When I was about 12-14 or so, my anxiety, depression, and panic attacks were at their very worst. The world was a terrifying place. Night was the scariest time. During that period of my life, each time the sun set there was such a sense of absolute finality. I had a strong feeling that everything was ending (the day, the hours, the light, etc.). Each and every night, it felt like the sun would never rise again. It was so bad that I frequently had anxiety and panic attacks as the sun was setting.
Looking back, I think part of the problem was control, or lack of. The sun would go down and night would fall, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it. Not me, not my parents, not anyone.
I don’t think it was the sun going down so much as what it made me realize. I was realizing how little power or control I really had. I was having panic attacks and health issues that made me painfully aware of how little control I had over my own body or mind. What was worse was realizing that even my parents had little power. They couldn’t magically fix me, just as they couldn’t magically make the sun rise.
I still occasionally feel this panic come out of nowhere as the sun sets. I now have such strong coping mechanisms that it rarely fazes me anymore, fortunately. But it still causes me a twinge of strong anxiety every now and again. But I have techniques. I remember that the sun is always shining somewhere in the world. I fantasize about hopping on a plane to follow the sun. I turn on all the lights and distract myself with a good book. I remind myself that–while I can’t control a lot in life–there are still plenty of things I can control.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe that night was such a terror-inducing event. Now, night is my haven. I’m not sure when this drastic shift occurred, but I do know that it took place over a very long period of time. It was a crawling, struggle of a transition.
I love the night. Especially late night. It’s my favorite part of the day in many respects. The night now feels as it should: a natural end to the day.
But to me, it’s more. It’s permission to relax. I can relax from the day’s work. And I don’t mean just my job. I mean the work of functioning in the outside world. I can stop the constant self-regulation that I must perform throughout the day.
Night feels so blissfully alone. It’s wonderfully quiet, wonderfully dark, and wonderfully peaceful. People aren’t bustling around nearly as much, businesses aren’t open, cars aren’t honking, the sun isn’t glaring….
Everything is pleasantly muted: colors, lights, sounds, people, demands, responsibilities….
Night is my time. It’s just me in my space with my own rules and my own control.
Nighttime is as far removed as I can get from the sensory overload-inducing, frenzied world that some people actually appear to enjoy living in!
I take this dramatic transition as hope. Hope that I can learn the necessary coping mechanisms to turn a fear into a love. Discovery that something terrifying doesn’t have to be permanent. Knowledge that I am strong enough to be my own light.
[image description: A table with many flower-shaped lamps on them. The background is dark and the red and yellow flower lamps are shining brightly.]