I Can’t Say Boo To The Bogeyman Because I’m Still Afraid Of The Dark As An Adult

bedMy son is two years old and has an excellent sleep association. We did sleep training, which I think helped him learn how to self-soothe, and now he really loves hanging out in his bed. He hasn’t had a nightmare or night terror yet, and for that I am so grateful because I’m still working on my nighttime issues as an adult.

I’ve always slept fairly well, but it wasn’t until after I had kids and had more sleep disturbances that I realized I get really, really uncomfortable at night. I have spent a lot of time thinking about it—trying to dig deeper into my “issues” because I normally experience high anxiety right before bed.

I’m no professional therapist person, but I think I know why. My parents divorced when I was 10, and we had a minor break-in in the first house I lived in with my mom, brother, and sister—without my dad—when I was about 12. My mom tried to shield me from what actually went on, so I think the event seemed a lot scarier in my mind for all of these years.

I really didn’t think about it until recently, and my mom explained it further to me. Our sliding glass back door was broken and needed to be fixed. My mom temporarily propped it shut with a broom handle, and some random kid from the neighborhood broke in to steal her car keys and money from my purse. She caught him in the act and chased him out of the house. He stole our car and totaled it, and they found it later.

When I was younger, the entire situation felt very menacing and scary to me at the time. I guess it’s a relief to find out that the kid only broke in because he wanted to go to juvenile detention since his parents had kicked him out of the house; he had nowhere else to go.

Now as an adult, these lurking fears are resurfacing. Sometimes, I’ll go to bed by myself and read while my husband stays downstairs and plays video games for a few hours. If I’m feeling particularly anxious, I’ll turn on the light over and over again (with a remote) at every little noise I hear while I’m in bed. I’m not sure why I think someone is always out there to get me, but I pray to God I don’t pass this on to my kids.

(photo: Getty Images)

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  • jordana

    Hey bravo to you for being so honest about this! It isn’t always easy to admit that we have these little fears even after we have kids. Recognizing this stuff is crucial, though, and it sounds like you’re doing a great job there :-)

  • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

    oh man that break in, no wonder you are scared of the dark. I’m not really, because I have a dumb dog who barks at the slightest noise, so when I am alone he sleeps with me to alert me to any intruders or to like ghosts next to my bed who wanna eat me

    • Bethany Ramos

      We have Chihuahuas too, which are the dumbest, loudest idiots known to man, so I guess that should comfort me…?

    • Guest

      Sleeping next to my dog makes me feel so much better. Except for the occasional random bark and staring off into space where there is nothing… :-O

  • Kay_Sue

    Kudos to you for this. I feel you.

    We never had a break-in, but we had a serial peeping tom in the first house we lived in when I was younger. My mom was a favorite victim, as she was a young woman whose husband was often away or working late. I had multiple encounters with him, including seeing him peeping through a broken blind in my parents’ room after I crawled in bed with a nightmare once, and on at least two occasions he talked to me, although my mom has NO idea what he said, just that I was reduced to tears and her resolve to move us the hell out of there was greatly strengthened.

    I was too little to remember the conversations, but even now, I have a nagging sense of dread when the lights go down, and I can’t stand any open windows at night. If the blinds are up after the sun goes down, my husband has to close them. I can’t even walk past them.

    These childhood traumas stay the fuck with you, man.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Kay, this so, so scary!!! You feel my pain. :(

    • Kay_Sue

      I do. Totally makes sense to me.

    • Tinyfaeri

      That had to have been terrifying. :( *hugs*

    • Kay_Sue

      It really was. Thanks for the hug. I’m honestly pretty open about it, because I don’t like being out at night and that kind of makes friends go, “Wait, what?” It’s the absolute worst when I am home alone though, and that’s the sad part. Your home should be your refuge, and I would really like to look that guy in the face and say, “You know, you kind of took that from me for the rest of my life. I hope it was worth violating my mom’s privacy and my sense of security to get your rocks off, asshole.”

    • RevBex

      That is the scariest thing I could imagine. I grew up in a trailer park so the windows were all low and easily accessible and that alone creeped me out. Hugs and peace.

  • Tinyfaeri

    I’m going the Susan Sto-Helit route when my little one gets older and carrying a poker into the room if she wakes up with a nightmare or thinks there’s something in the closet. That’ll learn it, whatever it is!

  • Guest

    I am the same way. Growing up my friend had her teacher watching her while her parents were out of town, the teacher had a stalker she didn’t know about, and he broke in and tied them up in the middle of the night. Some other things happened before he heard a passing car and was scared away. It was a couple houses down in what I thought was a super safe neighborhood. Since then I have always been worried about break ins to the point where every noise I hear I panic a bit and I need lights on because I just don’t want to be surprised.

    Also, a remote for the light would be so handy.

  • LadyClodia

    I used to have a really hard time at night, especially when I was alone. Sometimes I would even get panic attacks. For as long as I can remember I was scared of the dark, generally anxious, and had a very overactive imagination (my mom said that didn’t even like the idea of Santa coming into our house.) I got a little better once I went away to college probably because my friend/roommate went home every weekend, so I had to get used to being by myself. A few years later things went downhill when there was a peeping tom outside of our bedroom window one night; my husband was just in the next room, but I was really freaked out by that, and it took me a few years to get comfortable being alone again.
    I really had to deal with being alone when my husband took a job a few years ago that had him away from home all week. So I was pregnant, in a new house, and I had our 2 1/2 old all day by myself. Most nights I was so exhausted that I would just fall asleep, but those nights that I was having trouble I took comfort that my big 21 lb scaredy cat was still sleeping with me. I knew there was no way he would protect me, but as long as he was with me I knew that everything was OK because otherwise he would hide. My husband works from home now, and I’m glad that I’m not alone so much anymore. I was impressed with myself when he went to visit his mother a couple of weeks ago that I was still OK being alone and didn’t even freak out once.
    I don’t think that our older son is quite as anxious as I was when I was little, but he is a little bit and he’s had trouble with nightmares for a long time. We do what we can for him, but sometimes it’s hard for me to figure out what he needs because he has completely different things that comfort him and don’t.

  • RevBex

    I’m a little anxious about the dark, but it’s the silence that bothers me; it implies that everyone, everywhere is unconscious. That really freaked me out as a pre-teen, and it still does to this day. It feels like, sleeping in the dark and quiet, we’re all robots who are turned off. It also seems like the perfect time for a wide scale invasion, which as a kid of the Cold War I was unreasonably scared of. I only really sleep when others are awake; I stay up late because, to me, the worst thing is to wake up from a few hours’ sleep at 2am and be the only one, anywhere, awake. When I was little and that happened, I used to watch the clock by my bed; once it said 4am, I was good to go back to sleep because the Dunkin Donuts guy from the commercial was already at his bakery by then. Now I sleep with the TV on; if infomercials are still being broadcast, the world is probably still standing.

  • Robotic Arms Dealer

    Motion sensor lights

  • AmazingE

    I’m not afraid of the dark so much, but I get terribly anxious being home by myself at night. During the day it’s not so bad, cos the kid is awake and making noise and keeping me on my toes, but once it’s dark and she’s in bed, my hands start sweating and my thoughts start racing. Thankfully this isn’t a thing I have to deal with that often since my husband rarely goes out, but on the nights when he does it’s hard for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love having the tv and the ps3 all to myself during those times, and it’s nice to be able to paint my nails without him complaining about the smell, but sometimes it’s just not worth the anxiety.

    • Rachel Sea

      When my wife is away I marathon my favorite kid movies. If I fall asleep watching TV I can easily pretend that she is in our room asleep.

  • Sam Inoue

    I have always been a sort of nervous sleeper. My dad is an ambassador, so we were often travelling in many places we stayed we were behind gates with armed guards. Even though most people felt safer like that, it made me think bad things were gonna happen.

  • SA

    I get very scared of the dark or silence when I am alone. I feel like I am being watched!! Hoping my daughter doesn’t inherit this – as of right now she loves to into the windowless bathroom with the lights out and hide, so it is looking good for her!

  • Rachel Sea

    I grew up in the sticks. With no neighbors nearby, I was never afraid of the dark. The scariest thing that ever happened at night was a vixen’s mating bark (when the fox is horny, she says HELP like a woman screaming bloody murder). When I moved to the suburbs I was spooked by every nighttime thing. I wouldn’t go out the front door without checking the peephole, in case there was a slavering ax murderer wearing a rubber clown mask waiting on the stoop (in my imagination he is essentially an amalgam of ever horror villain I’ve ever seen), waiting for me to unsuspectingly take out the garbage. I hate to walk in front of uncovered windows, where anyone could be peeping in. I know it’s stupid, but I’ve watched a lot of scary movies, and the suburbs are where the scariest human monsters live.

  • Paul White

    Grew up in the rural rockies. You *didn’t* go out after dark or during dusk without dogs and lights; that’s the when cougar and bear were most active, plus it was easy to get lost.

    That said it doesn’t really bother me in doors.

  • Alanna Jorgensen

    So glad to know I’m not the only one. I don’t have a traumatic experience that caused it, but an overactive imagination and too many horror movies. I always think something is standing over the bed, lol. I sleep with the tv on until my fiance comes to bed. My four year old slept with me one night and got mad because I didn’t want to turn it off to sleep in the dark. I have been out braved by a preschooler. :P

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    I kinda get scared of the dark too. But I have creepy reasons that, honestly, some may not believe. I’ve woken up to people figures being in my room. They sometimes walk away or fade away, but they’re always staring at me. Dreams? Or more than dreams? When I was a child, I’d wake up randomly at night and sometimes my closet would shake for no reason, in the way it only ever did when someone pushed it.
    It’s been a long time since any of this, but I still struggle with sleep. I put it off as long as possible. The last time I woke up and saw anyone was in a hotel in 2008 in San Francisco. A Vietnamese man and an Italian guy were standing in the corner and walked into the bathroom. And unfortunately, I had to pee.

    • Guest

      I wasn’t much of a ghost-believer but both of my grandparents (who are no-nonsense people) told me stories of seeing ghosts. Grandma was a kid and a girl walked through a wall, said something to her and touched her on the forehead. My grandpa saw just a head with a hand holding a lantern walking through the woods. After hearing those growing up I just have a hard time not worrying about it. I can’t imagine seeing anything myself as I would freak the eff out.

  • Jessie

    You are SO not alone. <3
    It feels insane to admit that I'm TERRIFIED of the dark, both because I'm 25 years old AND because I'm a goth (whom are very well known for loving darkness on average, though obviously not all of us do), but I am. The reasons are threefold: One being that I have ESP and can sense and see otherworldy beings (ghosts and such). Most of them are not harmful, but as a kid I unfortunately saw a few very scary ones and the fear stayed with me.
    The second reason is that I simply have a very active imagination which, thanks to the aforementioned ESP and seeing scary things, now likes to imagine that there are ALWAYS scary things lurking in the shadows.
    The third reason is, unfortunately, my grandmother. Now, grandma was a wonderful woman and I loved her very much, however she had a very poor way of punishing me when I upset her: She would lock me in a pitch dark room. Not even kidding, this room was pitch dark, no windows, no way out except the door she would lock me behind, and I was too small to reach the light switch. I would scream and cry and beat on the door, begging her to let me out or at least turn on the light because I was afraid, and she would ignore me until my grandfather came home and took pity on me. To this day, I can't be in that room of her old house. My husband wanted us to take it as our own room when we move into the house in March, but I flat out REFUSED.

    That third reason is the worst. With time, I may have overcome the other reasons and ben able to deal with darkness, but thanks to that punishment method, I have a very deep psychological phobia of it. It's killer, and always makes me fear having children because I wouldn't be able to help them if they ever developed the fear themselves. I can only pray they don't if I do have them. =(

    • Bethany Ramos

      Awww that is a really rough story, and I’m sorry you had to experience it. Thanks for sharing! <3

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