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

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