How Mental Illness Changed My Relationship With the Night


I used to have such a good relationship with the night. It was my favorite time. It was a place I could go where the world shut off and I could just exist. I loved everything about it from the smell of cold, dark air to the dead silence that amplified my every breath. It was frozen time kept just for me and my things, a space not even the light could penetrate. I loved the way it felt on my skin and in my head. Quiet and calm.

When I was a teenager, I lived with my father, step mother and two step sisters. Space and privacy were often an issue with even my bedroom unsafe from unwanted disturbances. But the nighttime was mine and mine alone. With the house asleep, I would sneak downstairs in my comfiest band T-shirt, turn on the TV and the desktop (one of the old, big computers where you plugged the internet in to the phone line) and plod sleepily around the kitchen making hot chocolate and beans on toast. I’d watch all the cartoons I couldn’t watch during the day as well as movies and a lot of stand-up comedy. I’d browse the internet, talk on my favorite street team forums to friends across the pond, chat on messenger and read all the fantasy fiction I could get my mouse on. It felt like night was a place I could just be me. I could do all of my favorite things with my mind completely closed off from the struggles and stresses of the daytime. I was relaxed. I was alone. I was at peace and there was no one and nothing around that could get to me.

Later on in life as I struggled more and more, the stresses of the day began to bleed in to the night until, one night, the night became as dark as the day. I was no longer safe, no longer undisturbed and protected by that quiet peace. Now I was disturbed, annoyed, rattled and belittled by a monster with long, sharp claws that buried into my brain and a pointed, venom filled tongue that hissed doubts and put downs in to my ear. I no longer watched all my favorite shows and ate all my favorite foods. I was no longer free but instead trapped, my bed a custom coffin keeping me caught between the limbo of night and finality of sunrise. Nighttime was now my nightmare.

As I slipped deeper into myself, the monster became monsters, multiplying and hiding in the silence, taking on faces of those I once knew and learning new and terrifying phrases to pander to my every fear and insecurity. Too scared to sleep and even more so not to, the solitude that was once my freedom became my prison.

These days, as I attempt with great difficulty to climb out of my head, I am slowly trying to re-establish my relationship with the sunset and all that follows after. Often physically and mentally spent from life and worries I usually slip easily into sleep. On the nights it takes a little longer, a few episodes of a favorite show or a movie will do the trick, and I am soon lulled in to that quiet relief of unconsciousness.

Some nights, some unsuspecting and others unsurprising, I lay in bed in a stiff and terrified silence waiting for the monsters to awaken…

Getty Images photo via pinkomelet


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Mental Health

watercolor illustration of abstract girl holding a bouquet, handmade treditional artwork scaned

The Anger I Felt Once I Realized I Didn't Deserve to Be Abused as a Child

I don’t know what caused it, but one morning, a few weeks ago, I woke up tired of feeling guilty and ashamed of my feelings. Perhaps it was that very feeling of sheer exhaustion that did it — maybe I had utterly worn myself out from all the berating and self-loathing I had felt for [...]
digital painting set of girl in traditional mexican dress, acrylic on canvas texture, story telling illustration

The Type of Childhood Bullying We Don't Talk About — That Still Affects My Mental Health Today

To give a bit of context for this story, I am 25 and have been legally blind since birth. Having a disability can make socializing challenging — particularly in middle school. Up until eighth grade, I hadn’t had too many issues with it because kids tend to be more accepting up until middle school. I was [...]
15 'Rude' Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because of Dissociation

15 'Rude' Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because of Dissociation

Dissociation is a mental process that causes a lack of connection in someone’s thoughts, memory and sense of identity. It can often leave folks who experience it feeling disconnected from reality or their body. And while this sensation is real to the person going through it — it may not be obvious to the people around [...]
woman sitting on hospital bed anxiously awaiting doctor

The Amazing Things I Saw During My First Psychiatric Hospital Admission

This is an entry I made during hospital, with a few edits. It was a good day. The next day sucked, but this is what I saw, words and images included. I have seen the power of community. From the late night conversations in the kitchen, when your sleeping medication hasn’t quite kicked in and [...]