Sleep fear

by katiclops

Dreams are private myths, myths are public dreams.

-Joseph Campbell

Legomen at Discovery Coffee, March, 2012

Most young children have overactive imaginations.

Some young children have hyperactive ones.
Ones whose mind provides a 3-D Technicolor sieve through which they strain the rest of the world. Barreling along like a freight train headed everywhere instantly and working on the geometry of spherical thinking.
I was one of those children.

In tandem with my Virgo aptitude for obsessing over details, this meant that seemingly benign events could catalyze a perpetual motion machine of paranoia. The world was a precarious place for this little one. And my adventuresome little soul would attempt to develop solutions to the very worst case of those scenarios.

At the age of five, several months after watching Bambi for the first time and shortly after visiting the fire station with my Sparks troupe, I went through my fear of flames. I began taking family dinners next to the front door (to facilitate an easy exit at the first sign of fire). I started refusing to leave my small purple unicorn duffle-bag (stuffed with my favorite books and trinkets).

I also refused to take off my favorite sweater. Pink and knit by my aunt, it was itchy as anything; this quality only trumped by the fact that I had heard somewhere that wool was somewhat fire retardant. Also as a potential orphan (given my parents frivolous habits of eating at the table), I knew the mean streets of Hamilton could be a chilly place for a five-year old.
I was overheated and overwrought with the notion that my family would perish in flames as they dined foolishly-no more than an additional 20 feet farther from the door.

Endless curiosity and two sets of vintage children’s encyclopedias was oil to my fire, as a fascination with geology would be quickly followed with a paranoia of earthquakes; interest in history followed by anticipation of nuclear attack; dappling in astronomy hotly followed by an extra-terrestrial obsession; and my fourth grade research project on Titanic resulted in vivid visions of drowning our canoe on Georgian Lake (our Novacraft hit no doubt, by a rogue iceberg or freak storm)-followed closely by being taken to court and having my parents lose our house due to unintentional plagiarism of the dictionary.
Having my parents outlaw certain reading and “research” materials only furthered my quest to learn more, bringing me to new and uncharted threats and phobias.

Sea anemones would have incited weeks of nerve-toxin terror.

Tide pool, Ruckle Park, September 2012

Daylight was fine.

It was at the onset of nigh thatt things would begin to move. A truck exiting the nearby highway would be the first sign of an invasion. One night I strained my hearing so much I mis-identified trains passing by our house over two kilometers away as American missiles. The creaks and groans of our wood-frame old two-storey would spiral me off into ghost story land (or worse). Prompting transcripts of Tales from the Dead and reincarnations of campfires to dance in my head.

As I became busier and more taxed with school I gradually began to siphon off my consumption of fodder for fear. I stopped listening to ghost stories on tape, and instead turned my attentions to music. I replaced perusing my grandmother’s National Enquirers with my grandfather’s yellowed collection of Herman anthologies. Irregardless, stress always manifested itself in bouts of insomnia. Years later all my diligent research on apparitions would return, racing through my mind at 3:30 AM.

I thought I’d cured myself.

When I hit my final years of high school, insomnia returned with a vengeance. Huge bags grew under my eyes as I assumed a nightly vigil for weeks on end, waking from three until five AM. Most nights I’d begin by refusing to admit I was awake for the first half-hour. Next, I’d scour the ground floor for bandits (wielding jerry-rigged toy bat as protection). If I was feeling particularly ambitious, once the ground floor was secure, 16-year-old me would make tea. Then I’d prop my eyes open as long as humanly possible while attempting to read trashy and mundane teen fiction novels. Finally, by around 5AM, when I heard my dad getting up for his shift an hour later, as dawn was blearily breaking over the skyline, sleep would grip me; tugging my eyelids back down to closed and releasing my from insomnia’s strange stranglehold.

When I was younger I found ultimately my only real catharsis lay in my catalyst: more research.
Our opening screen door and mysterious thud every morning before 5? The first edition of our paper.
Our house catching on fire is statistically improbable and we lived 800m from the fire station.
Would a lamprey appear out of tub? No, chlorine will take care of that.
The nearest active volcano was Iceland, and the easiest way to avoid poltergeists? Stop thinking about them.

Deciphering my dreams and dissecting my discomforts made them disappear.

But last night, at 3:30AM everything came rushing back.