It was a cold night in the year 2010 at the peak of my generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks, there I was in my ‘man cave’ playing the victim and feeling sorry for the people that cared about me and what I was putting them through. To this day I vividly remember the way I walked up those stairs to the main living room every night alone and scared. I remember keeping the light on in the staircase, and flipping the switch with a long stick that I made once I made it to the top. I also remember always looking back down the staircase as if some presence was watching me the whole time, that gave me the heebie-jeebies every time!
The fear or phobia was never about the darkness itself, but the imagined dangers concealed by the darkness. Funny enough though when someone
was with me downstairs and for some reason I had to make my way back up the stairs, even if it was in the dark things were relatively calm, cool and for the most part effortless. What I learned through that cycle of panic I went through during those times dealing with my fears of the dark was that when our primary sense of sight is taken away from us, we get into a state of panic. So the memory of this panic is stored and of course whenever things get dark guess what, the cycle of panic begins… but why? Simply because our sense of hearing becomes heightened, and a small crackling sound automatically comes with a million different questions sent to our protective minds.
Facing The Fear In Small Doses
OK, so I know you’ve heard it all before and so have I… if you fear something face it and eventually it will go away. But I want to be a little more specific about what I did to stop the biggest fear that we all hate to admit the most. Step by step I started with:
1) Understanding that having generalized anxiety disorder comes with a big imagination, this reality check becomes hugely important.
2) A SYSTEMATIC approach to facing the fear of darkness starting with watching a funny movie that included many dark moments in it, I suggest (scary movie) which then makes you look at the dark in more of a sensible and comedic way, having someone stay the night with me downstairs where my fears mainly take place, having a nightlight and spending the night downstairs on my own, and finally looking fear right in the face and sleeping the entire night on my own (the systematic approach can be broken down into many much smaller pieces though).
There’s nothing to be ashamed of here that’s for sure, back in the historic cave-dwelling days being afraid of the dark was a good thing and helped people survive potential attacks from numerous types of beasts. There’s nothing to fear… but fear itself and nothing can bring greater relief than to challenge the fear and restructure your idea of what darkness is.