23 years old and still afraid of the dark…

I refuse to believe that it’s just me who has this issue – or maybe it is and I’m clinging onto the hope that someone else has it, too. Maybe I just watched Home Alone too many times as a child?! I admit it – I’m in my twenties and I still have a weird and entirely irrational fear of ‘night time’. It’s bad enough most of the time, but stick me on my own in the house overnight and I become a nervous wreck. A couple of days ago my mum went to Manchester for the night, and at 6pm everything was fine. I was glad to have the house to myself. TV on, snacks at the ready, it was still light outside. 7pm and 8pm passed in more or less the same fashion, then 9pm struck and the streetlights came on, the sun set and the house became a little dingier. Right. Lights on, Sophie.

And so, each time this occurs, begins my routine of Home-Alone-Baddie-Proofing. This is the time I go around and lock the doors before it gets too dark. 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?

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 walking 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 my forthcoming doom strikes. I long for 5am, when the sun will start to rise and I can sleep, knowing that the risk of my being stabbed or hacked at with an axe will magically disappear, because of course, murderers don’t strike when it’s light.

Feeling warm, I pull back the covers and stick one leg out of bed, only to immediately draw it back in. What was I thinking?! Sticking a leg out of bed in this situation?! No, leg needs to remain in the only place it is safe:  under the covers. It is a well-known fact that burglars, murderers and monsters alike cannot penetrate the undeniable protection of the bed covers…

At 8am, I wake up to a bright, sunny morning, 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, and I am left wondering whether I am in fact 7 years old. 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 or anything else striking when they’re home alone? Let me know – we can make a support group.

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