January 24, 2006

Anxiety Dream

Sometimes, I am trying to put my contact lenses in and they keep turning into these big square chunks of plastic that don't fit onto my eyes. Sometimes I need to make it across a room or yard, and long exotic snakes are uncurling everywhere, and I feel paralyzed. Sometimes I am on a bus or train heading for a death camp, and I want to scream but cannot find my voice. Sometimes I remember that I killed someone and the body is buried in a place that is sure to be discovered.

In my most common nightmare, I am suddenly back in high school, with a printed schedule of classes in my hand, completely lost and feeling totally panicked. I have a test somewhere, an important test, but I cannot find the room. Bells ring, the halls empty, and I cannot find my classroom. I am doomed to forever wander the halls of the high school, lost.

This particular dream has some basis in reality. The night before I began high school, I worried about how I would possibly find all the right classrooms in the brief time allowed between classes. The high school I went to was pretty big – more than 500 kids in my class alone – and the sprawling one-story building had poorly labeled rooms. And I have a terrible sense of direction. The thought of trying to negotiate the building filled me with panic. Blonde Sister, the oldest in the family, came to my rescue and drew me a map, explaining the way the wings were arranged around the auditorium.

My teenage children now attend the same high school that I did, the same sprawling building with linoleum tiles on the floor and rows of metal lockers. Two years ago, the school received some kind of funding and built all kinds of additions -- whole new gymnasiums, a couple wings full of new classrooms, a television studio, rooms filled with computers, offices for teachers. The building is suddenly the size of a small city, a maze of hallways that all look pretty much alike.

When we went to an open house at the high school last fall, we were given schedules of our kids' classes. We were supposed to follow the schedule to attend ten minute class sessions during which we got to see the teacher do a brief presentation. After each presentation, the bell would ring and we would move to the next classroom. I took Shaggy Hair's schedule, and Spouse took Boy in Black's schedule.

When I went to Shaggy Hair’s science class, it was in the same room that I’d taken biology in, with the same black tables and windows that looked out towards the parking lot. But then his next couple of classes were in the new wings, in poorly labeled classrooms, nowhere near the auditorium, which was my compass. I found the computer class okay, but his French class did not seem to exist. I wandered helplessly about the corridors, peering into classrooms filled with other parents who seemed to have somehow found their way. As panic began to set in, it was a familiar feeling. I was living my anxiety dream.

Just then I heard someone call my name. Blonde Sister, who was there to meet Blonde Niece’s teachers, came around the corner. "I can't find the French classroom," I told her. By now, I was feeling desperate about the situation. "I went to this school. How can I be getting lost?"

"I was there earlier," she said, "Here, I’ll show you."

So I made it to the classroom. With my sister's help.

And I have not had that anxiety dream since.

26 comments:

Girl said...

Wow...I have dreams that my contacts are as big as pancakes and I can't get them to fit in my eyes. I wonder what that is about.

ccw said...

I used to dream that I went to school without my pants and always tried to hide in puddles. Must have been some really deep puddles.

academic coach said...

what is it with the school dreams?

mine is usually in college and I've forgotten to go to the class all semester. ooops.

jo(e) said...

Girl: Oh, you are having one of my dreams. I've often wondered if the dream is a metaphor ... something I am trying to see but can't.

CCW: I've never had the classic being naked dream. It might be because in real life, I am okay with being naked.

Academic coach: I've had that one -- the class that I forgot to go to. I also have anxiety dreams about tests -- usually I've forgotten to bring a pen or I can't find the room -- which is sort of funny because in real life, I never had any anxiety about tests, I sort of liked them.

zelda1 said...

My anxiety dream is me in class, in a bathtub filled with bubbles, and the bubbles are starting to pop and I'm naked and my clothes are on the other side of the room and everyone else is dressed and I keep thinking why am I in the tub? I also have the getting lost dream but it is usually at the end of the semester and I find out that I have neglected to attend a class and so I'm running to find the professor so that I can explain why I have not been in class all semester and then suddenly, there are no room numbers and buildings have no names and I'm going nuts. Geeze, I hate those dreams.

peripateticpolarbear said...

I, also, have that dream where I registered for a class and forgot to go all semester. I've never had the lost in the high school dream, although my own high school was built as haphazardly as yours was.

bridgett said...

I used to have the "taking a class but not attending" dream a lot until I actually went through it in real life. I had signed up for a one-credit independent study to prep for my comps and had forgotten all about it until I retrieved my registration for some reason in week 6 of the semester. Horrified. Embarrassed. The prof thought it was funny, however, and all was well.

seadragon said...

I love the fact that BlondeSister is always there when you need here.

My school anxiety dreams changed when I began teaching high school. It turned into a dream where I had forgotten to TEACH a class all semester. weird.

I also have the dream that I am driving a car that does not have working brakes. And (I will be pleasantly surprised if anyone else has this one, because I think I am weird) one where I am wandering desperately in a mall trying to find a specific store and get on an escalator that is going way too fast and throws me off.

And no, I don't like shopping. Especially in malls. ick.

seadragon said...

her, rather. Not here. yikes.

Rana said...

Too funny!

Like seadragon, my anxiety dreams shifted to being teacher-based rather than student-based -- but they were basically the same (not being able to find the room, forgetting to go to class, etc.)

The weirdest part of these dreams is that they come in series, all set in the same imaginary school or campus (or, in one case, a bunch of buildings spread out among others in a sort of small-town-boutique-shopping area). So while I'm lost in the first few dreams, eventually I figure out the layout, and the dreams stop. When they start again (which they haven't in a while), it's either in one of the familiar places (so they aren't scary that way) or in another place that I then have to learn.

Strange, eh?

No naked anxiety dreams, though. Nightmares are more of the "being hunted and can't speak or move" variety, or "my body is falling apart" kind. (Bleah.)

Queen of West Procrastination said...

I'm very much of the "can't speak or move but I need to get away from someone scary," or my most common one, "I need to do something urgent, but I can't see because there's not enough light."

I also had one this week where my childhood backyard had become a prison camp, and someone else and I had to pretend to be friends with Michael Jackson in order to escape, but that's a whole other story.

Yankee T said...

My sister, Grandma Blue, and I have the same recurring nightmare about being in filthy public restrooms. What the hell is that one?

Purechristianithink said...

Of course we pastors have our liturgical anxiety dreams: it's time to climb into the pulpit and I realize that I have totally forgotten to write a sermon; I'm leading worship and realize I've forgotten to put on any clothes at all; it's time for communion, but the communion elements have disappeared; the congregation seems to have forgotten that worship is going on--they are chatting and running around and seem not to notice that I am up front trying to get their attention . . . .

jackie said...

My most recent anxiety dream involved me running around with a brand new baby in my arms, panicking because I did not have anything for it-- no clothes, no diapers, and all the other moms were all carrying shopping bags full and I couldn't find any of the things I was looking for, and the baby was crying and crying.

But I'm too anxious these days to puzzle out exactly what it meant!

Terminaldegree said...

Wow, most of us have had the "I forgot to go to class, and now I can't find the room, and the exam is about to start, and I forgot to write the term paper" dream!

I *did* get lost my first day in high school. I'd missed the first week of classes due to illness, so that made it even worse. I was ten minutes late to biology and was mortified.

I now get the "I forgot to prep for a class I'm teaching" dream, too.

Sarah Sometimes said...

Anxiety dreams, what a good topic. Now of course I can't remember any good ones. But I definitely have had both the student- and teacher-variety that everyone is describing, where I have either forgotten to go to class all semester or haven't prepared to teach a class and have to do it (or wait, was that reality?). When the dreams happen, they seem so real. Just thinking of one of the student ones, I for a minute thought, oh, that really happened, there was a class in graduate school that I just didn't go to all semester. How nice that it's not true. okay bye gotta go to dance class, it's Tuesday

Preacher Mom said...

My student nightmares (can't find my class, forgot to finish a major project, etc.) turned into teacher nightmares (starting the semester totally unprepared, teaching a lesson and no one being able to hear my voice, etc.), and then into preacher nightmares (forgot to write a sermon, left sermon on my desk in the study-run to the study to get it-can't find it so I carry a whole armload of papers and files into the pulpit to sort through frantically, preparing to read from the book of Daniel-only to realize that the pulpit Bible doesn't have Daniel in it anywhere). Then there's that whole teeth falling out dream . . .

Scrivener said...

If I have many anxiety dreams, I don't remember them. I do sometimes have very boring dreams about work. If I keep grading papers until right before I go to bed, I sometimes dream that I continue to grade papers all night. When I used to work in a warehouse, I would dream about checking in pallets of office supplies sometimes. I'm glad I don't have those dreams anymore.

Sue said...

When I was a little girl, I used to have a dream that I was reading a very very large text book. By which I mean, the book was as tall as a skyscraper. I was so tiny that I couldn't read all the words near the top, but the worst part was that the huge pages would turn before I was ready and I had to run to get out of the way, or the pages would close me in.

These days I tend to have the classic preaching naked anxiety dream that lots of preachers have. Not often, though...

jo(e) said...

Teeth falling out, Preacher Mom? Ugh. That is one I haven't had. Yet.

Scrivener: Dreaming about grading papers all night sounds like a nightmare of the worst kind.

Sue: I think that books the size of skyscrapers actually sounds like a cool dream.

lostinthemiddle said...

Seadragon: I have the "no brakes on the car" dream. Sometimes it happens on a bike. But, I just keep pushing the pedal (car) or squeezing the lever (bike) and I don't slow down, or I do but only a little or I keep sliding or something.

Oddly, sometimes I do eventually stop. And, then I have this meta-thing happen where I kind of think "I'm done with that dream. Now what?" and then I make myself dream the dream again--or another version of it.

Weird.

Leslee said...

I guess sisters can come in handy when it comes to that school!

Bitty said...

I too have the "naked" dreams, but rarely am I completely naked. I'm naked from waist up or waist down. No one, of course, seems to notice but me.

LutheranChik said...

Oh, I have the Clueless at College dream all the time -- I'm on the campus of my old university, at my current age but surrounded by 18-year-old freshmen, wandering around trying to find my classes on the first day of the term, and sometimes even trying to find my dorm. Or I'll be trying to get to my final exams without remembering ever having taken the classes in the first place.

I used to have the brakeless-vehicle dreams a lot; these days not so much. I wonder if that means that I feel more in control of my destiny? LOL Doesn't feel like it.

iBeth said...

I've had anxiety dreams often, & usually they are teacher-based these days, rather than student-based. Once, however, when I was ABD (and child-free), I had an extremely upsetting dream that I'd had a baby, stuck it on a closet shelf, and forgotten all about it. In my dream I was rushing desperately to the closet, sickened by the horrors I had carelessly inflicted. Ugh. Just thinking of that dream brings back the awful shame and horror I felt: what kind of a monster would do something like that, even in a dream? Fortunately, I confided in a friend who briskly replied that the "baby" was simply a dream metaphor for my dissertation. I think she was right, because at the time I *was* fretting about neglecting my diss. And I haven't had that dream since then. Thank goodness.

HeyJules said...

Is that how you get that dream to go away? I have to find a reason to get my big brother to show up at our old High School and walk around the halls with me?

I'm so doomed!