My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.
Quote from Montaigne. Found in a chapter given to me by my therapist. How appropriate.
At our first meeting, my therapist request that I work on a list of things that cause me anxiety. It took a good two hours and three small sheets of paper, but I did it. We haven’t done it up in tiers, but my guess is when we do, I’ll list darkness pretty close to the top.
Because it took our whole hour session for me to get through my list, I got very little homework my second session. One big item I did get was relating to my fear of the dark. She asked me what I did at bedtime, to which I replied that I sleep with the TV on. She asked if I ever considered a noise machine. I explained that I muted the TV right before I went to sleep and that I only keep it on for the light. Apparently, this is not as normal as I thought it was.
I guess my thought process was that night lights were for kids and TVs were adult toys, so having a TV on was more adult and thus less embarrassing. She says most adults if they keep TVs on at night do so for background noise, not for the light. Well, boo. I hate when I think I’m doing something at least somewhat normal and find out that I’m not. She said far more adults use, wait for it….night lights. So I was way off the mark.
So my homework was to get a night light and turn off the TV. I thought this sounded really simple. I ended up getting a kids nightlight even though it defeated my original logic because it was cute and seemed to emit the most light and figured I could step down to a smaller one as I got more comfortable. It has less glow than a TV but a blue hue to it so it has a similar feel. It’s called a Little Tyke I believe. It doesn’t look too childish like a Pixar Princess nightlight or anything.
So last night, I watched TV for a while, felt myself getting sleepy, and turned the TV off for the first time since I’ve had a TV in my room. It took everything in me not to have a panic attack and I have no clue why. The room was well lit. I could see things just as well as I could with the TV on, which isn’t as clear as with the lights on of course, but not as scary as with nothing. Something about the change from my routine threw me off bad and my heart started racing like crazy and my palms were sweating and my breathing got shallow.
I went on like this for about fifteen minutes arguing with myself in my head about turning the TV back on. I started doing my deep breathing because things were getting worse and if I didn’t calm my breathing down I would have had a full blown panic attack and 10:30pm is not a good time to have those, not that they’re great at any time. It took a good thirty minutes for the panic to finally subside. Thirty minutes. Over a night light. Then, once the panic died down, I couldn’t sleep because my body was so keyed up from being in “flight” mode. I probably didn’t actually get to sleep until midnight last night.
Probably not the best thing to do on a Sunday. But in my defense I thought a night light was going to be no big deal.
I have positive and negative things to say about my night light experience.
On the plus side, I freaked out but I got through it and didn’t turn the TV back on. Which means I’m one baby step closer (I guess) to being over my fear of the dark.
On the down side, had you asked me before I did this what my anxiety might have risen to at it’s peak when I did this I might have guessed a 2 when in reality it hit about an 8. So baby steps apparently are baby steps on a rope suspended across buildings over open flames, not baby steps on soft feathery pillows as I’d hoped.
I hope all exposure therapy steps are not quite so difficult. It would be nice to have some easy wins in there. I thought this would be an easy win, but alas no.
All in all, I do have something to be proud of though.