Cognitive Distortion is a pattern of thinking that consistently puts life events into a negative framework. Ordinarily, I can spot a distorted thought and ignore it or counter it with reason. I am careful to address my negative thoughts because I know otherwise I sink deeper with every thought I have. So, while I have cognitive distortion issues, I don’t generally get caught in them because I can usually tag those negative thoughts as obvious distortions.
This morning my ability to recognize cognitive distortion was non-existent. I had a doozy of a distorted thought. Even as I type this, hours later, I just want to cry. I’m a firm believer in finding the funny in hard things and I will get to a point where I laugh at myself in this instance. Right now I am still upset that I went down this ridiculous path at all, which is just more cognitive distortion.
Sweet pea was fussy most of last night. I’m pretty sure she just needed a diaper change. Unfortunately, I was so tired I never woke up enough to register that was what she needed. I just kept trying to get her latched on and falling asleep as soon as she started nursing. That is normally a good thing, but not if she pops off and starts fussing almost immediately. In such a case, a mama gets her sleep administered to her in 5 minute increments. Ouch. I did finally catch on at around 5 am and with a clean diaper she slept pretty soundly for a couple hours.
I slept too, but still woke feeling exhausted and achy. I knew today was my last bible study until fall, so I sat up, drank the coffee Hubby brought me, and tried to function. Sweet Pea started fussing, so I scooped her up to chat with her. She had her eyes closed and was rooting around. Just as I was trying to reconcile myself with the fact the child needed to nurse again, I saw a hole in my child’s ear. My brain saw this hole and thought it was the opening to the ear canal, but it was in the wrong place, in the little bowl of the ear just an inch from where the opening to the ear canal should be. I turned her head to look at the other ear and could see no opening to the ear canal at all on that side. I looked at the ear with the extra hole and it looked like there was no usual opening there either.
My heart started pounding. I thought, based on what I was seeing, that she could not hear at all. She would need surgery. We would all have to learn American Sign Language. I flipped out. I yelled for Hubby, who of course came running, as did a few of the children. They heard the panic in my voice.
I told Hubby that it looked like Sweet Pea had an odd hole in her ear and didn’t have proper ear canal openings and I just started crying. He took her from me and started looking carefully at what I had identified as an extra hole. He took a q-tip and removed the “hole,” then carefully checked out her ears. Turns out the “hole” was really a piece of black fuzz. He assured me that she does indeed have proper openings to her ear canal. Then he hugged me while I cried because of the adrenaline raging in my body, because I hate that my brain messed with me like that and because I was so stinking tired.
In my defense, my brother-in-law was born without external ears and Hubby has severe hearing loss in one ear. This means that all of my children are considered at high risk for hearing loss and we know a birth defect affecting formation of the ears is possible. So, my brain jumping to that conclusion isn’t entirely unreasonable. Also, I had not put my contacts in and my eyes were burning terribly due to lack of sleep. I truly could not see the very normal openings to Sweet Pea’s ear canals.
None the less, my brain refused to acknowledge a few simple truths. First off, I have looked at Sweet Pea’s ears, with my contacts in, many times and would surely have noticed any deformities. Second, this baby has been held by multiple friends, siblings and, of course, Hubby. Nobody mentioned an extra hole in the baby’s ear and surely somebody would have said something. Most importantly, my midwife made note of a tiny skin tag on Sweet Pea’s chest and a very shallow sacral dimple that is right at the top of Sweet Pea’s butt crack. If she noticed such minute details, how could she possibly miss a hole in the wrong part of the ear or absence of normal openings to the ear canal? Nope, she would have noticed that and said something.
It took a matter of seconds for me to go from looking at my daughter’s ears to screaming for my husband. I didn’t want to think that way. I wasn’t trying to draw attention to myself. My brain simply jumped to a crazy awful conclusion and I was too tired to reign it in. Hubby deserves lots of credit for handling this really well. He acknowledged my concern and checked it out for me. He did not laugh at me or criticize me. If he had done either of those things it would have encouraged further distortions because I was already kicking myself for being a fool. I am blessed to have a husband who loves me and knows me that well.
Let’s hope I get enough sleep tonight that I do not freak out tomorrow morning because I think Sweet Pea has two heads or has lost an arm or some other awful thing. That is not the kind of heart exercise I need.