Being afraid of the dark is fine when you’re five. It’s acceptable when you’re 12 and vaguely okay when you’re 15 (although you probably wouldn’t be in a hurry to tell your friends). But what about when you’re in your mid-twenties and your fear hasn’t really gone away?
I was home alone last week and at 6pm everything was fine. I was glad to have the house to myself. TV on, snacks at the ready. There was still movement outside and I felt like Jane next door was probably feeding her cat and the people walking past were most likely coming home from their yoga class. 7pm passed in more or less the same fashion, then 8pm struck. The cosy lighting became dingy, I couldn’t hear Jane anymore and for some reason, as per the norm, EVERYTHING began to creak.
Each time this occurs, I begin my routine of Home-Alone-baddie-proofing. This is when I lock the doors before things get too scary. Not only do I lock them, I also vigorously tug on the handles as if I am a very loud and heavy-handed burglar, to check the key has done its job. I then return five seconds later wondering whether I actually did lock the door or whether it was all in my head. Other things also face careful scrutiny – are the windows shut? Should I draw the curtains or leave them open? Do I leave the doors to each room open, or do I close them so the dark, scary-shaped contents inside them are hidden? Do I place some unwanted and awkwardly-shaped Christmas decorations under each window like Kevin McAllister would?
This takes quite some time, and this is all before I even get into bed. A couple of hours later I am pyjama-ed and tooth brush-ed and ready to sleep, yet I can’t quite relax. I feel as if I have to stay alert. With the lights on, my house is my home, but with them off, it is some kind of evil crime hotspot. A creak on the stairs becomes a villainous murderer who has targeted my house and come to stab me. The motion-activated light on the drive flashes on for a few seconds, and in my head it is someone who wants to steal my belongings and kill me afterwards, instead of a couple of teenagers coming home from the pub. Why I suddenly assume that a) tonight of all nights I will be robbed, b) if I am robbed I will also be killed or at least seriously injured, and c) these things only happen when it’s dark, I have NO idea.
2/3am and I am still drifting in and out of sleep, interpreting every noise as a threat of imminent death. By this point I have given up and switched my bedside light on, which has given me the slight advantage of being able to see any potential murderers who happen to stroll into my room, but the fairly hefty disadvantage of waking up every five seconds because my body thinks it’s 7am.
I check my phone and scroll through a couple of social media sites, as if knowing that other people are still alive and doing normal things will somehow help me when doom strikes. I long for the morning, when the sun will start to rise and I can catch a few minutes of glorious sleep.
At 8am, I wake up to a bright, friendly bedroom, with a torch in my hand, my phone resting on my chest, a desperate need for caffeine and a niggling feeling that I was in fact not burgled and that no-one with evil intentions came anywhere near my house last night. Feeling embarrassed, I promise myself that next time, I’ll be fine. I’ll be prepared. I’ll have a hot chocolate, get into bed early, and sleep just fine with the lights off. But every time that occasion rolls around, it’s an exact repeat of the last time…and the time before that…
I’d like to know that I’m not alone in all this. Does anyone else have a illogical fear of the dark, or of burglars/monsters/murderers/zombies/anything else striking when they’re home alone? Let me know – we can make a support group.