Currently, there are no responsibilities. Well actually, allow me to rephrase that. In life we always have responsibilities. That is to say, you and I still have bills to pay. Yet, today I do not have to work at the hospital. Today there is no homework to complete. Today there is no studying to be done.Today I sit in front of my laptop, my cell phone, and I am wondering, “What am I to do?“. I could listen to podcasts, I could go to the gym, I could go sit in the sauna and sweat, I could create art, I could listen to music, I could read a book (which by the way, I’ve already read and finished two books this winter break – this is a huge accomplishment for me considering I don’t read books, especially free-reading books).Now, once again I ask myself the question: “What is a biology student in the middle of their last ever winter-break supposed to do with a whole day off?”
Stress is like an entity. It is a unique individual that has no gender and no name. It is comprised of energy and electrical impulse. Stress assumes many forms, perhaps comparable to a shape-shifter. It may take the form of my professors, my friends, my family, a test, my work, my patients, and sometimes myself. When the lights go out at night, I fall asleep to the sweet ring of its house keys. Stress walks right through the front door of its home and I watch as it settles in. Stress resides in the unconscious portion of our brains and comes home between the hours of 2:30 and 3:30 AM. Conveniently the time when my brain undergoes immense electrical repair. My dreams are intense by this precise nature. However, periodically I find myself waking up in the middle of this dark process and stress absolutely hates it when I interrupt.
Waking up in the middle of the night is like waking up to a purgatory. I enter the place in which dreams and reality blend together. My conscious, the individual you all know me as, so politely knocks at the door of stress‘s home unannounced. At night, stress takes off its shoes, kicks up its feet with a beer in hand and a TV remote in the other. The sweet play-by-play of my day flashes before stress‘s eyes, my eyes. Stress enjoys the alone time and if it wasn’t already apparent, the conscious is not welcome at the home of stress. Yet still, I find myself entering this strange, deep, dark place.
Dreams have fascinated me, and yet I am a firm believer they have no translation into our waking lives. I always thought Freudian interpretations of dreams were meaningless and silly. I do however, think that dreams, or at least mine, represent my brain‘s integration of irrational and rational thought. Dreams are like a huge melting pot of unconscious and conscious thoughts. Like I said, it is my purgatory. Terrible day? Fight with a friend? Upset about a mediocre grade? The next morning I (most often) feel insightful and refreshed – almost as if someone, like stress, sat down with a pen and paper and remediated all these annoying life things. Stress is like a personal assistant who works in the dead of night. A friend or foe, however you consider it, stress is the very thing that takes care of these extrapolations, my extrapolations.
By the time I finally fall back asleep, I‘ve reentered the REM cycle. The progression of my brain waves normalizes. The sun starts rising, and I‘m waking up for a new day. Typically I forget all about the fact I entered this strange part of my brain. I usually forget the run-in I had with stress and this strange dream purgatory. But today I didn’t forget. Today I woke up on my day off and I thought carefully about what the stress of life is trying to tell me.