When I am particularly stressed, I can have anxiety dreams. One theme is “bad guys chasing me.” Those are pretty darned easy to interpret, even for a cognitive-behavioral therapist who is not into dream analysis. Safety fears are old hat and very common.

Another theme is anxiety about professional competence. This plays out in two possible scenarios (a) I find myself back in high school because I really didn’t graduate (but I still have a Ph.D.) or (b) I find myself in college because I really didn’t graduate (but I still have a Ph.D.) These dreams often end with my saying to myself, “Why am I worried about this? I have my Ph.D. and psychology license, which allows me to work.” Then I feel much better. Then it magically turns out that I was mistaken about not having graduated from high school or college. See, I even do cognitive therapy with myself in my dreams.

Since my breast cancer diagnosis, I’ve encountered a third theme of anxiety dream. In these dreams, I find that I no longer live in my home but have moved somewhere else. It’s sudden and I’m not on board with the decision but it is too late. Last night I had the same dream. We moved to a pretty fancy house with two swimming pools. (In other dreams, there’s often a hot tub and in another we moved to a house on a river.) At one point the house changed so that it was part of a shopping mall. I was walking around the new house, orienting myself to it and I ended up in the shopping mall. I quickly got lost and ended up out of the mall and wandering around a city that was not familiar to me. I couldn’t get a cab or bus to take me home because I hadn’t yet memorized my new address. When I looked for my phone to call home, I kept finding phones in my purse but none of them worked. At one point, it started snowing and I was walking around with no coat. If this dream had a resolution, I don’t remember it.

I know where I am. I know where I live. I’m not going any where.