finding what we wanted.  Tried another store, but did not see anything there.  Went to one last store.  Tried on some basics that could be combined as outfits.  The shoppers were excited because these clothes fit better than the last ones and were in colors that worked for us.  The children and adolescents were happy because they got to help pick out items.

The adults were nervous about buying anything tonight after the trauma of earlier shopping.  The sales women were not pushy.  And they were more respectful than the other one.  We took photos of the different outfits to share with our style group and asked for the items to be put on hold.  The ladies agreed to hold them until the next day.

Part 3: The End

As I write this post on a delayed commuter train, my parts and I are wondering whether or not to write to the Gap and complain about the sales woman’s rudeness.  No one wants to do this, but we all agree that in order to feel safe about shopping there again, we have to speak up in some way.

Called the corporate office from work.  Then called the store later.  Spoke with a manager.  Got the promise from manager that issue will be addressed with sales woman.  Also got an apology – a sincere one – and a promise that they will work hard to ensure something like that does not happen again.

Before, we might have slunk away in shame and seethed inside until temper exploded later.  Deep down believing that we deserved that treatment because of early life lessons.  Now, we know better.  No one deserves to be treated that way.  And speaking up about it is not just acceptable; it is beneficial to self and future customers.

If only we could just remember that and believe if all the time…

2 thoughts on “Alter Post: a story about switching while talking with retail sales people

  1. I don’t know if able to review this. We all find you very brave. Shopping triggers us terribly. We couldn’t swallow and always had to go to the bathroom urgently. An alter now goes shopping and is most comfortable in stores. He goes into the store ahead of time and finds the items to buy. At a later time another alter goes in to try on the clothes etc. and then leaves the store. Later another alter purchases the items. Another alter always goes grocery shopping. This is a long process, tedious and very busy. He likes to talk and laugh with the children, get them to smile if their crying and usually succeeds. He is able to hold conversations and joke with anyone. Alot of times, he forgets items so another alter makes a list. It is all very tiresome and as I age the energy to achieve all this is really draining. We’re all just amazed with your blogs. Thank you.


    • Thank you for sharing your story and offering feedback, Margarite. That is very brave, and all of us appreciate knowing others struggle with shopping too.

      Alter Xpressions


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