“And no longer be afraid of the darkness or the bears, or the cracks in the ceiling upstairs…”
Grownup, Carly Simon, No Secrets
I slept with the light on until I was eleven. At eleven I decided enough was enough and began to turn the lamps off but keep the closet bulb lit…and the door wide open, which kept the room in a pseudo-daytime glow even at midnight.
My mother would tell me the light was sure in interrupt my sleep patterns. That doesn’t mean much to an eleven year old.
The fear of the dark wasn’t of a specific thing. That was the beauty of something as engulfing and vague as darkness. It could be any number of things, or maybe just one, a person, bogey man, animal with large teeth, bug with a long stinger and so on. Even worse, sometimes it wasn’t a “thing” at all, but just an essence.
There is absolutely nothing worse than having made it down the hallway to the bathroom, gone pee and on route back, just feet from your bedroom door, (your bed and the elevation of the bed—which in case you don’t know, some how equals some sort of safety) to all at once find yourself over come by panic, by anxiety, your gut screaming so loudly you hear it in your ears and feel it pump through your blood—YOU ARE IN DANGER.
The only times I wet my bed as a child were from waking up, being afraid of the darkened hallway and coercing myself back to sleep. Once in a dream, I successfully stumbled down the hallway to the bathroom. It was always hard, probably because some part of me understood I was nowhere near the toilet. But I woke up to find myself warm and wet, then cold and wet, dreading the trip to my mother’s room down the hall to tell her I needed new sheets.
As a very little kid I was so paralyzed by fear of the dark I would simply wake up and scream. To this day my mother asks, “was it you or your brother that had night terrors?” It was my brother, but from the way I used to scream, she might have thought it was both.
I would fall asleep with the light on and wake up in a dark, quiet house hours after everyone had gone to bed. My mother would have shut the door and I would sit up, blink and begin to breathe. HARD. To reach blind through the dark and find the door was unthinkable. Instead I simply screamed until she came, her feet heavy on the wooden floors, turning on lights as she came. And I sat, toes curled, fingers clenched around my sheets, waiting for the gold of the ceiling light to illuminate the unknown of the dark—to make what ever might be there simply evaporate.
Even now, after a particularly scary movie, I leave the bathroom door open and turn on the kitchen light at night. Regardless, about halfway back to bed I find that familiar panic and quicken my step, turning on the bedside table to make sure that Moses is, in fact, still Moses, and not some sore-faced hag who’s slipped into his side of the bed to lunge at me in my sleep.