Early this morning, I had a nightmare -- not just any nightmare, but the nightmare. I’d have much preferred my typical nightmares, you know, the ones about earthquakes, tsunamis, and terrorism. At least I'm used to those disasters slipping into my subconscious at night and I know how to boot them out of my brain in the morning. But this nightmare, it was the first time I'd had it. And it was different, because it's something I'm not really ever going to completely wake up from.
As you've probably guessed, in this nightmare, I found a lump. It was unlike the real lump that I found back in August, because this one was visibly protruding from my chest, like the one Julia showed me last time I saw her. I know there's a lot about this nightmare that is completely ridiculous (like that I wouldn't notice a lump until it grew to be the size of a baseball) but like most quality nightmares, the ridiculousness just made it scarier.
Truthfully, I’m not surprised I had this nightmare this morning. I’ve been more anxious in the last week or two that I had been before that. Thank goodness, the anxiety has been in short intervals (like, a few minutes here and there) but they're not fun minutes. During them, I've wrestled with some fear, some doubt, some anger that all of this happened to me. And mostly, I’ve been frustratated that I still have such intense moments of all of those things, especially when I am supposed to be "back to work" and "back to normal."
When people I know read this, they'll be surprised. Aside from a 30 second cry to Brian over the phone from my car yesterday on my way home from work, I haven’t shown any outward signs of my anxiety (probably because they really are only short internvals). Also, a big part of me thinks, That story must be getting really old for everyone by now. Leave them alone already. But it's still the story and it's still here. I’m hoping that if I admit that, it will go away.
Yesterday morning, I had an early meeting away from my office so I had to drive to work rather than take the train. That meant I had to drive home, and that meant I couldn’t write. I tried to ask Siri (the iPhone lady) if she would record my voice on my phone so I could at least put my overwhelming thoughts somewhere, but Siri kept pointing me to the nearest "record stores" when I asked her to “record my voice.” Does Siri really think that someone who knows how to use her would be asking for a “record store”? Seems unlikely to me, but anyways.
While I drove home yesterday, I tried to figure out the source of my recently increased anxiety. It’s funny that in these past few weeks, I had never taken the time to stop and ask myself that question. Instead, I tried to do what preschool teachers do when their kids go off track -- I "redirected" myself. That worked, most of the time. But yesterday, I needed to get to the bottom of this because if I redirected myself anymore, I may have ended up in Vermont (no offense to Vermont).
At first, I thought that maybe my birthday had caused me some stress. Not the celebration part, because that was perfect, but the milestone part. In some ways that I've already explained, my birthday was an awesome milestone that made me indescribably proud. Plus, I got a night away with my husband, a breakfast with my Mom, a dinner with my family and Brianne and Seamus, some awesome gifts, and lots of platelet donations in my honor. So, really, I should stop my complaining now. But I can't. Because in other ways, my birthday was, well, totally overwhelming. I never thought I would feel like reaching 33 was a huge accomplishment. Maybe I’m just not ready to think about reaching annual milestones yet.
So, yes, part of my anxiety may have been my birthday. But there was something else, too. I started to dissect another intense feeling I have been having lately. I had it the night before last, when I came home from a Ropes alumni event after the kids had already gone to bed.
I went into Annabel's room first and gave her a kiss. I repositioned her blankie and her Cookie Monster (the only two things she will allow in her crib). She was so darn cute that my heart ached a bit. Then I visited Teddy.
For some context, it’s a miracle that Teddy even fits in his bed when he sleeps at night. He shares his mattress with at least 25 stuffed animals, 10 books, two blankets (one being the pink ribbon one that my frind Lynne knitted for me), two pillows, Brian’s championshop ring his hockey team won a few years ago, and recently, a Christmas tree hockey ornament that my parents gave him. When I asked him once why he needs all of those things in his bed, he told me they "keep him safe." Ouch, that hurt. I told him that me and Daddy will always keep you safe no matter what was in your bed and I hope that makes some difference for him even if he doesn't remove any of his soft and fuzzy protectors.
When me or Brian is not home at bedtime, Teddy adds another thing to his bed crowd -- he adds a picture frame of whichever one of us is absent. Tuesday night, as I unloaded the books from his bed, I found the photo of me and Teddy at his first Red Sox game last summer. A crazy thing happened in that moment. Where, since last August, my heart would have ached at the thought of missing future Red Sox games with him or missing tucking him in at night, I felt something totally different. I felt an intense feeling of wanting; not wanting to avoid something (death, and my resulting absence), but a wanting to secure something (life, and my resulting presence). I know -- that’s probably way too deep for a commuter rail ride to work, but it’s the truth. And it does feel better to write it down.
Lately, I find myself thinking less and less about how much I don’t want to die and more and more about how much I want to live. I know they may be two sides of the same coin, but they feel like really different sides. I can’t explain it any more than that just yet, because I’m only now figuring this all out, but I know that it's a shift, and I know that for whatever reason, it's happening.
This morning, after that nightmare, I woke up absolutely terrified. It was almost 5am -- 10 minutes before I would typically get up to go to workout. Once I felt around my boobs and convinced myself that the lump was only in my dream, I wondered if I should take an Ativan. I can't even remember when I last took one -- sometime back in 2012 -- but I definitely know where they are in our closet. I decided against it only because I knew I couldn't fall asleep at work given all that I need to do today (that I had better do now!). I thought about waking Brian up, but that felt unfair. I thought about writing, but I was too distraught. So I just got up and went to the 5:30 CrossFit class, not at all interested in doing so, but too scared to stay in my bed. In fact, as I drove there, I wondered if I'd even end up going in. I decided to.
In the end, that hour of lunging across the floor, lifting stuff, and jumping on a box was exactly what I needed. Exactly. Maybe exercising is the only thing I can do to stop that nightmare from becoming a reality. So I'm glad that this morning, I did at least that, even though at first, it was inspired only by the fear of where my mind would go if I stayed in bed and felt sorry for myself.