2.10.2010

my subsconscious is an annoying bitch

Some years back, I wrote a post called "The Tyranny of the Subconscious", about the lingering effects of trauma that live buried in our minds. If you haven't read it and are interested, it's one of my better posts and an excellent, brief discussion followed.

I've done a ton of healing work around my own personal trauma, and I can say with confidence that I am healed and am whole. Almost three decades (28 years) have passed since I was raped, and entire years will go by without even a trace of post-traumatic stress. Then one night, I'll have one of those dreams...

The whole thing really pisses me off. I don't need it, I can't control it, and it just seems frigging ridiculous that something that happened to me in 1982 is still buried in my brain somewhere, and won't leave me alone. Not completely alone, anyway. Seriously. Enough already.

These days my subconscious is playing a new trick on me. Not as brutal and as extreme, but man, it is ever annoying.

Yesterday, I had two big assignments due for school, one paper and one oral presentation. I felt confident about both of them, to the point where I kept my commitment to going to the gym, and even got a bit of social life in on Friday night. The night before my deadline, I ended up working on the presentation a bit later than I wanted to, but still, I felt good and confident about the results.

I went to sleep at my usual hour. A few hours later, from a tiny noise, I woke up - wide awake, heart racing. I was up for hours, full of anxiety. Not specifically thinking about either assignment, just a mess of free-floating anxiety, pulse racing, mind bouncing around like a pinball.

After a couple of hours, I took an anti-anxiety pill - I so rarely need them that I still have the same prescription I moved to Canada with, more than four years ago - and eventually fell back to sleep, only two hours before my alarm rang.

Later that morning, as I was getting ready for school, I suddenly realized I had complained about this same thing last time I had a paper or presentation due. And the time before that. It occurred to me that this has been a consistent pattern since I started grad school.

What the hell is going on? I don't feel nervous about my school work. I'm not a nervous public speaker. My grades have been fine.

But clearly, there's anxiety in there, somewhere, and this is how it's expressing itself. And it really pisses me off.

19 comments:

Amy said...

Did this happen to you in high school? Before high school? College? Or is it new to grad school?

I am no psychologist, but perhaps this is anxiety more about Cody than about school, although that wouldn't explain your earlier episodes. Got me! The brain is one organ that will always be a mystery to me (and most others).

Thank goodness for anti-anxiety meds!

L-girl said...

Hm, I have no idea if this happened to me in college, I don't remember. I did very little work in high school, and cared very little about my grades, so I doubt that.

If it was anxiety about Cody, I would think it would happen on any random night, or right after the diagnosis, not the night before I have assignmetns due... plus, as you said, that wouldn't explain it happening so consistently every night before a due date!

Another data point: I don't lose sleep the night before a writing assignment is due. Sometimes right after getting a very challenging assginment, but that goes away once I start work on it.

Thank goodness for anti-anxiety meds!

That's for sure!

Stephanie said...

Oh I am so getting your anxiety and I am genuinely sorry to hear about your difficulties.I have suffered no trauma to the extent that I would claim to know about PTSD but I know grad school!

I consider myself to be a well balanced and confident yet realisitc individual but there is nothing like grad school to bring out all those long forgotten sore spots and leave you feeling raw with vulnerablity.

Still with that said, how we respond to this is of course a very individual thing.

My own mania of late can at times render me a sputtering idiot. Fortunately I believe that I am fairly conscious of the games playing out in my psyche (not that I have it all under control, not at all).

I have seen others in my program however who are not at all aware of the sort of tightrope they are walking and they have the potential to become like wild animals backed into a corner...attacking anything that comes near for survival sake. Of course the human condition is far more complex (if it were on as simple as showing the wild animal not threat) it is terribly destructive.

None of this is exclusive to grad school by any means but I am constantly amazed at how exceedingly vulnerable we (me and other stuendts I have talked to) can feel while inside of the process of studying at this level.

L-girl said...

I imagine your experience is a lot tougher than mine academically. But I do feel a lot of pressure, because my time is so tight, juggling so many things.

It's all so mysterious, as Amy said.

Stephanie said...

I also re-read this :

(if it were on as simple as showing the wild animal not threat)

...and found it totally comprehensible at the time when in fact it *should* read

(if it were onLY as simple as showing the wild animal you're noT A threat)

sput sput sput...

L-girl said...

Proving your earlier point! :)

johngoldfine said...

I shouldn't reveal the mystic secrets from behind the curtain, but we have whole faculty development days devoted to proper deployment and implementation of classroom anxiety-foggers.

Handsome certificates suitable for framing upon completion of training! Sounds like your profs know their stuff, l-girl.

Amy, you weren't going to mention this, eh? (But nice job trying to misdirect l-girl's attention!)

Dharma Seeker said...

Is it possible that with the pressure of your deadlines and staying strong for Cody your anxiety was on "hold" until you finally felt you could relax and let your guard down?

L-girl said...

Is it possible that with the pressure of your deadlines and staying strong for Cody your anxiety was on "hold" until you finally felt you could relax and let your guard down?

Anything's possible! Although remember, it's a pattern before papers/presentations are due. But sure, why not.

I'm inclined to go with JohnGoldfine's classified information. :)

Ha ha, thanks John.

Amy said...

John, is nothing sacred up there in Maine? Certain things are just not discussed in front of "the kinder," as my grandmother would say. :)

To be honest, no matter what I try to do to reduce my students' anxiety, it has no effect. Students are anxious, and law school by its nature only increases it.

I think Dharma may be on to something. I always used to get sick right after finals, as if my body said, "OK, I dealt with your crap for the last few weeks. Now you pay." Maybe your brain is doing the same thing, Laura?

L-girl said...

It's definitely possible. I've had that after-the-fact effect during times of great family stress, too. "OK, done being strong, now I'm allowed to fall apart."

For me the (seemingly) crazy thing is that I don't think I'm that worried or anxious about my school work. I'm unaware of it.

geek guy said...

HI
i am sorry to here that your subconscious is cranky i can relate! in my case I dream about MY death all the time its Only ME!!!.
i don't know why like you!!
don't forget a subconscious can operate with no real narrative!!

L-girl said...

don't forget a subconscious can operate with no real narrative!!

Maybe, maybe not. Anything we say about our subconscious minds is based on belief and subject to debate. There are no incontestable facts about the subconscious mind.

What is "the mind" anyway? Where is it located? Is the mind the same thing as the brain? Even the most advanced neuroscience hasn't answered these questions.

Anna Rose said...

Stress dreams are just weird-- I think they happen to alert you that you're overdoing maybe.

I just had a stress dream actually like your reality-- I dreamt I had a big presentation at school, but I had forgotten I was even enrolled in the class! And then I realized I was enrolled in 3 classes I'd forgotten! I was relieved to wake up and realize I am a teacher, not a student. :)

Maybe that's what these dreams are for-- to make us very glad of our current reality?

L-girl said...

I dreamt I had a big presentation at school, but I had forgotten I was even enrolled in the class! And then I realized I was enrolled in 3 classes I'd forgotten!

Oh man! Seems like a variation of the classic "showing up to school naked" that so many children dream. Horrible! Such a relief to wake up from those.

(When I was a kid I would dream of being at the bus stop in my pajamas. My subconscious must have been a prude in those days!)

johngoldfine said...

Gawd, anna rose, I regularly dream I've forgotten to show for a class I'm scheduled to teach (and I've taken only two half-days for sickness in 38 years on the job, so it's not like I make a habit of screwing up....) Or I get to class but don't know what I'm supposed to teach. Or I get to class and none of my students have working computers. Or I get to my class and I have twice as many students as I'm contracted to have. Or I get to class and....

And on it goes. And I still dream about being a student too: I arrive in class and I've forgotten to study for a test being given (that actually did happen more than once.)

What will I dream about when I retire? I forgot to rearrange the kitchen cupboards? I forgot to organize the cellar? I forgot to putter around the garden?

L-girl said...

Stress dreams are just weird-- I think they happen to alert you that you're overdoing maybe.

Just wanted to note, since the conversation has morphed slightly, that I wasn't dreaming - or if I was, I had no memory of it. I woke up anxious in the middle of the night, and couldn't fall asleep again for several hours.

Amy said...

I have never had the anxiety dream about teaching a class I wasn't prepared for, but I often have had the student dream, though never about being naked! Mine is always that I have been registered for a class I was not aware of, I get a notice that I have not been in class, and I have to take the final without doing any of the work...and it is ALWAYS a math course--something I cannot BS my way through!

geek guy said...

all good points