Friday, April 14, 2017

Afraid of the Dark

I used to be afraid of the dark.  Well, it wasn't actually darkness that I was afraid of, it was bad guys.  Bad guys out in the dark of night, that might be made aware of me, because I was awake and moving around, breathing and being scared.  This is obviously how bad guys find little kids to kidnap.  That's what I believed back then anyway. I know this doesn't make rational sense.  I was a little kid.  And when you're a kid it's okay to have irrational fears at night.  Up to a point.

I grew into the nightly habit of waking, in a fright, anywhere between about midnight and 4am.   If I thought I could make a mad dash quickly enough to my parents bedroom before I was caught by those bad guys, I'd make a run for it.  But the more I thought about it, the more the run from my room upstairs to their room downstairs seemed too far and far too risky.
So I began yelling from underneath the covers of my bed, "MOM!"

And once my voice got loud enough, I could hear Mom rolling her eyes as she would say, "Ok, Kerri.  I'm coming." This habit I got into was not cool with Mom.  Because like a normal person, she wanted to sleep at night.  Not only was I screaming, but now rather than me come to her, she was having to walk up the stairs to get to me.  And then she felt obligated to stay with me until I fell back asleep.

Now that I'm an adult and have dogs that occasionally need me to let them out in the middle of the night to pee, I am well aware that being awakened, even by your own sweet child, is not fun.

Eventually, when I was 7 or 8 years old, Mom had had enough of my nighttime antics and said something that I heard like this, "Ok, Kerri.  You're going to have to cut this shit out and fast.  If you don't, your dad and I will be taking you to see a psychiatrist.  This is not normal.  And you're killing me."

I don't know how or what I did, but Mom's threat somehow scared me even worse than my middle-of-the-night fears had. So I stopped yelling for her. Cold turkey. I wish I remembered childhood things like these better.  I just have fragments of the story.  How did I cope?  Did I start sleeping through the night, or did I lay awake, heart racing in fear until I finally would doze off again?

Although the screaming, and the habit of waking every single night subsided, I never really got over having a wild imagination filled with fear once darkness would fall upon me. Even to this day, when Fermin is traveling and I'm in the house with just my dogs, Lucy and Ricky, at night, I get spooked easily.  If I hear a noise, my first thought is, "Uh oh. Bad guys."

Last night, around 3am, I don't know what noise we heard (because I was asleep, so although it woke me up, I can't really remember what the noise actually was) but the fact that Lucy and Ricky also looked a little edgy did nothing to calm my nerves.  They had wide eyed looks, Lucy said some jargled words (because yes, occasionally my girl talks, but I don't know what she's saying because I don't speak Dog), and they both sat up and looked at me like, "Ok, are you going to do something?"

And that's the question, right there.  Am I going to do something? At what point is it not humiliating to call 9-1-1 and say, "Hey, me and my dogs just heard something that woke us up and now we're scared. Can you please send someone over?"

My tactic last night was what it always is in moments like that. I just thought to myself, "What are the chances that a burglar, murderer or rapist is really going to chose our house.  We're in a safe neighborhood.  We have a gate.  We lock our doors.  My dogs can sound scary and mean. Why would anyone pick our house?  Seriously, what are the chances?"  And that self talk usually calms me down.  Eventually, my heart stops beating out of my chest. At some point, I get brave enough to turn the TV on just settle down.  And finally, within an hour or two... I'm back to sleep.

I think I ended up only getting 3 or 4 hours of sleep last night.  But I got caught up on some Nightline's I had DVRed. This afternoon though, that lack of sleep was really catching up with me.  So, I went and took a little nap while getting a foot massage at one of those cheap Chinese foot massage places that I love so very much.  I am not afraid of the dark, in the daytime, while my feet are being rubbed. EVER.

Anyway, this is how my adult self handles the dark.  My fears are still with me.  But I've learned better coping skills.

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