When I was a kid, I was scared all the time. It was so bad that my parents probably would have gotten me help if they had known.
I didn’t sleep very well.
I kept the door wide open so I would never be trapped in the room with ghosts or monsters. In the winter, I only went to the bathroom while the heat was on because I thought the sound would distract the ghosts into not noticing my movements. I checked under the bed, inside my closet, and in the space between my chair and my desk — multiple times a day, even in broad daylight. I did everything I could to avoid looking out windows or into mirrors after sunset.
I was convinced someone had died in the house, even though my family was the first family that ever lived in it.
When I got my driver’s license — yes, my driver’s license, I was 16 — the terror spread out to my car. I was convinced that I was being followed. I didn’t like getting gas at night. I locked my doors as soon as I got in. I always checked the backseat before doing anything else, in case there was a serial killer back there.
My family was concerned I’d go weird places or stay out late, but I was always home before curfew because I didn’t really like being outside the house (yup, the one I thought was haunted) after dark.
I think the terror let up a bit when I got to college. Lights were on all the time. There was always someone awake. I had a roommate. Someone died in my dorm during my freshman year — and I didn’t fear her ghost.
My college boyfriend (now my husband) slowly desensitized me to horror movies. He really liked them, and I’d watch them with him with gritted teeth. Slowly, they became fun. I still have trouble sleeping after them, but only the night after the film, never weeks to follow, like before.
This past week, I realized I was finally better — when I was walking the dog through a graveyard at night. I had thrown on my headphones and was wandering around my husband’s family’s neighborhood, trying to get the dog to poop. (Too much detail? Don’t get a dog or a child. Your dependent’s bowel movements become something you really need to think about).
The usual route around the fam’s neighborhood is up a long hill, around a corner, and a quick loop around a graveyard, then back down.
On autopilot, I took the same route, even though the sun was finishing setting.
I “came to,” as it were, in the middle of a graveyard at night. Which is pretty much the crux of what a person with my horror issues is never supposed to do.
But I honestly didn’t even care. It was a bunch of rocks in the dirt. No spirits. No eeriness. If something were going to attack me or possess me or whatever, it probably would have happened there, and it obviously wasn’t happening.
Over time, as I’ve come to accept and embrace my atheism, I’ve begun to move away from all mysticism and firmly into the realm of science. I have trouble believing in anything for which there’s no proof.
Aliens, Bigfoot, astrology, ghosts, God, the power of crystals, fate, psychics — meh.
Which is something I wish I could go back and tell my younger self.
I’d tell her, “Not only will you be inside a graveyard at night, voluntarily, but you’ll stay and take pictures there. Everything’s gonna be great. You’ll see. Now get some damn sleep.”
What were you frightened of as a child?