You know those dreams where you’re being chased, but you can’t get your feet to move? And when you try to scream, you discover that you can’t? And you know whatever is chasing you is coming, but no matter how much you will yourself to just keep moving, your body and your mind just won’t cooperate?
Lately, it feels like my life has been that dream.
I have no reason to complain. In fact, everything is going gloriously. I’m thisclose to everything I’ve ever wanted.
But that’s not what the dream is about. It’s about inertia. It’s about the fear of moving forward. It’s about leaving the safe comfort of what you know to venture out into unknown territory.
I’m no dream analyst, but I can make correlations about this dream and what’s happening in my life when I’m most likely to have it.
The summer before I moved away from home for college, I had that dream all the time. I also frequently dreamed I was suddenly 9 months pregnant, which I’ve read is a dream about the fear of change, too. It should have been the one of the best summers of my life — no responsibility, nothing but opportunity ahead of me. But I was paralyzed with fear.
Just before my husband and I left our college town to move here for his graduate school, I went through a nearly debilitating bout of anxiety. For the first time in my life, I was frequently awoken by panic attacks.
At the time, it didn’t feel as related to the move as I know it was now. It wasn’t necessarily thoughts about moving that triggered the attacks. It was daily life. A spilled glass of water, a setback in plans, a traffic jam that left us scrambling to make our movie in time. The most trivial little things would lead to the worst kind of terror.
Now, as we face another major life change, another big move, I find myself spiraling down that path again. This time it feels a little easier. I feel like I’m right on the brink of the worst kind of anxiety I’ve ever faced — the anxiety triggered by change.
It doesn’t matter that the voice of reason in my head tells me not to worry, everything will be okay, these are all good things. The logical side of me knows that. The logical side of me is excited about what’s to come, excited about all the opportunity ahead of us. But anxiety isn’t about logic — it’s about fear. Fear of the unknown, fear that I can’t handle what’s to come, fear that I’ll fail.
I’m working on it. Every day is a struggle to keep myself grounded and avoid spiraling down the path of panic attacks and insomnia. I can cope. I’ve always coped.
But this time it’s also a little harder in a way, because I know what’s it like to live without fear. For six glorious months after I began combining exercise with anti-anxiety medication, I felt good for the first time in my life. But now that another big change is upon me, those feelings are replaced once again by crippling fear.
The only remedy is to trust myself. I have to learn to listen to that voice that knows I’m strong enough to handle what’s the come just like I’ve handled every other major change. In the end, it will all be okay. But getting there is the hard part.