I’ve always been fascinated by dreams. Not as in goals and aspirations; as in nocturnal brain belches. I know, I know, only the dreamer is fascinated by her own dreams – nobody else really cares to hear them, so I’m not going to detail them for you. Though I have done that before, and y’all seemed to like it when my grandmother haunted my ass or a random and potentially murderous Army veteran showed up in a house that may or may not have been mine.
For three of the last four weeks, I was a project manager at work. I had more than a decade of experience as a very well-respected project manager before I started at this place – but this place didn’t quite work out the way I hoped, and so I stopped PMing. But every so often, my (six) bosses seem to forget that they didn’t like when I was a PM, and they require me to do it again.
This, mixed with my fun and quirky brand of anxiety, means… nightmares.
I’ve had eight in the last month. That I remember. All related to work. One of them was so damned epic, I could swear it went on for two hours, and I woke up with fingernail marks in my palms. True story. And they were from my fingernails. In case you’re wondering.
Generally speaking, all of my dreams include some element of my work life; a coworker shows up, in most cases. I figure that’s just my brain’s way of encompassing everything about me into one dream so that it represents the whole me. But in these nightmares, every character is a coworker (past or present), and at least one of my bosses is almost always involved. If they’re not there, they’re implied. They’re on the phone or they’re in an office unseen or I’m thinking about them and how they’re going to fire me before this dream ends.
Last night’s feature was particularly intriguing because I was working on a laptop, poolside, at a party, separated from everyone else, churning out work that was then displayed – and of course I made a huge mistake and, from across the pool, my boss caught my facial expression.
Oh, I said I wasn’t going to tell you the details. Sorry. I just thought that was interesting because I’m mostly done PMing for now and I guess that’s what the pool was for. Time to relax.
In a week, I go to a new shrinkapist. I’m calling them that because they’re a “team”: an MD for meds “should I need them” (oh, let’s not kid ourselves, just give me the prescription) and a social worker type for the counseling bit. It’s been a while. I wonder how many people can attest that they have actually looked forward to the beginning of shrinkapy. I, for one, cannot freaking wait. I’m not what docs like to call a “frequent flyer.” I don’t just seek happy pills. In fact, I don’t like taking pills. But about two years ago, for the first time, I went on an antidepressant that’s also indicated for anxiety, called Lexapro. Not a lot, just 10 mg per day for a few months. My doc had screened me and confirmed that I was not depressed, but I did have an anxiety issue, and that can lead to depression if left untreated. And holy macaroni, those little pills were great. I didn’t feel weird or numb or abnormally happy or anything. Not once did I dance naked in the street. (That’s still on my to-do list. “The drugs made me do it!” It’s gonna be awesome. Just a few more months of workouts…) I just felt better. Lighter. Less likely to get dangerously close to sobbing for one reason or another. Less likely to feel like I couldn’t breathe, or like I was, you know, mildly losing my mind completely. Turned out, all I needed was some seratonin to get me back onboard the Normal Train.
And I wasn’t crazy-go-nuts at the time, that’s the thing. I still only actually cried a fraction of the times I felt like it, and only alone. Nobody can tell when I’m having a freak-fest in my head. (Oh… wait. That’s what happens when people snap and eat other people’s faces off on a causeway in Miami. Everybody says they were nice and quiet and always said hello. And then BAM! Psychotic. Dammit. That is not a good realization.) Anyway, really. When I’m in full-blown panic attack mode, nobody knows except me. I find that a point of pride, because the last thing you want is for everyone to know that you’re spazzing out.
The tricky thing is, even I don’t always know when anxiety is getting the better of me. What being on the Lexapro taught me was that sometimes anxiety affects me without me ever knowing it. And it doesn’t bother me every day. That makes it harder to identify when it’s back, or influencing me, or changing my perspective. I’ve had to get better at identifying signs. Like when I realized that feeling more emotional than usual – not overboard, just more so than usual – is a sign for me. For example: there are things that make some people cry, but don’t normally make me cry. A sappy Hallmark commercial, for one. But if I’m dealing with anxiety, it’s more likely that I’ll want to cry when I see the stupid thing. That’s a sign.
I didn’t need any glowing indicators to let me know that anxiety was hitting me hard when I was PMing at work. I have solid foundations for that – there are reasons it hits me in those cases, and I’m fully aware of them. In some cases, there’s no real reason. Or maybe there is, and that’s what the shrinkapist will help me with. “Let’s unpack my childhood!”
And so I look ahead with zeal to the day when I start getting back on a more regular track. Oh, it’ll be glorious. Really, I just want the work nightmares to stop, so I can go back to dreaming about regular stuff.
Like my undead grandmother trying to catch me as I run from her reanimated corpse.
Those were the good old days.
PS – Worst Man In the World Who Hasn’t Killed Anyone That We Know Of (aka John Edwards) – not guilty on one of six counts (accepting illegal campaign contributions from Rachel Mellon) and a mistrial on the other five. Let’s hope they don’t re-try the case, so he can go live in a hole under a rock at Gloria Allred’s house or something.