Being scared can keep a man from getting killed, and often makes a better fighter out of him. – Louis L’Amour
We often hear people saying how our fears are “unfounded” or silly. People like to think that by making them seem small, somehow that wordplay will fix the fear itself, OR that because they can’t see how it would be fearful to THEM, they diminish the fear it brings out in someone else. Yes, there are some fears that are a bit more “unfounded” than others; like my fear of some meteor falling out of the sky and smashing my car to bits, yeah that’s a little out there, or my fear of a giant Godzilla sized spider coming to spin me in to a cocoon and eat me later, yes, a bit unreasonable.
I mean true fears. Those fears are real, and those are meant to be acknowledged, not ignored or mocked. I joke a lot because it’s easy and a safe way to express my feelings but I have fears, and yes, they literally keep me up at night.
I share with you one (of many) fears and WHY I have been made fearful of it. Knowing why helps me keep it in check, but it doesn’t mean I am cured of it. I have nightmares, night terrors, and I have them regularly. I experience them, at best, maybe a couple times a month and at worst, something like 3 nights a week. I call out from my sleep and wake myself (when I’m lucky enough to wake from them) yelling. *To be clear, not every one of my night terrors is the same one I am writing about. Sometime they are violent, gory and intensely gruesome*
This particular fear takes dream shape, most the time, as if I am in the moment. I am in my bed, in that strange state of half awake feeling and half asleep. I am able to see my room, in a realistic state and a shadowy figure appears above, or to the sides of me. I can sense them dripping with malice and darkness, and I know they want to hurt me. I’m paralyzed and can barely even open my mouth to yell. To be honest, yelling is an improvement for me, because it used to be screaming for “help,” but nowadays I find myself firmly yelling “no” at the shape more often than calling for someone to save me, though I still do from time to time.
I know I have fears of people coming to hurt me in my sleep, because people have. Some have succeeded, and others have not, but waking to find a shadow looming over me with intent to harm is not something my mind created from nowhere. This fear was born from experience. Some people made it into my room. Some people were able to touch me while I slept and then when I woke I couldn’t muster the courage to scream. Some lurked outside my house at far too late of hours to mean, or want, anything good; they then taunted me as I cowered in a corner, clutching my pepper spray, trying not to breathe so they would think I was not home.
These moments in my life that are not peaceful or pleasant, but they exist and I can’t run from them. Facing the fear isn’t always manageable, hence why those fears get to take shape and breathe down my neck while I sleep. Control is not the goal, because my mind does things I can never even begin to understand, but instead I find (for me) the goal is recognition. I know now when my fears are feeding my imagination and spinning me into an anxious unrest in the dark shadows of my room. I know how to make myself feel safe, by putting barriers up around me and sleeping in a confined space. I recognize now (most the time) when something is a nightmare, and can try to wake myself up. I also recognize that my reactions now are more driven toward fighting and protecting myself rather than asking someone to save me, or being an unwilling, silent participant.