Last night I dreamt I worked at a place I stopped going to over a year ago. There was a problem I couldn’t fix and a headset with a positionable mic that I could never quite get into a position in front of my mouth. I flipped the headset around and back again, but it was like a USB stick that never fit despite trying multiple times. This should work I thought. There should only be two options to choose from. One should be successful, but neither was right.
I tell my husband this dream and use sentence fragments and zero make sense to him and hardly any make even marginal sense to me. As the words come out of my mouth and hit my ears I wonder how they even formed. “My skin was flaky and dry and I was peeling some off my nose when someone told me an employee was leaving and HR was upset, and then I was peeling thin plastic sheets in the shape of puzzle pieces off a board. It was like peeling skin, but everything fit together in perfect little shapes.”
“Your brain is always working overtime,” he said.
“Fat lot of good that does me,” I replied.
“It makes you run when a tiger is chasing you.” He said as he left the bedroom, wearied by the conversation, grumpy with the morning.
My brain is helpful and a burden. I remember what I don’t care about and forget what I want to keep. I dream in vivid color and sound and smells and feels but the story is disjointed and only interesting to me. My brain diminishes my successes by chalking them up to luck and magnifies my failures by pointing a gray finger directly at me.
The book I checked out from the library is all about the brain, its structure, what all the different parts are called and what sort of information and tasks each is responsible for. I was looking for a primer on fight or flight, trying to find something to explain the autonomic nervous system and why it’s triggered in times of stress. That’s the part of your body that controls digestion and urination among other things. I wanted to know why in high stress situations my body purges itself of all liquid. Why do I pee so much when I am in fight or flight mode?
I didn’t get an answer, but I found this: “Anxiety signals from the amygdala–pain related or otherwise–spark brain activity in a that is associated with the experience of pain.” (Carter, 107) Why do I feel pain when I am highly anxious? Because my brain thinks it is pain and tries to flee. But how do we flee from a pain that’s happening inside of the brain?
Fight or flight is something I’m trying to figure out for an essay I’m working on, something I’ve been writing about for years. It’s always felt like a bug because my response to any kind of stress, real or perceived, seems to be running on overdrive, but I am starting to wonder if it’s a feature instead. I think faster when I’m anxious, I don’t struggle to find words, but it also feels like I am racing down the road and my wheels are about to fly off at any minute.