There must be support groups for this type of problem. I mean, really. Aren’t I too old to still believe that monsters are under the bed at night, just waiting to grab my ankles? I can picture it now. “Hi. My name is Erin and I can’t get out of bed at night without wondering what might be waiting for me in the dark.” How did I get this way? A combination of an overactive imagination and siblings who did their best to scare the crap out of me as a child. We’ve all got those stories, right? There’s a reason I’ve avoided horror movies for most of my adult life. Anything they’ve come up with, I’ve already imagined. I don’t need help creating imaginary beasts that wait in the closet or under the bed, just waiting for me to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom or get some water. Yep, I’m a walking, talking scaredy-cat.
As a child, I was told we had a brother who lived under the house. He was fed through the vents in the floor and at night, he would watch us all through those vents. Just what a five-year old needs to hear. Did I mention there was a vent right next to my bed? They also told me the “Pine Girl” lived under the house also, and she came into the house at night through the credenza in the entry. They didn’t say what she did, but they didn’t need to. I was afraid of that credenza for years. And to this day, I still occasionally feel like there’s something watching me through the vents.
Flash forward a few years, and the “how much can we scare Erin” campaign has evolved. Now, my brother just uses a creepy smile and stare down the dark hallway to scare the crap out of me. I think some of my knee problems stem from my reluctance to let them dangle off the couch…EVER. Of course, because I was so creeped out, he had to walk me down the hall whenever I needed to pee. My dad used to always ask why I left my bedroom and the hallway light on. “Because I don’t want to walk down there in the dark.” Seemed logical enough to me. Then there was the time my brother played some scary music on the organ, and stood in the darkened hallway in front of my room. I was trying to get to sleep, and suddenly I see a figure in my door. “Sean, stop it!” said in a child’s scared voice. “It’s not Sean” said in a creepy, gravelly voice. “Mom!” I screamed. “Sean, stop scaring your sister,” sighed the exasperated mother.
I can’t tell you how many times I knocked my bed off the frame growing up. The bathroom was next to my bedroom, but it still required getting out of bed, passing the closet (which HAD to be closed), and turning the corner to get the light on in the bathroom. I think my parents got used to be blinded by the light in the middle of the night fairly quickly. On the way back, I had to get out of that bathroom and back into bed in as few steps as possible. This is where I developed some very good long jumping and triple jumping skills. I could usually make the trip in three steps and one large jump, where I launched myself from midroom onto my bed. I almost always woke my sister up with this trick.
Now, I did suffer from horrible nightmares for years, which have nothing to do with being teased by my siblings. It was always the same dream and I had it several times a week for probably 10 years. I would wake up in the middle of the night and need to either go into a bathroom or another room for something. I’d go to turn the light on, and nothing would happen. I’d try again. Nothing. I would then be overcome with this sense of fear and that something evil was waiting for me in the shadows. I’d start making my way back to bed, where I was usually confronted by some monster. I’d scream for help but couldn’t make a sound. I would then wake up in bed. And the monster was right next to me. I’d scream more, but there was nobody to help. Waking up with my heart racing, I’d lay there trying to calm down. Only to discover I was STILL in the nightmare. Once I really did wake up, I had a horrible time going back to sleep. Everywhere I looked in the room, I felt like something was waiting for me. And I always needed to use the bathroom after those dreams, and getting out of bed was the last thing I wanted to do. As I got older, I learned to at least recognize that I was in the dream and started using my thumbnail to determine if I was really awake. I would dig it into my leg or index finger. If I didn’t feel it, I knew I wasn’t out yet. Fortunately, those dreams have stopped altogether. Why? Well, that’s a whole post in itself.
But now you can possibly see why even at my advanced age, I still have a small fear of what awaits me in the dark corners of my house. And I’d like to leave you with a humorous tale of my neurosis.
Picture it. Colorado, 1997. I’m on vacation with my family and we’re staying in a hotel. I’m sharing a room with my sister and her boyfriend, and my mom, dad, and aunt are in an adjoining room. I had the bed closest to the bathroom for the obvious reasons. Now, at this point, I’ve graduated from college, but I still tend to do the “nighttime leap” when I’m in strange places. This particular jump was relatively short. A large side-step out the bathroom door and one two foot jump to the bed. No problem. I’ve done longer jumps half-asleep. My sister is still awake and can just make out my shadow as I start my launch. I get some decent air, hit the bed on my stomach…and slide head-first right off the other side and into the nightstand. Those were some slippery damn sheets. Fortunately my hand caught the nightstand and I wasn’t hurt. But we were laughing so hard that my mom comes in and says “What the hell is going on in here? You two are going to get us kicked out!” Now, we’re laughing so hard we’re crying and hyperventilating, so we couldn’t explain what happened. All that came out were squeals of laughter.