The Child’s Fear of the Dark: A Normal Part of Development? What About at 39?

As a child, fear of the dark is a widely accepted normalcy of urchin development. A seeming right of passage, one could say. We, adults, generally assuage this unease by turning on a night light, or leaving the door open just a bit. All of this angst is considered age appropriate. Which is why at thirty-nine years old, I feel a slight trepidation in admitting to you all that I am still terrified by darkness. Wholly, unequivocally and torturously petrified by the ebonized corners of a room.

It’s not something that has persisted from childhood, it went away for a while, as it does. But over the years — years spent in service as a medic — I started to bring ghosts home with me. Not on purpose, nor willfully, more so consequentially. It’s just something that happened. Over time, and from one bad call to the next, the dead just sort of snuck up on me. Sometimes I even see them when I’m awake. Not so much anymore, but I’ve also been in therapy for years now.

And it’s not just those I couldn’t save; it’s all those whom I have loved and lost along the way.

In 2017, I was diagnosed with PTSD, and generalized anxiety disorder. Military service and a choice transition to becoming a paramedic have their pitfalls…

For many years of my life, I would drink myself to sleep. Something about the inebriated mind kept the bad dreams at bay. But in 2018, I got sober. Haven’t touched a drop since. A resulting byproduct of that much needed abstinence of drink was and has been a resurgence of horrid nightmares that inhabit my sleeping space.

Prior to meeting my wonderful girlfriend, I found it easier to reside on the couch. I hadn’t rested on a bed for years before meeting her. I think the reason for that is multi-factorial; it somehow felt safer being away from furniture that’s designed to engender sleep, and the couch gave me a sense of security knowing that should anything bad happen, I held proximity to the door. Whatever the reason, being on a couch with the TV on, and a few scattered lights kept illuminated made my environment feel safer. A modicum of fabricated ease.

Over the last two years, I’ve shared a bed with this near perfect human being, Sheena. She somehow manages to still me for long enough so that I may drift to sleep. And even though bad dreams still happen, she’s right beside me, an anchor of stability and calm for me.

Well, tonight is my first night in years spent away from her, away from Sheena. She’s on an adventure for the weekend. I’m alone in the house for a couple nights — I’ve never been alone in the house before. I used to live in an apartment with paper thin walls in the heart of downtown Toronto. Believe it or not, hearing my neighbours was a source of comfort over that of vexation. If I could hear them, it meant that I was awake, and in the present — no ghosts.

Tonight, right now, every restless snap and creak of the settling house brings about an unsettled twitch to my muscles and bones. The unease of childhood returns to commingle with the disregulation of PTSD.

I’m thirty-nine years old, and I am petrified of the night and its breadth of darkness.

I guess writing and posting helps me to feel a little less alone in this moment. I truly do hate my brain, the way it works, or, doesn’t work… properly, anyway. I’m mixed with frustration and fright within the walls of my own home. I should be somewhat excited — some free time away from regular responsibilities, a couple of days to live the bachelor life… but instead I am mortified at the thought of falling asleep. I’m absolutely terrified at the thought of a nightmare coming to me while alone in an empty house. Silly, right?

I appreciate you taking the time to listen to me, sincerely, I do — thank you.

I think I’ll go make a tea, find a movie to watch and try to settle down for a while…

2 thoughts on “The Child’s Fear of the Dark: A Normal Part of Development? What About at 39?

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  1. Thank you for sharing this, my little child! You are not alone. I am a 70-year-old grandmother living alone in a tiny condominium, and my daughter doesn’t know the real reason I don’t want to move close to them, in a tranquil neighborhood. The walls are perfectly isolated in my place, I never hear any noise from my neighbors, and I don’t know or talk to any of them except “hi” or “bye” on the elevator trip. Nobody knows that I cannot sleep at night without the TV or radio on. While the street noise from late party attendants is a big disturbance for many, to me, it’s a BLESSING! Even the frequent ambulance sirens assured me that we, the humans, are very well protected. I pray to God not to move me to a big house, on first floor or in the basement. I will choose a casket instead!


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