Ok, really I am. Of the dark. Not actually scared of the dark, but what might be in the dark, waiting to get me. I'm not scared of the trees groaning, the nocturnal creatures roaming. The wind blowing through the foliage, the chirp of a cricket or the scamper of a raccoon. I am fine with these sounds and look forward to them. But there is a barrier. When darkness descends like a giant blanket on the land, blotting out the light, I am gripped with fear.
As the sun sets and darkness looms, my breathe quickens and my chest tightens. I strain my eyes to make out what is in my path. That stump looks like a person. I tell myself it is only a stump. I remind myself that there is no one out here, and if there was, they would not want to harm me.....but what if there was. What if a person were out there, ready to end it all?
The first time I can remember fearing something in the dark, I was about 6 yrs old. We had just moved from France, where we had lived for 3 yrs. We moved into a house that had some sort of evergreen outside the bathroom window. With no curtain on the window, I always imagined someone sitting in the tree watching me.
Sometime during the 3 yrs that I lived there, I was bullied at school. The bully threatened me and told me that he drives by my house and watches me.
When I was 9/10yrs old, we moved to the Caribbean. A small island called Bonaire. Inhabited by 20,000 of the nicest people in the world, I was in paradise. I hitchhiked with total strangers, rode my bike to town, jumped off of the pier with other kids, and generally lived the dream.
I cannot remember if it was while we were living in the house or after we moved across town that a neighbor was murdered and dragged through our back yard to be dumped out in the woods. I didn't get many details, only snippets as the adults whispered about the tragedy. Several other similar tragic events occurred while we were there. ( between the ages of 10 and 16yrs for me).
I remember riding bikes with friends in the dark and being fine, but when it was time to head home, there was one particular stretch, about 1/2 a mile long that did not have streetlights. I remember being gripped with fear and "hearing footsteps" chasing me as I sprinted home.
When I was about 13 yrs old, a friend and I went out into the "wild" open land and set up a tent by a small lake. We were camping out, about 1 mile from home. Around 10pm, some birds that sounded like humans started making some shrill laughing sounds. We both got spooked and bailed, heading to the "safety" of our homes.
Fast forward to ages 16-19, I lived in Charlotte, then moved to Georgia for college, spending quite a bit of time outside, and doing some solo camping/backpacking. I struggled every time the sun went down.
I got married and we had several good backpacking trips on the AT and around the Chattanooga River. I love waking up in the middle of the woods, seeing the first light of dawn, and the woods coming to life. It feels great.
One time we were camped at Graveyard Fields, and a rock hit the outside of our tent. I thought that I had previously "heard" something out there, but after the rock hit, and our dog went ballistic, I was sure that someone was out there. Nothing ever came of it, but it was very strange.
A murderer on the loose in Pisgah, meth labs, rumors of marijuana crops and armed guards....all feeding the fear.
And now at 40 years old, as I walk out of my back door and into the yard, that fear grips me. I peer over my shoulder like someone is coming for me. Always a person in my imagination, a male, out to get me. Most of the time, fears such as these stem from some sort of traumatic experience. That's why I listed the ones above. I don't remember any sort of physical harm or abuse ( other than spankings and strong/stern/angry scolding).
I write this because after asking around, I find that I am not alone in this. I know a lot of people who for whatever reason are afraid to be alone in the woods at night. I am also writing this with the hopes of finding a coping mechanism, so that I can enjoy being out there at night. I am writing this to let you know, that you are not the only one, as I have felt for a long time.
It is such a different peaceful world, and I want to be able to enjoy it. I want to ride my bike out there, into the woods, find a spot to sleep, crawl into my sleeping bag and fall asleep with out fearing that I am going to die.
I've been told that this is natural, and that I am normal. But I disagree. I am typically able to face my fears and move past them. This one has proven to be a little bit tougher, but I'm going to try. My goal is to go out and camp alone, and rest well.
Are you afraid of what is in the dark? Do you find this is a barrier to you? What coping skills do you use? How have you overcome?