I rarely have nightmares, but I have had anxiety dreams for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I would often dream about going somewhere, usually school, and realizing that I had no clothes on. There is nothing more terrifying to a kid. I would wake up in a panic and it would take a while to calm down and go back to sleep. As I got older, the themes of my anxiety dreams changed to one of two things, either some version of my teeth falling out, or some version of being unprepared for school. I never had the same dream twice, but the themes were the same. In the teeth dreams, sometimes I would be eating something and it would loosen some of my teeth and they would just fall out into my hands, or I would have brand new braces (I never had braces in real life), and my teeth would fall out from underneath them. Those dreams were horrifying. I don’t know if it’s my vanity or just the shock of being toothless that was so upsetting, but they were pretty awful.
In the dreams where I was unprepared for school, I would sometimes be wandering around, usually high school but sometimes college, and I couldn’t remember where any of my classes were or who my teachers were. My mind would be racing as I wandered around trying to find something that was familiar…anything that was familiar. I knew I had to get to class, I didn’t want to fail, but I just couldn’t remember where to go. In other school dreams, I would be at school, but for some reason I had missed a lot of class and I didn’t think I could catch up enough to pass. I was afraid to even go because I was going to get in trouble for missing too much. I didn’t want the teacher to reprimand me in front of the other students and I was scared of failing and not graduating.
My anxiety has begun to show itself differently again. For the last year or so, the anxiety dreams that I have focus on me preparing a meal for my family of origin. Those of you that regularly read my blog know that I am estranged from my family, and have been since I started my recovery from drinking. But in the dreams, they are all there. The dinner that I’m making isn’t a specific holiday meal, but it’s of that magnitude. I am the only one that is working on preparing, everything from cooking the food to setting the table and cleaning the house. Again, the dreams aren’t exactly the same, but they are always similar. Last night I had one of these dreams and in it I was in the kitchen of the house that I grew up in, but I was my present age. I was freaking out because I was trying to make some kind of gravy that was really lumpy and over-salted and in between trying to whisk the lumps out, I was searching for some kind of gravy boat or some bowl to put the gravy in. In other meal-related anxiety dreams, I can’t find the dishes to set the table, or I drop the main dish on the floor, or I burn food. There is never any interaction between me and my family, I just see them milling about but no one offers to help me. I want everything to be perfect, and it’s all falling apart. I wake up from these dreams anxious and sweating and often close to tears. Luckily, I am a champion sleeper and I am always able to go right back to sleep once I calm down and realize that it was just a dream.
I wonder if these dreams mean anything beyond the obvious. I know that I miss my family and that I feel like they turned their back on me when I needed help. But is there something more to it? I don’t know. Are the “dream dictionaries” online really accurate, or are they just silly speculation? Somehow, I think that they aren’t really believable. And why is it that I seem to always remember the details of the anxiety-ridden dreams, but the good dreams that I’m disappointed to wake up from, slip away from my memory as soon as I open my eyes? Fortunately, I don’t have these kinds of dreams very often, but when I do, they stay with me all day. I remember the feelings of fear and panic as if it were still happening. It really kind of sucks.
Does anyone else out there have these kind of dreams? I would love to know what you think about them.