Here are three things that happened to me this past summer:
1) I like to dabble in babywearing with woven wraps, and I was very excited when my son was big enough to be worn on my back. I was doing a back wrap for the first time with him (and I was admittedly a bit rusty) when I noticed through my large living room window, a woman walking by glance our way. I remember thinking that I must look quite strange to her! She then proceeded to knock on my door. When I answered, she seemed concerned and asked me what I was doing to my baby! I reassured her that I was simply wrapping up my child, he was safe, and I knew what I was doing. Plus, I was doing it over the couch just in the unlikely event he would fall. But I was extremely unnerved and upset that someone would be so nosy!
2) When at the playground, my toddler daughter went into a full meltdown when it started to rain and we needed to leave, but I couldn’t pick her up since I was babywearing my infant son. A kind lady noticed we needed help and using broken English, offered to carry my baby back to our home (the playground was a couple blocks from my house) while I carried my daughter. She adamantly took the baby out of my arms and started marching quickly in the direction I pointed. I started getting panicky, especially when I realized she wasn’t continuing down the street – she was walking to her vehicle! I left my daughter at the playground and raced over to her, and managed to get my baby back in my arms. She then drove away, and I was left shaking, wondering how I could have been so stupid to hand my baby over to a complete stranger!
3) It was 5 p.m. and I was expecting my husband home from work at any time. I texted him wondering what time he would be home (he had originally said he’d be home at 4:30, so I was starting to wonder what was keeping him). By 5:30, he still wasn’t home and he hadn’t texted me back. I was looking out the window for him when a vehicle pulled up, but it wasn’t my husband. An officer was coming to the door and my heart sunk like a bucket full of rocks. He let me know that my husband had been in a car accident – he got hit when he was looking down at his phone, likely at a text message. I needed to get to the hospital right away.
I hope by the third scenario, you realized that these things didn’t all happen exactly this way. In reality, only the first three sentences of each event actually took place. The rest was in my head. With the first situation, the woman just kept walking down the sidewalk. The lady at the playground was simply marching fast to get my baby out of the rain as soon as possible, and though she walked past her parked vehicle, she kindly helped us right to our front door. As for my husband, he was stuck in traffic after running an errand on the way home, and he hadn’t even realized I’d texted since he wasn’t looking at his phone (like a good driver).
Despite my reality being much more hum drum than the terrifying thoughts reverberating in my mind’s eye, I still experienced it. I had this illogical rage burn through me at the possibility of a nosy neighbour. My whole body shook after my encounter at the playground, my throat bone dry from the wave of panic that had rushed over me. When my husband didn’t come home or text me right away, I broke down and sobbed into the couch, wondering if he was ok and if he wasn’t, if it was my fault.
This is what living with anxiety is like. My mind sprints like a cheetah to the worst case scenario (Postpartum Progress has a great article on the subject here). But fortunately, I have learned to recognize these thoughts for what they are – just thoughts. My new way of coping is to simply tell myself, “I have no evidence of that being true.” And until there is evidence, I will choose to brush them aside and think about something more positive (or just get so busy with mom life that I can’t focus on them!) With diligence and God’s grace, these thoughts have less of a hold on me each day.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. ~ Psalm 94:19