Stress can manifest in our dreams. I went to bed last night reflecting on the very intense Pathophysiology exam I took on Tuesday. This afternoon, while studying for two more exams that I have tomorrow, I realized my stress level has indeed increased. This realization was not associated with any visible physical manifestations such as chest pain, crying, sleeplessness, or panic attacks. I am not outwardly visibly stressed, nor do I recognize any internal stress even though tomorrow’s exams encompass approximately 14 chapters of information, (24 if I choose to include the medication math portion). I do feel some eustress (good stress) but no distress (bad stress). I have prepared and am as ready as I ever will be given the time I have had to prepare. If I do not do well I can only use it as a learning experience to identify how to alter my approach for future exams.
This afternoon I suddenly recalled the dream I had last night and realized that it truly does point to underlying stress I am experiencing. For exams we must use a #2 pencil to completely fill in the Scantron (answer sheet) with the chosen answer. The form is then electronically scanned to interpret our answers, compare these to the correct answers and generate a grade for the exam. The biggest rule is that we must use a #2 pencil in order for it to be recognized by the Scantron. I have a collection of mechanical pencils of all brands and I assure you, each is #2 quality. In fact, I’m not even sure if there is any pencil of any type anymore that is not manufactured as #2. This brings me to the ‘tragicomedy’ of my dream. In my dream I apparently used a #3 pencil on the Scantron and it caused me to fail the entire exam.
Funny and sad all wrapped into one. The stress of this journey and pressure I have put on myself, however well I’ve tried to hide from myself, is real.