Remember back when we were kids and were afraid of the dark? I think there is a time in all of our childhoods where we heard the house creak or wind blow and thought the worst. We would lay in bed waiting for a monster to jump out of the closet or pop up from under the bed. It was a time when we wanted to close our eyes to keep out the bad stuff, but at the same time were too afraid of what would happen when we closed our eyes.
Tonight as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep I found myself thinking about scary things that go bump in the night. I don’t think I was ever afraid of monsters in my closet, but I was sure there was some living in the basement. One of the houses I lived in when I was young had in playroom in the basement. My sisters and I would play downstairs all day without a care, but I was only comfortable down there in the daylight hours. The room only had small windows near the ceiling, but I always knew when it was getting dark outside and would avoid the room at all costs. If I had to go downstairs by myself at night, I would creep down the stairs, turn on every light all while calling out to the monsters or ghosts that took over the basement each night. One night in particular I remember telling them: “It is just me; I am only here to get something. I promise I will be out of your way in a right away.”
I hate to admit it, but I am 38 years old and find myself again afraid of the dark. I do not think I am it is the dark itself that I fear, but of the moments after I turn off the light, the in between time of awareness and dreams that I think of monsters. For the last several years I have had trouble falling asleep. I can be dead on my feet, barely keeping my eyes open and as soon as the lights go out I am wide awake. The monsters have changed forms over the years, but they are still there. Once again it is the scary thoughts that keep me from falling asleep. The thoughts are no longer creatures under the bed or in the closet, but of all the fears of life that I can keep out of my head during the day, but come alive when the room is dark and quiet. It drives me crazy that I have no problem sleeping during the day. In fact, I can be asleep moments after I close my eyes when the sun is in the sky, but at night sleep evades me.
I have found that it is easier for me to write blog posts at night when I can’t sleep than during the day. I think that can partly be contributed to not questioning my feelings and thoughts. I am usually so tired that I just concentrate on getting the words out and typing without too many spelling errors instead of second guessing what I am saying. Tonight I have come to the conclusion that there is more to it. I think I can open up more about my feelings because they are closer to the surface. Those feelings are the monsters under the bed that I can avoid during the day, but come out in force in that halfway place between being awake and asleep.
I try many things to help me fall asleep. I have been known to drink herbal tea, count sheep, use imagery, meditation or listen to music. Distraction seems to be the trick. I have a special “sleepytime” playlist on my iPod. When that does not work, I put on one of my favorite movies and set the sleep mode on the DVD player. Usually one of these works. I know the movies or song lyrics by heart that I can close my eyes and can the movie scene in my head and know what is coming that I do not need to watch the tv.
However when I have a lot on my mind I find that even these tried and true solutions don’t work. I have written lately about my searching for hope and meaning of my life. I have been thinking about these topics so much they are keeping me up and even spreading into my dreams when I do sleep. Why is it that you can tell yourself all types of things, but you cannot hide the truth from yourself in the dark of night? If only the routine of my parents looking under the bed and in the closets as they tucked me into bed could still work. After countless nights of insomnia I am no closer to figuring out how to solve my problems with hope or conquer the fears of living with and dying of cancer, but I am determined to keep trying to sort it all out. So after I publish this new entry and before I lay my head back on the pillow I will concentrate on sweeping my demons away from my mind, at least for tonight.