There are really only three things that can get my anxiety at a paralyzing level: my daughter, our financial situation, and Tyler. Anxiety about anything else is usually managed – I’ll be cranky, angry, or sad, but I can get through my day and pretend I’m OK when needed. But any of those three aforementioned topics – boom. Panic ensues. The stories that I write in my head are the wildest imaginable. I could write a Hollywood blockbuster; they are that detailed, drama-filled, and, in hindsight, entertaining. And I’m often left sobbing under the covers, trying to soothe my soul.
Take last night, for instance:
Sean called me earlier in the day to tell me him and N spent the day at the pool where she ran into a few camp friends. The mother came over to introduce herself to Sean and they got to talking about camp. At the end of the conversation, the mother offered to drive N to camp. I am assuming that somewhere in the conversation Sean mentioned that his parents drop her off and pick her up to help him out. Meanwhile, N played with the girls in the pool, and enjoyed her afternoon. Sean was calling to see if I was comfortable with N hitching a ride from these new friends. I happily agreed – she’s making new friends at camp and this mom is willing to help out, sounds great!
But see, I didn’t know much of the backstory to their day at the pool – nor do I know anything about the kids, the mother, or the family. And by the time I was ready for bed, I had filled in the gaps with my own story. Trouble is, I am a fatalist. Remember that night with Lemon? Fatalist.
In one short hour, I convinced myself that this mother was not actually the mother of the two girls, but that these girls had been kidnapped from other mothers in the same way the mother was trying to take my little girl. She was using these two girls as bait to reel in another child. The girls had attended the horseback riding camp, and the mother picked out her prey. She had followed N home from camp one day last week, and learned she lived in the neighborhood. She stalked my daughter, and saw she was headed to the pool earlier in the day. This mother then brought the two girls to the pool to play with N, while she chatted up the unsuspecting father. Sean gave her permission to bring N to camp, and the next morning, the mother is picks N up – an easy kidnapping. Except, instead of bringing the girls to camp, she drives the short hour to the closest international airport and sells the three girls into human trafficking – my daughter included – and I am living a nightmare.
Yes, I live in a metropolitan area. Yes, I know there are dangers like this in the world – I know that this happens. But the chances that this was actually happening are minimal. I probably have a better chance at winning the lotto. I tried my best to break the endless loop of catastrophe. I used my techniques from therapy to ground myself, with the exception of a scalding hot shower because I was already showered, and comfortable in bed, and I was just. So. Tired. I did deep breathing. I rewrote the story where no one was getting kidnapped and tried to believe that this mother was just a mother who recognizes how difficult parenthood is and was being compassionate and trying to help out. I even rewrote the story to say that she was one of those passionate Mother Earth types and was just trying to cut down on emissions by limiting the number of people driving to camp.
Nothing I did helped. There was an elephant sitting on my chest and tears streaming down my face. My child was going to be ripped from my life the next morning if I didn’t take action. I was convinced of it.
So at 11PM last night, I sent Sean the following text:
“I just had a freak out about this lady picking up N tomorrow. I’m assuming the kids seemed normal and the mom was normal? What if they use the kids at bait to ‘make friends’ and then they pick her up tomorrow and by the time we know she’s missing she’s smuggled on a plane halfway around the world? I read too much news and watch too many movies. But what if. We know nothing about this woman and those girls. Did you exchange numbers? Did she at any point take a picture of N and the other girls together today? What’s her name? And I can’t remember what N said the girl’s names are? It’s confusing that they are sisters but both 11 and not twins? Or are they just friends? See. I’m freaking out. Maybe we should cancel. I know it’s more work for your dad. But we won’t know if she doesn’t make it to camp until 5pm when your dad goes to pick her up and by that time she can be on a plane from any one of the area airports.”
Rewriting that now, I am laughing at how ridiculous I sound. Clearly I was in the middle of a panic attack, and on the other side of that panic attack this morning, that text is comical.
Sean didn’t think so. His response an hour and a half later:
“God damn it, Tina …”
Because he knows. And he has anxiety about N also – not nearly as close to the level of mine, but I planted the seed. After I sent the text, I was able to fall asleep. I broke the story in my head by putting a stop to the actions that could lead to that story playing out. But at what cost? N was devastated – she loves car rides with her friends. The mother was understanding – Sean sent her a well-worded and simple text that played down my batshit craziness (but called me out, none the less), which was understood and well-received (meaning, she wasn’t planning on abducting my daughter and selling her into human trafficking).
And now I have material to talk with my therapist about this week – as though there wasn’t enough.
Update: I met the mother. She was lovely and completely understood my need to cancel the carpool – meaning, she had no intentions of abducting my child. 🙄🤷🏽♀️