Friday, 26 October 2007

Fear of the dark

I'm nervous of the dark. It makes me deeply uneasy. It's not just what it's hiding, it's the brooding, ominous quality it seems to have.

I know only children are supposed to be afraid of the dark, you're meant to grow out of it. But my nyctophobia seems to be increasing as the years go by.

I do my best to ignore it by keeping myself occupied and looking forward to daylight returning, but that unease is always there in the background, trying to insinuate itself into my consciousness.

Even going to sleep doesn't entirely remove it, as I always have disturbing, unsettling dreams I awake from in a state of mild distress and alarm. Dreams in which I'm being chased or I'm hopelessly lost or everything's disintegrating.

Am I completely unhinged, or is this actually quite a common experience? I've no idea. Certainly nobody's ever admitted to me that they share the same anxiety.

But the return of daylight always changes my mood dramatically as soon as it occurs. One minute I'm still deeply ill-at-ease, the next minute a surge of well-being is racing through me. The instant emotional reversal is as regular as clockwork. Who can explain it?

Psychotherapists would suggest I'm projecting some personal fear onto the darkness, or the residue of some unpleasant nighttime experience, but if that's the case I have no memory of anything that might be relevant.

I doubt if there's any cure. All I can do is come to terms with it, like a deranged aunt holed up in the attic. And be thankful it's nothing worse.

22 comments:

red said...

Poor you. It sounds terrible. The night our flat was broken into was the only time I've really experienced fear of the dark; I just lay in bed afterwards praying for daylight. Thankfully the panic didn't last- well for only a few months.

Nick said...

Well, it's not that bad, Red. As I said, I could be labouring under something a lot worse. And I've had plenty of time to get used to it. I think there's an awful lot of people out there with some mild phobia or other, but there's still a big taboo on disclosing them, as they seem so weird to others (or we think they do).

Luckily, I've never been burgled, but I can imagine it must be a dreadful experience and a horrible violation of privacy and autonomy.

Medbh said...

I am unable to sleep in a completely dark room with no light source. The street lamps on our block provide just the right amount through the blinds.
I don't remember being afraid of the dark as a child but now I sure am.

Nick said...

Funnily enough, I don't need any light when I'm going to sleep, in fact I drop off very easily despite all the surreal dreams I'm expecting! Do you know of any reason why you're nervous of the dark now though you weren't as a kid?

Nick said...

Sorry folks, but I had to start the word checks because I've had several batches of spam recently. Why don't these spammers just shoot themselves?

Wisewebwoman said...

I think everyone's got "shtuff" as I call it, Nick but I can relate to what you're saying.
About twice a year I wake up around 3.00 a.m. and I am absolutely terrified and feel I'm going to die. Bits of nightmares float in my head and seem so real. I can hardly wait for the dawn and then think I won't see it, etc. Ever since I've been small this has been the case. Too terrified to get up and get myself a cup of tea as someone suggested.
Thanks for sharing this and I had to put in the word check too because of those $#*& spamnazis..

Nick said...

Yes that sounds just like what happens to me, www. Except I don't feel terrified, just very scared and insecure. And the nightmares as well. I have to soothe myself with some relaxing visual images (beaches, streams, woods) before I can get back to sleep.

gayé said...

Ok, here is mine, ajar doors in the dark. I remember being a kid, looking at my bedroom door that was opening inside, and if it was ajar, I'd fix my eyes on the dark strip and every now and then I'd get a fright thinking it opened ever so slightly. So I always either keep the door all the way open or totally closed. Weird? ya, that's me. Actually it probably sounds obsessive compulsive behaviour but I swear eyes play tricks.
Something else, but this is what I like to do. Swim at night and submerge totally under water eyes closed then open eyes. It is such a thrill. You can see absolutely nothing, hear nothing other than your beating heart and air bubbles coming out of your nose or mouth. It's like you look into the abyss... Never been scared in or under water. But ajar door at night, brrrrrr *shiver*
PS: Niall calls me "mental"... he might have a point.

Nick said...

Ajar doors? Interesting, Gaye. I've never been bothered by them. I've read a lot about OCDs and keeping the door shut or open is a long long way from that! Sounds a very sensible response.

The underwater submersion sounds great fun. Reminds me of flotation tanks, not that I've ever tried one. Yes, I love water too, love watching it or swimming in it. Well, I'm a Pisces after all!

Niall's being most unkind. You're not the slightest bit mental as far as I can judge.

Manuel said...

My bedroom window is right beside a street light. Damn the nice and pleasant children who have yet to stone. I had to buy black curtains to get a decent nights shut eye.....

Nick said...

I had a bedroom next to a street light once. It disturbed me for a few weeks but then I got used to it. The human body is amazingly adaptable. You object to the kids NOT stoning you? Have I got that right, Manuel? Or do you find the patter of tiny stones soporific?

red said...

Now that I've gotten over my fear of the dark I am, like gayé, afraid of doors left ajar. It's easily explained- when I woke up the night the flat was broken into I watched the bathroom door being slowly opened. I was convinced I was only imagining it.

Nick said...

Yes, I can see why you're now afraid of doors being ajar. That seems quite a common fear. I suppose because there's a vague suspicion of something you can't clarify. Whereas if the door's open you can see what's there and if the door's closed you've shut it out.

John Self said...

I'm not afraid of the dark, but I have only just (after six months of marriage and a couple of years before that of part-to-full-time sleeping over) managed to persuade Mrs Self to let us have the bedroom door ajar at night so the air can get in and let me breathe more easily (martyr to me sinuses, I am). Perhaps her fear is similar to gaye's and red's.

No, not afraid of the dark, me. Now heights, that's another matter... *shudder*

Nick said...

Hi John - have missed your comments! This fear of doors being ajar is obviously very prevalent. Good that you could persuade Mrs S to overcome her fear.

No, heights don't bother me at all. I stood on top of the World Trade Centre in New York without a qualm but Jenny wouldn't join me.

Manuel said...

I really must read what I write. I want the little hooded darlings to stone the street light thus rendering it bust thus allowing me to sleep in darkness

gayé said...

Oh, it's really great that I am not all alone in the ajardoorphobia (I am sure there is a technical term for it!) It is really spooky though.
Red, I am so sorry you had to go through that, a terrible invasion of privacy. I am glad though you came through unhurt (physically).
John, 6 months marriage? Congrats!!!! Hope married life is treating you just fine. :)
Nick I so hear you about water, I am an earth sign but I think there is a pisces in me or I was fish in past life. Wu Wu!
Forgot to say the previous comment, but i'd be repeating myself I guess when I say, another great post on another interesting topic.

Nick said...

Manuel - Ah, now I'm with you!

Gaye - Yes there must be a slicker word than ajardoorphobia! As long as you haven't also got ajarwindowphobia. Oh no, I've probably put ideas into your head now....

gayé said...

Yup you did, thanks a bunch!
Well, I guess I don't need to tell you that wardrobes are the best hiding places for supernatural beings... Do YOU have a wardrobe, Nick? ;)

Nick said...

Well, I don't think much can slip in through an ajar window - unless you're on the ground floor, that is. Yes, we've got two wardrobes - but I don't believe in supernatural beings so I'm safe.

gayé said...

ok, well I had to try! :)

Anonymous said...

Dont worry, I get exactly the same way. Uneasy, start to panic, the feeling of helplessness, I'm the same way.