I Dream of Anxiety

There is an indescribable feeling I encounter from time to time, where I feel engulfed in emotion and it comes in the idea of a drowning of colors that I cannot see beyond. I am unable to put into words the feeling – the over-stimulation of senses that are only agitated further by excess company or outside stresses. Sometimes I wish to curl in a ball and cocoon myself in hopes of coming out from under it refreshed. I know, however, this method doesn’t work for me, and as an alternative I force myself into the world in order to fight a wave with another wave of social activity. When I’m like this, I feel alone, regardless of the company around me. I feel vulnerable and although I am completely aware I’m not the only one who experiences this type of anxiety, I still feel as if someone who peered inside of me would run from the chaos. I try to use my words and find no solace in vocalizing something that I can’t even put an idea to. Rather, I try to identify what made me feel this way and tackle it, and regain control over what is mine.

Lately, this force has been running through my being in a way that I can’t describe. A darkness where I am sometimes afraid to reflect inward, unsure of what I will see. Anxiety comes in many forms. And this is mine.

This evening I dreamed. I was wandering amongst winding brick buildings, windows shattered, leaning from side to side, courtyards that I could only imagine were once beautiful and full of life now barren save piles of rust and junk and death. This maze was intimidating and at the same time, I walked as if being led by natural instinct; as if I already knew where I was. I knew that once the sun went down I had to leave, because the dangers in this dark place were ones I was certain I did not want to encounter. I made my way through this lonely space, gazing up at the building that gave up and were given up on. The sun began to disappear.

My heart rate increased as I turned on my heels and attempted to make my way past the weaving piles of discarded, unwanted items that once served purpose in lives of those who were no longer around. The silence was only interrupted by the sound of my own heart in my ears and the occasional tipping of trash as I stumbled and stumbled and then became completely engulfed in the darkness.

Seeming to give up on myself in the current predicament, I stopped running. I now carefully treaded as I made my way to the exit that I seemed to already know, when a dark figure stepped in my path. Tall, thin, and imposing, it reached out and wrapped its arms around me and pulled me with it up against a brick wall. I felt my face press into this black shadowed figure and thought of all the other times I was haunted by beings similar to this. I tried to reason with it, to convince it to let me go. I said I both knew what we were capable of, and that if it let go of my body we would both run, and no one would be hurt. It released me. I didn’t stop to look back, and didn’t have to, because I could hear this thing running at me with a gait twice the size of mine, so I pushed twice as fast to escape it and get out of this maze of darkness and death before it caught up to me.

I ran into a lit hallway and took shelter in an alcove and waited. The being, now exposed to the light, made me embarrassed and sad. It was yellow. It was completely yellow, non-threatening, and I now thought that it was embracing me not for malicious intent. Rather than face it, I blended into a crowd and continued on.

****

I woke up and concluded that the maze and the darkness was my anxiety, and I maneuvered it so well, because it is something I have stood up against over and over throughout the years of my life where all of these colors and emotions would swallow me into a black nothingness, and I’d have to find my way out. The yellow figure was hope. It was positivity. It was a shred of myself that came into the darkness to embrace me and protect me and I ran to escape it, because I couldn’t see it head-on for what it was. In life, I can’t always see head-on the things that will protect me in my darkness. In life, if I embraced that darkness, rather than try to escape it, and calmly step through what is seemingly ruins, I might be encountered by the things that will save me.

To Die Smiling

I spend so much time thinking about my mother’s passing; how it could have gone differently, how she looked, how she smelled, how it all sounded. I remember the drumming in my ears of my own heartbreak when she stopped breathing. I remember sizzling yellow overhead lights and yellowed skin, bloodied lips and scabbed nostrils. I see her carotid artery pulsing through her neck; she was so frail I could see her body fighting through her skin. Her once-voluminous hair was matted all around her face, bangs fallen to the sides like wilted flowers. Her death itself was so anti-climactic and quick and so final, that although the end of a chapter, was not the saddest part of the story.

When I think about those two weeks of  pain and torture and confusion,  I no longer cry. I no longer weep over death, and I no longer fear it. Death itself is one of the only things that we as humans have in common besides breathing, and seeing someone die made me fear it less. What I fear now, is suffering. I fear that uncertainty when you are suffering and do not know if you will wake up again. I fear not knowing if your last words will, in fact, be your last. I fear saying something and never being able to touch back upon it.

Towards the end of her life, my mom said very little. She never wanted to discuss her addiction, she never wanted me to help, and it was hard to try and speak on anything else when the elephant in the room was the person who raised me. I remember so vividly sitting in wicker chairs on the deck, the summer sun on the creek, saying nothing with her. The world around us spoke from the grass to the trees to the ospreys in the sky and she and I shared between us a silence that deafened them. I knew she was sick. She knew she was sick. She knew that I knew, and neither of us had to say it. I watched the water while she slowly dragged at her cigarette, using her free hand to lift a glass of ice water to her lips, bracelets dangling off her wrists and ice cubes clanking the crystal like wind chimes in the dead of August. She put her glass down and, without breaking eye contact with the shore, reached across and grabbed my hand in hers. We said nothing as I maintained a steady gaze on the world before me, and we agreed in our silence that we knew.

A month later, I stood in the darkness of the ICU, looking at her while she looked around wildly, incoherent and afraid.

“Please stay with me, just in case.”

I said nothing back. I couldn’t say anything back. I stood frozen in the doorway while her bottom lip quivered in fear and she called out, the nurse telling me I couldn’t stay past 8:30 PM. “I love you.”

I love you. I love you. I love you. I don’t know if she ever heard me say it that night, because she was so beyond a steady stream of consciousness. I was escorted out of ICU. She slipped into a coma alone, in the dark, sometime in the night. And I made sure I stayed with her until she drew her last breath beside me.

I think of the fear and the uncertainty. I think of how, in that moment, I saw how much she didn’t want to die, and that her last words to me were of a helpless child, finally asking for my aid her after months of defiance and silence. When I think of her death I no longer cry, yet when I think of her last words, I fight to control myself. I do not want my last words to be those of fear – I do not want last words at all. I want my last exchange to be like the silent embrace she and I shared on the deck in August. I want to look up at my loved one, and smile. I want them to know. I want them to smile back.

A Terrifying Encounter with Sleep Paralysis

I have dabbled in the world of lucid dreaming, and generally speaking, remember the vast majority of my dreams, coherent or otherwise. I write down the ones that have meaning to me, or have symbols or omens in them that interest me, and the others just fizzle off. This evening, however, a dream was burned into my head, and it has jacked up my entire night (maybe even my tomorrow), and I want to log it in order to confront this horrible nightmare I had.

It started out incoherent and sporadic like most dreams. I was walking down a dark street, not an ominous-feeling street, just a street nonetheless. There was a projector screen at the end of the road, running through a slide show of photos of my friends and I – photos that were never taken in the conscious world, but they seemed pleasant and when questioned, my friend Amanda said, “I just want the world to know how great of friends we are.”

Well that was sweet.

“I had to give the puppies back. He won’t take care of them. I know he won’t. He’s going to do a terrible job, but I had to give them back.”

“What about he baby goat?”

“That too.”

Damn, I thought. I came over to see three puppies and a baby goat and none of them were there. I hung out with Amanda and our new friend she lived with. She was a pretty girl, tall, and for some reason I just knew she played basketball. There was a euphoric-feeling throughout the encounter of us friends, and I quickly forgot about the puppies.

The dream shifted to Amanda’s roommate and myself going to play basketball at a local park, but we forgot the basketball, so we just threw around a shoe. I remember the hoop being ludicrously high, even for me, and I missed every shot. However, the sun was out and we were all having fun.

In the conscious world, my dog got up off the floor and I heard his collar jingle as he put his paws up on my bed. I began to shift from my dream to waking up, when my happy, nonsensical time immediately turned into the most hellish experience I can recall to date. A force much stronger than me held me down at my wrists and ankles, as if there were two. I could only hear one voice. It sounded like I was in a wind tunnel, the lights a flashing blue. My blankets covered my face as I could only turn my head to try and assess my danger. I could hear my dog on the outside, much more frantic. I tried to pull my hands up, but the grip became tighter. The voice became coherent as I opened my eyes and saw the imprint of this thing in the blankets staring down at me screaming in a low, growling tone.

WHY HAVE YOU DONE SO MUCH DAMAGE

WHY HAVE YOU DONE SO MUCH DAMAGE

WHY HAVE YOU DONE SO MUCH DAMAGE

I tried to scream back at it, but my voice was cracked and I was unable to convey. The background noise became louder and louder like a train was running through my room. I was trying to scream and kick and writhe my wrists around until suddenly I wrenched my shoulder and the pain threw me over to my side where I woke up screaming.

“Mom protect me! Mom protect me!”

I was heaving and sweating and I couldn’t figure out where I was until the cold air from my open window hit me. I looked over and saw my dog in an absolute panic on the floor, staring up at me in the dark.