A Story by Lizzy

A conversation held between dear friends.

Me: When I was about to turn seventeen, my mom had been gone for a few months, living with her parents as they paid for her medical expenses. We thought that’s why she was living with them and we had no reason to believe that she was plotting to leave us. She and her family surprised me by saying that they’d be taking me on a cruise for my seventeenth birthday, and right away I hated the idea. That means I couldn’t spend my birthday with my dad, the way I wanted to. But I missed my mom (I still haven’t fully recovered from Stockholm Syndrome, I guess), so, I tried to hide my reluctance and pretended to be pleased. I talked with my dad about it, and he thought it was a good idea for me to go, so, that’s what I chose to do.

Both of us should’ve realized that me being isolated on a drifting boat without any of my friends and without my dad, alone with the most abusive people who have the most power over me, wasn’t the best idea. We were both too caught up in our ideas of the best case scenario though to truly predict what would happen.

Alex: Oh, Jade...

Me: The first couple of days were mildly suffocating, but nothing I couldn't handle. I wasn’t used to being controlled like that, but I didn’t mind, because I was with my Mommy again, and she needs to be controlling while I actually have security in myself, so it wasn’t terrible, just not the best.

But then it’s like she and her family (specifically her mom and her youngest sister) ran out of whatever motivation they had to be on their best behavior, and unsurprisingly, they got quite abusive. It got to a point where, if they treated me the way they wanted to in a public space, total strangers would rally to my aid and call out the injustice. I’m glad they did, because while stuck on a cruise ship with them, I was truly at their mercy and wasn’t about to make things worse on myself by calling out their abusive tendencies to their face.

During the times that I snuck away, I met Nick, one of my closest friends to date. I manipulated my entire family so that I could get a break from them and keep in touch with him. That’s why he’s pretty much the only person to witness me coil around my mom in such a snake-like way, just to survive.

I came back from the cruise a couple of weeks later in a drastically different state of mind, and with newfound trust issues. My best friend Mikayla and my dad will both tell me every once in a while that I haven’t been the same since the cruise...

And it’s true, I got PTSD and PTSD-related nightmares from the experience that persisted every single night. Which suck, y’know? And most people who don’t know me intimately wouldn’t take me seriously, because, who returns from an uneventful cruise with PTSD?

Alex: What sucks is people with no compassion.

Me: Thank you. Anyways, the nightmares that stemmed from that experience all revolve around the same themes: people that I trust hurting and betraying me, my mother/her family/other maternal figures abusing me, and maternal figures limiting my freedom in such constraining ways that I truly can’t fight back. These are the recurring themes, and every single nightmare I have that truly rattles me involves a combination of those themes. I’d rather face dreams that involve death than nightmares that involve my mom.

Alex: So your dream last night was like that?

Me: Not quite, but, it’s rooted in that. Fortunately, my nightly nightmares ceased when my mom announced the divorce last Thanksgiving, save for every couple of weeks. The nightmares happened every single night because I dreaded her coming back where I’d have to live under her abuse again, and the first nightmare-free night I had was the very day she announced she wasn’t coming back.

I’ve noticed that I’m particularly sensitive to the opinions of maternal, authoritative figures. My homeschool group’s meeting director, a really cool woman named Laura, is one of those figures. She and I have gotten along swimmingly and we’ve made an excellent team so far, changing the homeschool group for the better. We were voted into our positions this school year. Before we were in charge, at Zoe’s best, we had around one hundred members. Autumn hasn’t even ended yet and Laura and I have already doubled that.

Alex: That’s awesome!

Me: Haha, thanks. Anyways, at September’s meeting, I was a ball of nerves. I don’t remember what stressed me out so much that day, but, I was trying my best to overcome a fairly severe bout of anxiety. I think my heart was acting up or something (Laura doesn’t know about my heart diseases or my mom or the divorce or really any of the bullshit of my life). Laura had some notes for me, which helped greatly, but it’s still the worst I’ve ever done at running a meeting. I hadn’t even finished walking off the stage before she said to me: “I’m very disappointed in you.”

...I still haven’t really recovered from how crushed I was when she said that. I’ve felt excessively vulnerable and mistrusting towards her ever since. I feel like I’m groveling every time I see her, trying to prove myself, even though she probably hardly even remembers the experience. She’s invited me to lunch with her so we can build a friendship and get to know each other, but I’ve been avoiding it because I don’t want to face her alone. I know I’m truly making a big deal out of nothing, but it’s times like this where my childhood hangups are shoved right in my face.

So, there you go, an excessive amount of context. Ready to hear about the dream?

Alex: I know it’s not necessarily my place to do so, but I want to scream in protest as the defender in me gets riled up. Hearing these kind of things people have done to you is infuriating and I wish I could jump to your defense when you shouldn’t even have to be defending yourself.

Sometimes that “mom” or whoever it happens to be should feel the wrath of my tongue and see the ire in my eyes as I scold them. You shouldn’t even have to acknowledge such gross atrocities from people you should be able to trust.

Pisses me off... but, thanks for sharing. I’m done with my little rant. You can tell me about your dream now.”

Me: Haha, thank you. That’s very soothing for me to hear.

In my dream, I was managing a large group of my friends, maybe thirty of us. You likely know that herd mentality can get a crowd of people who are excitable doing things that they normally wouldn’t do, and I noticed my group was starting to get rowdy and out of hand, so I was trying to calm them down. It was beginning to work when my dad came up to me with a phone in his hand and a solemn, stressed look on his face. I requested that one of my more chill friends try to calm everyone down as I took the phone and walked away from the ruckus so I could listen.


“Hi. This is Laura. I’ve recently learned some unpleasant things about you and I need to discuss it with you.”

“Oh... Okay.”

“Your grandmother called me and told me about the way you behaved on the cruise...” from there on, Laura named instances of what happened, except they were told from the perspective that my poor family was just trying to enjoy their vacation while I was being a total brat. I was too shocked and meek and overstimulated to do a good job of defending my honor, because it’s true that I did those things, but only out of self-defense, but how could I convince her of that? I did a poor job and waited to hear what she had to say.

“If that’s the case, you’re too irresponsible to be President of Zoe. You were trusted with a large responsibility that had the chance to launch your future in an excellent direction, but I learned too late that you’re not worthy of it. The honor will be given to someone else now.”

I woke up.

Alex: I can see how that would be a horrible experience... taking you back mentally and then combining it with another person of impact. I’m sorry, Jade.

Me: Thanks. I’m pretty sure this was stemmed from the way my ex-friend been behaving recently, which has taken me back to the way a bully used to treat me. People I’ve trusted who then try to talk about me behind my back and negatively impact my life that way. That behavior then appeared in my grandmother, who’s never done that sort of thing but definitely perpetuates negativity in my life. 

The dream itself wasn’t horrible, I’ve had worse, but it did a great job of combining all of the biggest traumas I’ve dealt with over the past few years... thanks for listening.

Alex: Anytime you need or want it, I’ll do my best to be available to do so.

Do you ever feel bad or guilty or whatever if even small things seem to affect you greatly? Like you think that it shouldn’t, or it seems like you should be able to handle that particular thing, but somehow it just seems like a big deal?

Me: Yes, that’s exactly what I feel. With my ex-friend, with Laura, with my crush’s mom. I feel quite guilty that I can’t interact with a person at face value because of my hangups.

Alex: Mmm-hmm. It’s a problem I have too. I just want you to know, that you shouldn’t feel guilty about anything that triggers you, no matter how small or insignificant you feel it should be.

I know that just saying it won’t do anything, but that is where I have to start. Of course, whether you display it or not outwardly, I’m sure at least subconsciously you are already aware of this fact. Whether you are or aren’t doesn’t matter as much as the fact itself. And again, it is this: You should not EVER feel bad about yourself just because something affects you. I would venture to say it is almost the more “big” or stereotypically “bad” things that you at least outwardly cope with much better than those “small” “insignificant” inner feelings. It’s much easier for me anyway to confidently (whether that circumstance I’m genuinely comfortable with or whether I call upon my mask-wearing ability) act and handle more dramatic traumatic events or problems... I’m more wary of the tiny triggers. Stupid, petty things that I convince myself should not have any impact over me, which only exacerbates the impact they do. For most people, their perception is their reality. This is detrimental when those two things don’t match up.

It’s no different for me, and, maybe us. When you berate yourself for “having a reaction” and judging yourself based on what other people would call “nothing” is absolutely ludicrous. And I mean that in the most loving way, but it is completely self-defeating for you to not view your own triggers through the lens of your own experience. Of course, I know it’s hard when you are constantly surrounded with negative people with negative opinions, or simply those who lack the maturity, discernment, and compassion to be able to sympathize and encourage even if direct empathy is not applicable. It’s fucked up the kinds of people you encounter who take it upon themselves to force their demeaning behavior on you. I know it’s worse because you might constantly be in a battle with your own doubts, second-guessing everyone who might come close because many of those you should have been able to or did trust, took that and betrayed it. Worse, abused it. Your trust. You. So with all that said, and hopefully my rambling has remained at least somewhat coherent and on point... I just want to encourage you. It really is okay to be affected by whatever it is that does affect you. Because beating yourself up over it and trying to pretend it shouldn’t or doesn’t will only hinder your ability to heal and grow from it. Okay. I’m done now. And I’m not even sorry for the novella.”

Me: Alex, I’m very grateful to have you in my life.

Alex: Jade, ditto.

© 2018 Lizzy

Author's Note

I'm incredibly grateful for my friend Alex, who is another writer on this site. We both tend to get nightmares regularly because of trauma we've experienced in the past. We've been able to help each other out by asking each other about it and lending a compassionate ear.

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Added on November 28, 2018
Last Updated on November 30, 2018



Charlotte, NC

Hello there! I'm Lizzy, and I'm an entrepreneur and business owner. I've had a passion for writing fictitious stories for nine years and am constantly seeking to hone my capabilities. I'm glad to be a.. more..

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