A while back, I wrote about The wonderful nighttime dreams I will never forget. I realized today that it’s been a long time since I’ve had the pleasure of those dreams. A couple that I mentioned in that post were recurring dreams, but one was just a very memorable one-off. It got me thinking about recurring dreams. I’m sure we’ve all had at least a few of them, with some only happening during certain years of our lives. Most of the ones I’ve had in my life have actually not been so “wonderful”, but rather frustrating, challenging, and/or stress-inducing.
In this post, I want to write about a recurring dream that I’ve had almost 10 times during the past couple of years. It fits the category of the “not so wonderful”, and of those where I’m struggling to fix something or escape a bad situation. It’s curious. It’s almost as if it was based on something mildly traumatic that happened, and yet it didn’t. I do wonder why I keep having this recurring dream. Does dream analysis help tackle psychiatric issues (like Sigmund Freud thought)? Do they reflect challenges I face in the future? I don’t know, but I hope that by working through them when awake, I might be able to put them to rest.
I am in my mid 40s now, long out of college, other than a few online classes I took (one per semester) a couple of years ago with success. During my primary college years, from ages 18-21, I had no difficulties choosing and registering for classes, attending classes, and getting good grades. Perhaps my sophomore year was a bit rough, but only because I suffered from a depression, and yet I did at least satisfactorily despite, but with a reduced course load of only 12 credits. I was lucky that my parents paid for my studies, room and board. I know college years can be really rough for those paying themselves.
So it’s over 20 years later, and I’m having this recurring dream that I’m back at college full-time, but somehow right before the final exams I realize I’ve forgotten about two to three of my classes. I realize I’ve never attended them, have no idea where they’ve been held, don’t know what books I was supposed to have used/read, and obviously hopelessly behind. I panic. I then desperately go in search of the Registrar’s Office, but I’m not even sure where that is. The campus has an elaborate system of buses, and I have trouble figuring out what bus to take, and where to take it. Often I wake up before I even find the Registrar’s Office in my dream. Other times I find it, but it is closed. My heart is beating fast, and I wake up wishing I could make believe that I found it, got the books, and seriously crammed in time to take the exam. But that is never the case. The dream has repeated again and again with the same unresolved result.
I’m on disability now for bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder has seriously affected my productivity at times. I also have a tendency to become overwhelmed at doing too many things at the same time. Though I think I likely had bipolar disorder during my college years, the course of my illness worsened as I grew older. By the time I reached 32 years old, what previously was a doable job and home work load started to become excessively stressful. I can find mental stability again for periods of time now, with the help of medications and therapy, but it is also quite dependent on an extremely low stress lifestyle and environment.
The bipolar illness course varies from person to person, but I think that like many things, younger people bounce back easier than older people. But in both cases, when you’ve experienced long periods of feeling “incapable”, your confidence and stress threshold is greatly diminished, and anxiety crops up.
Cognitive impairments are not uncommon among people with bipolar disorder, and certain other mental and other illnesses. They could be distractability, memory issues, and reductions in mental agility from the illness itself and/or medications, among other things. At this point in my recovery, I think I worry a bit too much about my limitations. I think back to when they were worse, and I worry about what they would be if I really pushed myself to take on new challenges. I’ve tried to push myself in the past, with horrible results. This is obviously something I need to discuss with my therapist. I also need to take baby steps forward for the sake of confidence and endurance building, and general “thickening of my skin” again.
I believe that once I make more progress with the above, that maybe the recurring dream I’ve been having will stop. Really, I’d be happy for it just to stop, but I’d be even happier to somehow accomplish an equivalent and celebrate its resolution.