As a child, I was never afraid of the dark. I’ve always been the type of person who basically cannot sleep with any light on. Sleep has always been one of my favorite things. But I’ve come to realize nighttime has meant many different things to me over the years—it’s a constantly changing relationship.
I had a couple memorable one-liners as a child. I always loved when there was moonlight on my bed and I made sure to make it known that “the moon makes my bed warm.” It was this comforting presence in the midst of the dark surroundings. Something about the moon was always so cozy to me.
Bedtime was also a time for rebellion as a child. One of my sisters, my brother, and I all shared a room at one point. As soon as my parents would put us to bed, my brother and I would begin to talk, while my sister would become agitated and usually told on us for being loud. As my family and I love to tell people, there was one night I started jumping and dancing around on my bed. Eventually my father found out and brought me into the hallway in frustration. I began to cry as he questioned my actions, asking “Did you do it?! Say yes or no!” Grief-stricken, I famously cried out, “Yes or no!!!”
When I was in high school, nighttime became a time to be sneaky. My freshman year I always texted my crush after I went to bed, but I’m pretty sure my mom knew the whole time. Otherwise I would stay up late doing homework when I wasn’t supposed to. I’m thankful my parents were strict about bedtimes though, because I truly value my sleep (and I am NOT a morning person). Nighttime was also a time to be sad, as I always hated crying in front of people. Especially with friends, high school was a rough time for me. There were plenty of frustrations to be drowned in.
My relationship with nighttime changed the most coming to college though. On a simple note, it became a loud time. After growing up in a small rural town and having my own room for a few years, I grew accustomed to complete, blissful silence while I prepared for bed. College has made me realize how blessed I was, as it’s almost never quiet. That was one of many transitions I had to grow accustomed to.
But on a much heavier note, nighttime became fearful. As my freshman year progressed, I came to terms with my anxiety. The majority of my anxiety stems from hypochondria and a fear of being sick or dying. Last summer was by far the worst it has ever been. Almost every night in June and July I was afraid, and putting my head down to the pillow was almost impossible. I enjoyed watching Netflix before bed to unwind, but it became a necessity, in order to push off the attempt to sleep. Night after night I tried to sleep and noticed a different pain in my chest or head, an irregular heartbeat, whatever it might have been… and immediately my whole world came crashing down. I was dying, I was sure of it. Every single night.
One night I remember so vividly. I went to bed a bit worried about some health-related thing. But I decided I would give it to God and not worry about it. Then, for once, I actually went to bed rather quickly, without any abnormal pains to scare me. All I know is about an hour or two later I abruptly woke up in a cold sweat, with my heart racing. I bolted up in bed and walked into the dark living room. I looked outside and up into the sky, where I liked to envision God. “I’m dying,” I whispered, as I started sobbing uncontrollably. I was so sure of it. I walked into my parents’ room and woke them up, while they quickly let me into bed with them. I curled up between them like a child, and after a while, I settled down. But the fear was too real.
This past fall, I bought a Twenty One Pilots poster at a sale. It has the lyrics from their song “Ode to Sleep” that says “I’ll stay awake, ‘cause the dark’s not taking prisoners tonight.” I put it on my closet, so it’s right in front of me when I sit up in bed. To me it’s a reminder that no matter what my flesh will tell me at night, I’m safe. Even if I were to die, someone’s still in control. And it’s not me.