For as long as I can remember, I’ve hated the dark, and not particularly loved being on my own completely. I have to run up the stairs as a 26-year-old if I’m the last to turn off the lights, just in case there’s some sort of monster in the house. I know how ridiculous it sounds. I’m fully aware of it as I write this. But it’s been one of those anxieties which for at least over a decade I’ve had and never truly got in the way of life, therefor has never been conquered.
Eventually, it made the thought of one day in my future being in my own home, with a partner away overnight, absolutely terrifying. Something which I’ve never wanted to think about too much or the palpitations begin. It’s one of the big triggers which has happily lived away quietly in my inner world being avoided. Until now. Because it’s here. We’re finally at the first moment of my adult life where I am alone, overnight, in my own house.
Given it’s been something that I was certain for years that I’d never be able to do, this moment has had quite the build-up. Something which I’m sure others with anxiety can appreciate. The build up is almost the worst part of the entire thing because you create this HUGE event when in reality, it’s about 12 hours of my life. Still. My heart rate is pretty high as I write this.
Despite it being high, I’ve had a plan, and given myself a process on how I’m going to overcome this decade long anxiety trigger. If I post this blog piece it means that I’ve been succesful and so I wanted to write this to show myself and you that it’s possible to move through something that you’ve thought was impossible.
Talk to people.
Without doubt I couldn’t be doing this without voicing my anxiety. Talking to my best friends, my mum, my partner about any worries in the lead up has not only helped me navigate the thoughts I was having, but also provided me a support network. Ultimately if I rang anyone within the next 12 hours, I know that not only would they pick up instantly, but they’d already be one step ahead and know why I was most likely ringing. It’s reassuring to know that as I lay in bed tonight there are humans not too far away who know exactly what I’m feeling right now and are there to help if I need. Whilst talking to people may not be the solution, the safety in others knowing is really reassuring.
Stick to routines.
I have a cracking bed time routine. I wash, get into pyjamas, set the house alarm, turn off lamps, turn on my Lumie lamp, put the fan on, get into bed and lather up in moisturiser. It’s a routine that I do every single night and signals to my body and brain that it’s time to switch off from whatever happened in the day. The only difference is there isn’t a man next to me laughing at how convinced I am the variety of lotions and potions are crucial for my wellbeing. By going through the works of my evening routine I feel grounded in focussing on what I’m doing rather than any fear or anxiety, I feel relaxed because it is the ultimate evening routine, and the familiarity provides comfort in an anxious time. Sticking to routines can really help when working through things – whether it’s overcoming an anxiety, going through periods of growth or pain. Trying to keep your world as consistent and chill and having routines that reaffirm, you’re safe and allowed to relax into sleep has been crucial personally.
Stock up on things that make you feel calm
Candles, essential oils, sleep sprays. Whatever it is that helps you physically calm in moments of anxiety, create a little collection. I’ve had candles on all evening, all the lavender products applied, which again is part of my little holistic toolkit to help tell my brain through a variety of ways that I am okay and safe and able to relax.
By now you know that these are a go to tool for me. For this particular experience I’ve been using “I have everything I need to feel safe”, “I am able to feel calm in this situation”, and “It’s okay to be scared of the dark, but be reassured that you’ve done every check and you will be okay”. Finally, “you’ll get through this”. They aren’t your standard affirmations, but it’s language I use, and they’re statements which help me work through this decade long trigger for the first time, which is the goal.
This next section is a little more niche, and relate to this particular fear and anxiety I’m overcoming. Feel free to read or skip to your delight!
A slight upgrade from the can of hairspray that I once used to keep by the side of my bed to attack any intruder with, one big thing since moving into our home has been investing in security. It’s a niche point to add to here but it’s one I wanted to. We’re lucky enough to have cameras and motion alarms and a wireless panic button remote. That means that I can sleep tonight knowing that if anything was to happen, I’m safe. There’s no one getting in or out and I can sleep easy. Again, this is very niche for the trigger that I have but I have to say it’s been such a huge thing for anxiety of being broken in to that I can’t recommend it enough. Even if it isn’t the same as that, if you know that you have a fear or anxiety and you’re able to put something physical such as security to help, it will at least support and reassure you whilst you put together your own process and plan to navigate your individual circumstances or anxieties.
Doing your checks whilst it’s not dark
This penny dropped early in the evening and I’m ever so thankful for it. One part of this overall anxiety is the fear of doing a door check and someone being on the other side of the door in the dark. I don’t know what scary movie planted that thought but I’ve had it for what feels like forever. So I decided to lock all the doors and windows and do all those little safety checks at 7pm. It was light. I could see exactly what was outdoors. And it meant a few hours later I could go upstairs comfortable in knowing everything was locked and checked. It’s again a very niche point but if you have this same anxiety and fear, it really helped.
The morning after
I woke up this morning and can’t quite believe it. I did it. I slept the whole night through alone in my house. Didn’t wake up once. Didn’t have any nightmares. To be honest had one of the most restful sleeps I’ve had all week. No one broke in. No disasters happened. I did it!!!
It’s easy after accomplishing or overcoming something to just walk straight past it like it’s nothing. It can feel disappointing and anti-climactic even that there’s no grand fireworks show or party from the universe. I almost have shame in feeling so anxious and building something up for over a decade. That’s one thing I wasn’t expecting however I know the truth and I’m choosing to ground myself in that today. I know that I’ve had a lot of struggles and problems thrown my way which is what created the fear and anxiety around last night. I know that it was valid and so writing this blog post is my way of acknowledging this whole thing.
I have been anxious about something I built up for over 10 years and last night I overcame it. I’m planning on spending the day today with loved ones and putting myself as a priority because the past 12 hours took a lot of mental energy and knowing me I need all the oxytocin I can get my hands on. I don’t have any specific tips for this part after overcoming or working on something but I think that there is the most important thing you can do – do whatever it is that makes you feel loved today. You achieved something wonderful so deserve that!
I hope this blog post and story has helped you realise that it’s possible, no matter how long your anxiety has been building up around a particular event or story, when the time is right to work through it. Timing is everything, don’t push yourself to work through something on someone else’s timeline if you aren’t ready. Just know that when you are, it will be oh so worth it.