I always thought that a nightmare had to be a dream provoking fear in someone. But I now know that that is not true. A nightmare can be any unpleasant or distressing dream that causes anger, grief or fear. That night when I woke up with my pillow wet, my cheeks dampened with salty tears and my eyes red not only from sleep, I knew I had had a nightmare. And not just any nightmare – a deep, powerful one that stirred up a whole storm of emotions.
That same morning when I kept tearing up at breakfast and in the bathroom while getting ready for school, and when I couldn't focus very well in school, I knew it. It was as bad as I had thought in my dream.
Fear manifests itself differently in different people. It can cause the fight or flight response, or completely shut a person down. But prompted by another emotion, it can cause the victim to act in another way. Experiencing both grief and fear impelled me to act in another way during my dream.
Ever since I was a little kid, I have had the fear of being left behind. I guess you could say that I have abandonment issues. I suppose it comes from the fact that I was adopted, and in order for me to be eligible for adoption, I had to be abandoned by my biological parents. I don't know, it's just a theory.
In my dream, I had two brothers, one older and one younger. I don't have any siblings in real life, but I frequently have dreams of having a brother, specifically an older one. In my dream, the older brother was a sophomore in college and the younger brother was in eighth grade. I was playing myself, a senior in high school.
Somehow, suddenly, my mom died and I began freaking out. The older brother came home from college to stay with us for a few days, but was torn between wanting to go back to college to finish his education or dropping out to support the family. He valued each greatly, and was struggling to weigh which one he valued most. We had no father and no close relatives, and the pressure was mounting on the older brother. All the time and effort and money to get into college would be swept down the drain if he left, but what would happen to us – the younger brother and I – if he left?
I kept fearing that he would suddenly leave in the night while I was "asleep" (yes, sometimes I experience myself sleeping in my dream while I'm sleeping in real life). It would just be me and the younger brother left to fend for ourselves, and I would have to step it up, drop out of school myself and enter the workforce full time. I pleaded and begged for him to stay, not wanting to be left behind. I cried so hard it hurt. "Don't leave me! Please! Don't leave!"
I woke up before my brother had made his decision, but I think he was leaning toward staying.
It does make me worried, in a way – because I have no siblings in real life, and I don't have a father. If something happened to my mom, if she was suddenly no longer in my life, I don't know what I would do. I would have few people to fall onto, and they don't live nearby.
I finally told my mom about my dream days after I had it, and she assured me that nothing would ever happen. It was good to get it off my chest and have her know. It's still fresh in my mind, that horrible nightmare.
And granted, there are worse nightmares out there. But this one, to me, is nearly heart-stopping.