Afraid of the dark

Are you afraid of  the dark? Not the soft deep of a midnight sky full of mountain stars, and not the comforting cocoon when you’re wrapped up in a cozy blanket and trying to ignore your alarm clock and the responsibilities of the day. But the dark that smothers you in your bed and seeps in your eyelids with terrible monsters and nightmares. Have you ever been afraid to fall asleep because then the darkness takes over?

Have you ever experienced that kind of dark? It is terrible. It’s the kind of thing that skirts around your consciousness and puts your mind on high alert; you can’t sleep or concentrate or think straight and you can’t turn it off. It’s not insomnia, not exactly. It’s just…this interminable blackness that you can’t shake and you can’t sleep off.

Up until about a year ago I didn’t know that this kind of nightly hell wasn’t “normal.” I thought all adults woke up every few hours in a state of half-panic and had to sing or rock themselves back to restless sleep.

Yeah. Apparently that’s not normal. I’m not normal.

So, thank heavens for doctors and medicine and better living through chemistry. The thing is, even with the pills and the therapy and everything….sometimes I still find that I am scared to fall asleep, scared to let down my conscious guard because when I’m asleep I’m vulnerable and vulnerability means…vulnerability means that the dark can take over. And sometimes it does.

About a year ago I put the following quote from Madonna Badger in a post:

“Basically, I go to wherever the light is, because anything else is darkness…”

Sometimes, I can’t fight back the dark, and it’s scary. And sometimes, in the middle of the night, I can’t turn on the light; and that’s scary too.

I take my meds, and I talk to my doctor, and I do all those things I’m supposed to do. But I’m still afraid of the dark.

Harriet sig


3 thoughts on “Afraid of the dark

  1. I have this thing, that sometimes I wake up sobbing, or screaming, or panicked, without reason. (Loel then tells me the next morning that I cried out something like “wait wait wait!” or “no no no,” or just a strangled scream, and usually I can vaguely remember the instant terror, but not much more. They have to do with the dark, and the feeling that someone is in my room and I can’t move.) It’s a couple times a week, and until a couple years ago, I didn’t know that wasn’t normal, either. I was staying at my dad’s house, and one of them got me scared enough to leap out of bed and run to the other side of the room, knocking over a lamp in the process. The next morning, my dad asked me what the racket had been, and then told me, no, that isn’t normal. Oh.

    Mine isn’t like yours, I don’t think, although when I wake up sobbing, it takes me a while to get back to sleep. In Germany they call them “Wachattacken,” which seems appropriate. I got a fitbit for Christmas, and have been tracking my sleep. I can tell you, it’s a miracle when I see a night with only 3x restless, and 0 times awake. Generally it’s somewhere in the range of 4 times awake, and 14-30 times restless. I envy those people that just go to sleep and then wake up, without all the exhausting stuff in between…


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