Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Are you afraid of the dark?

*trigger warning* (While this post doesn't talk much about the act of sexual abuse, it does talk a bit about its aftermath.)

This post is a pretty personal one, so if you know me (I'm assuming most of my readers at this point do) and don't want to think of me in any deep way, you may want to skip this one.

Okay. Now that all the disclaimers are through, I can begin to tell you what's going on today. This morning I read an article about adults who suffer from insomnia and if they are afraid of the dark (spoiler alert: a lot of them are). As you will notice in reading this blog, most everything gets me thinking. So this, of course, got me thinking.

[Personal anecdote after the jump.]

I have trouble sleeping. I always have; even as a baby I had to talk myself to sleep. It's just part of who I am. (BUT I do believe I might not have such a difficult time sleeping if I hadn't been sexually abused as a child.) When I was around 16 or 17, I suffered from such intense insomnia that I would go days sleeping only 1-2 hours at night until I finally crashed. During that year, I was especially easy to startle at night. The curious thing about my case is that I was especially easy to startle even when I had a light on. I often would try to read myself to sleep or to sleep with a dim light on so I could see what was going on if I were startled back awake.

I already know I am afraid of the dark, which is not uncommon for survivors of abuse. I guess my question for the researchers is if the people with insomnia are jumpier overall. I know when I was going through that period of my life, they type of sleep I was able to get was easy to disrupt. The slightest sound woke me up.

Cassie Murdoch over at Jezebel, suggests that this should be simple to counter. We could all just turn on nightlights. I'm not saying that I expect Jezebel to address everything seriously; it just got me thinking. I would also be interested to see studies that work to determine if people are more afraid of the dark or of falling asleep. I, for one, would openly admit that sometimes I'm afraid of both. And this is coming from someone who loves to sleep. Sometimes the overwhelming sense that the monsters will get us that we experienced as children stays with us (especially if we have reason to believe that the monsters sometimes did get us). But is that a fear of the dark (in which the monsters hide) or of sleep (during which we are vulnerable)? I'm not sure this is something that could even be quantified and I don't know what I'd hope to discover from the outcome, but I would be interested to see if they were able to separate the two phobias.

Come on, science, get on figuring out my brain so we can "fix" it. ;)

Anyway, is anyone else afraid of the dark? Or do any of you startle yourself awake and realize you were just afraid of falling asleep?

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