I’ve written about my childhood fears before. Here for example, I wrote about some childhood fears — riding roller coasters — and how I overcame that fear a couple of years ago. That post touches on something else as well.
When I was a child, I feared the night. I thought there was a witch outside my window. And it wasn’t Glenda the Good Witch. If my closet door was open, I was convinced that yawning black chasm that was darker than the dark of my room held monsters that would hurt me if I got out of my bed. My favorite sleeping position was on my stomach with my arm hanging down to the floor. But that was fraught with risk, for surely there was a creature — maybe an ogre, maybe a wild beast, lurking under my bed — just waiting for my hand to appear for him to yank and drag me from the safety of my bed and into his massive maw full of sharp, shiny teeth.
So, too, I was afraid of our house burning down in the middle of the night. This may have been a little more reality-based given that I grew up on a street where there was a field behind the houses across the street from ours. And that field went up in flames almost every summer of my childhood.
And I was afraid of somebody coming into our home and harming me or my family. Again, this may have been a little more reality-based given that during a couple of my formative years, the part of the city I grew up in was terrorized by an individual who acquired the name of the East Area Rapist.
So, I went to bed at night in fear and spent my nights wrapped in the blanket that fear smothered me in.
It hasn’t really changed very much. I still have those fears, only they aren’t quite as omnipresent as they were when I was younger. No, the fears come out now in the darkest hours of the night. not as I try to first go to sleep. When I wake up in the quiet hours, I become convinced there is somebody coming up the stairs to the second floor. Maybe he, or she, or it is already there. Right outside the door. Or in the doorway to my room. My wife has a shoe rack hanging on the back of one of our bedroom doors. The shoes form a dark shape that in the middle of the night, just like that dark space of an open closet door, is darker than the dark of the night and looks to me, for only a split second, like a person standing there. Looking at me as I sleep.
And then it’s past and I know that I have nothing to fear. That all are safe in my home. Until I wake up again an hour or two later and go through the same thing again. Maybe I’m on to the reason I don’t sleep very soundly. It’s hard to with that river of fear coursing through me, you know.
There’s been a new development. For years, my favorite way to sleep remained on my stomach, and even with the fear of the monster under the bed, with my arm hanging over the side. A few years ago, I stopped sleeping on my stomach because it began to bother my neck too much. In the last few months, however, I’ve started sleeping on my stomach again. It is the position that provides me the best opportunity to fall asleep quickly. And what I’ve found myself doing more and more, as I wake in the middle of the night and roll over to my stomach and try to get my head and neck comfortable to avoid the stiffness there that can come quickly, is throwing my arm over the side of the bed, letting my hand flop close to the ground. And becoming convinced that there is something lurking beneath the bed. Waiting for this moment. When it can snatch at my hand and drag me down and into it’s massive maw filled with this sharp and shiny teeth.
I wish I could rid myself of these thoughts and fears that strike me in the middle of the night.
What about you? Am I just a weirdo or do others experience this as well?