A friend of mine recently shared with me a dream she experienced. We were both taken aback by how on point it was in relation to everyday life’s stresses and even invisible illnesses such as depression or anxiety. At any rate, it’s something everyone with small children, jobs, or busy lives has experienced from time to time: slowly drowning in isolation.

“My house was filling with water. At first I didn’t really notice it; the soles of my feet were a bit wet. Kind of annoying, but didn’t really prevent me from my regular life’s responsibilities and no one really noticed. Most people don’t look twice at a few wet footprints.”

When we are a little bit stressed no one seems to notice, not even us. We push that stuff to the back burner because… Who has time for wet shoes?

“It got up to my knees, and I’d leave the house and my socks and shoes would be wet. It didn’t often impact me, but I couldn’t go do some things because my shoes were ruined, or my wet feet would make me slip and fall. Some people noticed, but since it didn’t really impact anything important, only ‘frivolous’ stuff, it wasn’t really an issue. My friends were starting to get upset with me, though, since I didn’t want to leave the house as much or when I visited I would get water all over their clean houses. “Couldn’t you have dried off before you got here?” they would say.”

Too often we see other people starting to be weighed down with stress and responsibility and live too much in fear of them adding to ours we don’t do anything to make them more comfortable.

“It got up to table height, and my work papers started getting wet. It was harder for me to do my job or keep track of things like bills and mail. People started getting grumpy with me for not having stuff done and I kept saying “I’m sorry, it’s just that my house is full of water, and so I keep having to deal with that. It’s a pain.” My boss was very angry because he just couldn’t understand why I wasn’t working as well as usual. “What do you mean you didn’t finish that task? What do you mean your notes were all soaked? How does that even happen?” my boss said.

I also wasn’t sleeping well because the water was up to my bed height now.”

As the stress fills up our lives it starts to take over every aspect of our day-to-day. Work suffers when we’re distracted by overwhelming responsibility and it’s often more difficult to do simple tasks like pay a bill. Forget about sleep when you’re up all night worrying.

“People stopped being able to come over. My friends with kids would say things like “We can’t visit, our kid can’t swim, remember?”. I also spent a lot of the dream hiding it from people “Sorry I can’t come, I’ve got some stuff to clean up” as the cat floated by on a box on chest-high water.

My mother-in-law told me that I should put my clothes in the dryer, that what she would do when her’s were wet. I wanted to scream at her “Don’t you understand my dryer is literally underwater? I can’t!””

The trouble with stress or something like depression is our tendency to withdraw from our social life. Part of it is because rather than talk about our problems and seek help we keep them to ourselves, but a lot of that behaviour is fuelled by both shame and lack of support by others. When we reach out people offer us solutions that are impossible for us to implement or just dismiss us rather than helping.

“Eventually it got up to my neck and I couldn’t take care of my job, my family, or literally anything else except tread water and try not to drown. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, nothing but hoping the water would go away, and wondering where it came from.
Then I woke up.”

When we put off dealing with our stress for too long eventually it takes over to the point where we can not only no longer ignore it, we cannot do anything else.

“It wasn’t all bad though. I had some friends who insisted I leave the house, and brought me a change of clothes and some towels. ❤”

You just can’t do it alone.

“If this isn’t the most apt metaphor for my whole life right now, I don’t know what is.”