“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another” – William James
There is an ongoing stampede happening in my mind. It’s infinite and brutal, and I bet it even continues when I sleep (although that feels like my only time off, to be honest).
Here is the thing: I recently had a dream in which I met my dead aunt. It’s not the first dream I have had that involves me meeting up with someone who’s passed on. It’s also not the first time my mind, in the dream, was pictured as a conference room.
It’s quite silly, but this is what my head looks like in my head: it’s an average sized room, half of it is filled with dark grey plastic chairs (which are, by the way, quite comfortable – I would never make my “guests” sit on a bad chair!). The walls are a softer grey (this must mean I am super boring, haha!), and in the other half of the room, the part all the people in the chairs would be facing, are placed a whiteboard and a huge projecting screen. You know, for when I have to give a presentation or something…
Then there are some black painted wooden furniture-like things around (coffee tables, window sills) and there’s a nice looking lamp hanging from the white ceiling. There are two doorways: one for me (obviously?) that’s located beside the screen, and one at the back of the rows of seats for my guest(s).
Every time I dream of a deceased loved one, I meet them here. The best dream I have had in years was one where I first walked into this room, and nearly all the chairs were filled with people and animals I love but that have unfortunately passed on. Despite the boring decor, it was a warm and loving dream, especially when they all gave me flowers and told me, each one separately, how much they loved me and how proud they were of me. Ever since that dream, this conference room is where they meet up with my sleeping persona and talk to me.
It was also in this room where J, my deceased aunt, came to me and talked to me. Well, she tried to talk to me, because before she could say anything meaningful the ground (a really nice charcoal carpet) opened up and rhinos came bursting in. Together with bright coloured props from Mika’s Talk About You-video (here), lots of music (apparently that can walk too, in your dreams?), unknown figures, thought bubbles, tools such as hammers and saws, and lots of other stuff. The floor started moving like waves in the sea and the walls were ripped apart. All my aunt could say was: “So this is your mind, huh? Constantly at work, all chaos and no rest. How do you survive every day?”
Which reminds me that maybe the Lion King clip wasn’t the best choice and I should have opted for this one:
Anyway, it’s true. I am seriously stressed out! My life is not very fun at this moment, 2015 hasn’t been great so far, and my usual “if I ignore there’s something wrong, it will cease to exist” (which never works, by the way).
But so far I thought I was doing pretty good denying anything was wrong. The problem is, your mind might be easily fooled, but your body isn’t. Stress will manifest itself physically as well as mentally, and eventually there will be nowhere left to run.
I know I do this, the avoiding and denying thing, so I’ve come up with a list of things that signify I am enduring stress (of course, I still keep denying something is wrong until I’ve come to the last point. Old habits do die hard, I guess).
- Lack of sleep; I quickly lose the ability to fall asleep, and I will wake up during the night more often
- Letting go of my daily routine; Where normally I’d stick to my own “rules” (e.g. not eating chocolate during week days, or making my bed every morning) and make a big deal of them, in stressful times I easily let it all fall apart. Who cares about weight or neatness when you feel like crap, right? Even if you’re in denial about that…
- Letting go of my tidiness; I am beyond tidy: my room is always clean and organized, as are my administration, appointments and diary. But when I stress, I am not too worried about that dust piling up on my desk. Or the paperwork.
- Head aches; Lack of sleep and constant worrying but not wanting to worry causes brutal head aches on the right side of my face. They start around my eye and just throb and spread their unhappiness all over my forehead, right ear and jaw. This happens mostly when I lie down in bed and try to sleep, and I assume this is heavily linked to point one
- Blotches and pimples; Ew! But they pop up like mushrooms and in the most unlikely of places: under my hair, on my shoulder blades, even on my feet sometimes. This also causes me to run to a mirror every twenty minutes and try to demolish them all (which only leads to more skin problems – Aarh!)
- Lethargy; When I get to this point my body is chronically exhausted from lack of sleep, over-worrying by denial and the head aches
- Stomach problems; You’d think I’d know I am stressed by the time the head aches set in, but no! A small bell starts to ring when my stomach starts to play up, but denial still gets the best of me. Anyway, I am talking acid refluxes, cramps, pains, and the usual waking up in the middle of the night because my belly hurts so much and I feel like I have to throw up (which I can’t because I have emetophobia – *sigh*)
- Memory issues; This is when I can no longer deny I have stress running through my veins like it is part of my blood. Normally, my memory is super great, but by this time my stress levels are so high I can’t even remember simple things such as what happened on the previous episode of How To Get Away With Murder. Or when my next dentist appointment is. Or what 2+2 is! Forget about points one to seven, eight is the worst!
This stampede has to stop. Right now.
I can live with the lack of sleep, lethargy and the head aches. Even letting go of my routine won’t kill me and although they disgust me, zits will eventually disappear. The stomach issues aren’t great, but with a slight change of diet and some temporary medicine I can manage.
But my memory! I don’t want to lose my mind. Not yet, I am only twenty-eight for crying out loud! I want my mind back. I want my conference room back! Nice and tidy, all ready for visitors and presentations.
Maybe this stampede is a good thing, though; perhaps all I need is a little chaos and disruption as an excuse to redecorate my brain’s conference room and start over (I never liked grey, anyway). Who knows. But in the mean time: if anyone knows how to get rid of this bunch of mental rhinos (plus everything else) that are wreaking havoc in my head, or maybe knows a way how to tame them: I could really do with some advice! And some new walls and floors for my conference room. Or maybe some plants.