The theme of any recurring nightmare I have is that of drowning…or near drowning. A definite overwelming of water.
One nightmare has me in the car with someone else, driving across a flooded bridge; we arrive midway and the bridge washes out, in front of us and behind.
Another involves being in a hotel room with a large panoramic window looking out to the ocean, a typically luxurious view…until the tidal wave washes in, multiple stories tall, and crashes into my hotel room.
Water has always scared me. I didn’t learn to swim until I was out of college because I was afraid to get in too deep. Bless those dear friends who taught me how…in my over-sized child state of panic. I know it was not a pretty sight, and I appreciate the lack of social media at the time.
Water is big and powerful. Yet water is fluid and changeable. Send a snake in my direction, and I can find something to smash it with. I can barricade myself again a tornado. I stay out of the woods so bears aren’t a real threat. I know some trigger points to hit if an assailant attacks me. But water… that’s stuff’s slick. And slippery. And strong. And dangerous.
I know when I have one of those nightmares that it means something in my life is stirring up anxiety. Something is feeling overwhelming, too heavy, pressing down, burying me. Past panic attacks have left me gasping for air, like I’m helplessly bobbing inches above my own watery grave. When my sleep is tormented with tsunamis in my vacation room or being stranded mid-river in a metal vehicular coffin, then my days must be filled with stressors beyond my solutions.
Lately, I have had those visions during the day. I can predict that the ringing phone is going to mean trouble before I answer it. The children are not going to play nicely while I shower. The event I have planned is not going to run smoothly. The mouthy student is going to continue to be mouthy…and his mother will be joining in soon.
Waves. Rolling waves. Getting taller and crashing closer with each opportunity.
The neighbor has a problem with our dog. The tournament we’d made plans to attend gets cancelled. Another unexpected bill. Another late night at work.
Higher waves. Angrier crests. Tidal fingers reaching for me, bringing all their depth and breadth of fury along with them.
Undiagnosable skin irritation on her. School struggles for him. My best friend is moving away.
The water is coming for me. I am its target. It will find me. No wall can stop it. No barrier will slow it. It is too powerful. It’s taking me under. And I can’t swim.
It’s all just too much sometimes. There’s no breathing room. No one else can do what I do…and everyone in my life needs stuff done. I can’t take a vacation day…the waves would find me there. I can’t take a nap…the waves would find me there. I can’t stop moving ahead because I have to stay ahead of them. And the panic that comes with them.
The waves of anxiety. The waves of fear. Rivers of discouragement. Rivers of sadness. I can’t swim through them. They are too strong for me.
Sometimes, I can only doggy-paddle and gasp and cry. And hope that all this struggle will eventually make me a good enough swimmer that I won’t be so damn afraid of the waves…the next time they come.
From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
Read more of Psalm 61.