Over the past decade, scientists have begun taking a second look at daydreaming and have discovered surprising benefits to letting go of the present moment. What’s becoming clear is that daydreaming- a mental activity historically viewed merely as a lapse in attention- can bring about the very outcomes that cognitive scientists have long thought to be the main province of perception and cognitive control. Studies now show that the cost of short-shrifting our inner lives is high: We ignore our daydreams to the detriment of optimal learning, creativity, and well-being.
I only wanted to be on medication for six months. That was my goal. The racing thoughts, the panic attack, the visit to the hospital- that was four months ago. I thought the end was in sight, two months. But I could not tell if the drug was having any affect on me. I lowered my daily dose without my psychiatrist’s approval and started reducing my nightly use of Klonopin-wary of its addictive attributes. I don’t feel different. Some weeks are better than others. Some days are better too. My psychiatrist suggested that I try something new.
"Does this mean that I am signing on for another six months of medication?" I asked.
"Yes. Six to eight months."
"Do you think I’ve put too much pressure on myself to be ‘well’ in a six month timeframe?"
"Yes. Sometimes you just have to try something else. It’s all part of the big picture. Medication is just one small part of helping you to learn how to cope with your anxiety and depression. Therapy is part of it. The work you’re doing at home is part of it."
"Will this new drug cause weight gain?"
"There’s no way to know for sure."
But I couldn’t explain to him that it’s more complicated than the snapshot from his doctor’s office that afternoon: me ringing my hands, trying not to cry, explaining I didn’t sleep the night before because I was thinking about work. Feeling like I was in the Principal’s office and it was elementary school and I was in trouble for taking off my sweater just because I was too hot. I wasn’t trying to make a scene. I was so embarrassed. I was five and I knew how to remove my sweater without my stomach showing, I would never let my stomach show.
I’m tried to explain that I’m simply tired and hormonal and I’m in the final stages of spring planning and execution. A plane is missing. Gone. Two hundred and thirty-nine souls are screaming. Yes, I’ve been destroying my fingertips. No, I haven’t been sleeping well. Yes, I feel depressed today. My closest friend that I’ve met since moving here has been devastated by the man she loves, I’m feeling her emotions- they’re familiar. I’m trying to be supportive and positive. She’s being incredibly strong. Stronger than I was. But I am okay most of the time. And I am great a good portion of the time. This was just a challenging week.
I cried in the parking lot and reached out to someone who could relate to my disappointment. She said to “Act like you believe it it is really possible to change behavior by changing thoughts. Every time you feel sad just say to yourself I am amazing and strong and creative and smart. Try writing it down. And then read it. You may not believe it at first but the more you begin to believe it the closer you are to being healed and being ready to open yourself up again.”
I have failed. I had a six month goal and now I am facing six more. Negative cognition: I am ugly, I am defective, I am not small, I am not cute, I do not fit comfortably beside someone. My scar disgusts me. The thought of running my finger along its length gives me a sick feeling in my stomach, yellow, bubbling at the base of my esophagus. I never want anyone to see it in person. I’ve pretended that my loves never noticed it- closed my eyes and winced at the thought of them really noticing it and thinking it gross. The thought of my body makes me sick. Photographs I can control.
On a scale of 1-10 I am at an 8 in regard to agitation and anxiety. I feel it in my head, a pain at the peak of my skull- it moves down my nose. It’s in my lower back and is present in my abdomen, represented as a path of fire- as if someone lit a line of kerosene inside of me, beneath my scar. The flames are orange and red and burn upward toward the skin on my stomach.
Deeper I find a whirlpool. It spins from my ovaries down through my uterus and to my cervix. At its height it is frothy and white as stones left in the sun. In its depths the color descends to a deep purple. It swirls and pulls my energy downward.
I can feel my pulse in my fingertips. They burn. I feel movement in my chest. The punching of sails against the squall? The beating of wings against the wind? My heart is white and full of soothing. I crawl inside and it cradles me as if I’ve curled inside a crescent moon. I pull its golden sides around me and feel calm: swaddled. I remember how he would hold me when I couldn’t sleep. “Tight,” I’d say, “tighter, until you feel me unwind.” I remember how my mother would lay out my softy blanket inside my bed and wrap me up before pulling up the sheet and blankets. Safe. Calm. Comfort. Sanctuary. No one makes a bed quite like a mother.
It was with me before I was born, my blanket. My mother made her for me. It was with me in the hospital when I was four. It continues to be an object that provides me serenity. It links my present self to my pre-verbal, pre-trauma self. I can’t help but bury my face in it when I come home from work. It’s like a drug the way it quiets me. It is my medicine. She is my sheath.