Remember those anxiety dreams you used to have in elementary school? The ones where you accidentally went to school naked, but you didn’t notice it until you were on the playground or some other completely exposed place? I had one of those the other night. It involved me having to walk down a corridor in a school or office building, accompanied by Mr. Squab. The odd thing was that while I was certainly uncomfortable with my nakedness, it wasn’t because it was inappropriate in the world of the dream. It was just my personal discomfort; the people I passed in the dream, even the ones who knew me, didn’t seem at all fazed by my nudity.
But that classic anxiety dream is an anomaly for me in recent years. As an adult, my tension tends to express itself in dreams about driving. The most common one is where I’m driving a car with sketchy brakes. The brakes work, but only just, and every intersection I cross is a potential accident. I stomp on the brakes, sometimes pulling myself up to standing position so my whole body weight is pushing downward, and I only just manage to stop in time, a little farther out into the intersection than I should be, but not enough to be hit by crossing cars. Then I start driving again and the whole sequence repeats itself. I never actually arrive at a destination; sometimes I’m in a hurry, sometimes I’m just driving, but there’s never any question of stopping or calling someone else for a ride. There’s only driving, knowing my brakes are on the verge of giving out completely, hoping each time that I’ll somehow manage to get them to work. Fun, no?
Lately, my fevered brain has added a new variation to the failing brakes dream. In the new version, I’m driving on a curvy road, always at night, going just a little bit faster than I should for the curves. Every curve I round, I almost lose control of the car and just barely manage to pull out of the curve and keep going. Again, I’m just driving, with no notion of a destination in mind, and I keep coming at the curves too quickly, but never so fast that I can’t make it out at the last minute.
It doesn’t take a degree in psychiatry to parse these dreams: feeling out of control, summoning reserves of energy and stamina to make it through a stressful situation by the skin of my teeth – I’m stressed. Stressed and anxious. And I guess there are worse ways my mind could work through it. But I still hate those dreams. What form do your anxiety dreams take?