Saturday night, I left my nine year old daughter downstairs while I went up to take a shower. She was watching a Harry Potter movie, which can be a bit spooky when you’re alone in a room and it’s dark outside. But, when I asked her if she was okay staying downstairs by herself, she shrugged as if I’d asked her the dumbest question ever and she replied, “Sure. I’m fine.”
A few minutes later, I was washing my hair and our dog started to bark incessantly…and I started to get anxious. Obviously someone was outside and my daughter was alone downstairs, and I was not in any condition to answer the door should someone knock. My husband wasn’t home and my last post about Amityville Horror was fresh in my mind.
Eventually the dog stopped barking, but as I finished showering I came to a realization. When someone jumps out to scare me, there’s a reason I burst into tears.
This is not about the boogie-man or being scared to go to haunted houses. This is not about getting spooked. My fear is real.
When I was eight, my aunt not only took me to my first horror movie, but that was also the year that another eight year old girl, who lived near me, was picked up on her way home from school, sexually assaulted, and murdered. They found her body a few miles from where I lived. They never found the killer.
Her death was the reason that my childhood memories include staying up all night reading, because I was scared of my own dreams.
After my kids go to sleep, I go into their rooms and marvel at how they are peacefully slumbering when their closet doors are open. Then I shut them. I move hanging clothes so they don’t cast frightful shadows if they wake during the night. I shove toys out of the way should they need to come running to me. These were the things I did, and still do, so I can sleep through the night. I don’t do it because my kids need it, it’s because I do.
In my teens and early twenties, I was involved in an abusive relationship. It ended with him stalking me and threatening me. I bought a gun and learned how to use it. The police had enough evidence to press charges against him, but that’s never stopped the nightmares.
Then shortly after my husband and I were married, I was home alone when I saw a car drive slowly past our house, over and over. Something about it was unsettling. A short time later, a strange man approached my window and looked inside.
I was standing a few feet away, in a dark shadow with my gun in my trembling hand. I didn’t know if he was going break in while I stood within an arms length. He left as quickly as he appeared, but I still don’t know what he was doing or what he wanted. The police caught him that night at the end of our street and pressed charges against him. That is why we went out a few weeks later and bought our dog.
These random events have made me paranoid. These random events have done enough to scar me so that the slightest “boo” completely freaks me out.
But somehow, I have not transferred any of this to my children. They can go to sleep with their closet doors open. Somehow, despite the anxiety I have deep inside of me, my daughter can watch Harry Potter alone, in the dark, with the dog barking at someone outside.
And if that doesn’t prove that I’m conquering these demons, I don’t know what will.