All my life, my dreams have used water as one metaphor for anxiety: I might find myself on the top of a very tall wave or under it a moment later, or somehow a room I’m in is filling with water even though the room right next to it isn’t. I don’t know if it’s a typical anxiety metaphor, but it’s always been one of my regulars. (Others include having to keep kittens safe from adult feet crossing a room, and losing teeth.)
But a few months ago my dream metaphors worked their way into my waking life. I found myself worrying all the time that I’d left the tub running. I take a lot of baths so I do run water for a tub pretty regularly, and I’ve certainly had actual near misses where a moment’s more delay would result in some flooding. So in a certain sense my brain caught hold of a regular circumstance that does need attention but blew it out of proportion: first in my dreams, of rooms filling with water, and then in my waking life, with me having panic attacks while out that I’d somehow left the house with the tub running full blast.
For a while I worried I was losing my mind entirely; I’d never had such a constant metaphor for my anxiety in my waking life. Before it was just a general physical response of increased heartrate, a cold sweat, clammy hands – but now it’s as if I have a made-to-order gauge for how anxious I am. Now I know that if I leave the house & panic about the tub, my stress level is high. Sometimes I’ll even have a strong urge to check the tub when I’m sitting at my desk – which is a whopping 10′ away from the tub – if the TV is loud or Betty’s playing music – because I can almost hear the sound of running water under it all.
What’s nice are the times when I have a moment of panic & then realize how long it’s been since the last one, which is what prompted me to write this blog entry. I’ve been calmer than I’d expect what with Betty losing her job & the new book coming out. So today I was surprised to wake up having dreamt about the tub again, and yet – I appreciate my mind keeping in touch, as it were. Because it reminds me it’s time to do yoga, or sit and pet the cats for a while, and otherwise find ways to calm my mind.
& Yes, it is mostly about the book. Once it’s shipping and the first reviews are in, I’ll feel decidedly less nervous about it all. I hope, anyway.