All Right, Anxiety, You've Gone Too Far

Monday, May 7, 2018

When I was a freshman in college, I started experiencing something new: Whenever I'd get really stressed, I'd start having dreams... about running errands. I'd dream that I filled a prescription at CVS or turned in a class assignment, only to discover, upon waking, that I hadn't yet done these things at all. It got really confusing because the more dreams I had, the less I could determine which were dream-errands & which were things I'd done in real life - in case I wasn't already stressed enough!

These days, something new is happening: I'm not dreaming about errands anymore, but my dreams feature such anxiety-inducing situations that I wake up in a full panic. Even though I know they're just dreams, sometimes that anxiety sticks with me all day, & it becomes difficult to separate dream-anxiety from real anxiety.

Like my errand dreams, there are a few recurring scenarios - but this time, it's not just picking up groceries or getting my oil changed. Here are my most common recurring anxiety dreams.

1. I have to go back to college or high school.

I'm 33 years old, but in these anxiety dreams, I discover that my long-ago graduation is invalid because I've yet to finish one damn class. Usually that class is something math- or science-related, the exam is today, & I haven't studied the subject since approximately 2003. Sometimes there's even a locker involved - & no, of course I don't know the combination. And I usually can't find on-campus parking, either, because my brain is very thorough. 

2. I'm late for my wedding.

I thought I was forever done with wedding stress, but oh, no, here it comes again - & this time, I'm running late for my own big day. Sometimes I can't find the altar; sometimes my dress doesn't fit or my hair & makeup folks didn't show. One time, I missed the wedding entirely... so someone else used my wedding set-up & got married under my chuppah instead.

3. I pooped in public.

OK, this is a weird one, so bear with me. I'm not one to discuss bodily functions, but this is just a dream version, right? I continue to have this super-gross anxiety dream in which I've had an "accident" or have, for whatever reason, chosen to relieve myself somewhere other than in a toilet. Once, I did my business on a friend's basement floor; another time, the toilet didn't work in a bar bathroom, so I just went in the sink. I'm always mortified & trying desperately to clean/cover it up. Yes, it is horrifying.

4. I'm lost inside a hotel.

For whatever reason, this is one of my most common anxiety dreams. Sometimes I'm at the hotel for a wedding, other times I'm eating at the hotel restaurant, & sometimes I'm just a guest, but each time, the result is the same: I get lost, or it takes a really long time to get back & forth from one place to another, which means I'm late for something or someone is angry with me. Sometimes I'm locked out of my room, sometimes the elevator breaks, & sometimes the staircases move, as in Hogwarts. Once, I had to break into my hotel room, only to discover it wasn't mine at all, & someone else was in the shower in there. Security!

5. Mike wants a divorce.

I've had a few dreams where I've apparently cheated on Mike & am trying to keep it a secret, to my desperate guilt & dismay. I've also had a few dreams where absolutely nothing seems to be wrong in our relationship & then, out of the blue, Mike tells me he wants a divorce & that there's no convincing him otherwise. I usually wake up from these dreams on the brink of tears.

6. My teeth are falling out.

I know this is, apparently, a common stress dream, but it's still terrible every time I have it. Basically, for whatever reason, my teeth are crumbling like gravel into my mouth. It usually starts with a chipped tooth (which I have in real life & fear having more of in real life), & it escalates from there, with my teeth falling apart & weighing down my entire mouth. Sometimes, I visit a dentist who doesn't have the time to help me or tells me I'm a lost cause.

It's just so stressful to wake up in a panic. Sleep is supposed to be relaxing, soothing, rejuvenating - so to wake up feeling like I've just had a terribly anxiety-inducing experience is not relaxing at all. I don't feel particularly stressed in my real life, so I don't know why my brain is doing this to me. I've done some Googling to try to figure out what, if anything, these dreams could mean, & the answers are muddled.

Do you know anything about dream decoding? Any idea what these mean... or is my brain just freaking out a little?! And how do I make it stop? 

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