Tuesday, March 21, 2017. 12:00 Midnight.
I felt uneasy and stressed the whole night. The previous day, I had a disagreement with my dad. Finals were coming up, deadlines were coming up. It was dark outside. I got into my boyfriend’s car as he was driving me home, I was seated shotgun side, shut the door, placed my backpack on my lap and put my seat belt on. The car light went out. I felt something, like a presence and felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as if someone was breathing on it, and watching me. (My boyfriend told me after the fact that he noticed me breathing heavily and he was calling my name but I was unresponsive, staring straight ahead). He put his hand on my shoulder and loudly called my name. That is when I noticed his hand on my my shoulder, and turned my head to look at him. His hand felt foreign and to be honest, I didn’t recognize him at first or understand what he was saying. (I was told at this point I began hyperventilating). Then I saw a shadowy human form lying down on the backseat of the car, it’s head on the driver’s seat side so I, on the shotgun side was able to see their whole upper body when I turned my head to look at my boyfriend. As I looked my boyfriend in the eye, in my peripheral vision, I saw the shadowy figure rise to a sitting position and begin to lean forward, reaching for me. I thought it was going to kill me.
(I was told at this point, that my scream and body language of fear was so genuine that my boyfriend actually believed that there was someone in the car. I fumbled and opened the car door, unlocked the seat belt, and jumped out of the car, throwing my backpack onto the wet pavement, and crouched with my back to the car. I was also apparently shaking, crying, and hyperventilating and looking like I was having trouble breathing as if having a panic attack). I do remember the asthmatic-like tightness in my chest as I tried to breathe while trying to look for a place to run away and hide to, and something to defend myself. My boyfriend came around to hold me to calm me down. Eventually I did.
I still had to get home. It was difficult for him to coax me back into the car (because I would starting crying and panicking once I walked towards the car) and we had to check all around the backseat of the car and the surroundings to make sure the shadow person was gone. Finally I entered the car because he turned on all the lights inside the car. It was unsafe, but he drove me home with all the lights on in the car and walked me to the door. I wasn’t planning to let my mom know, but as soon as I stepped into the house and saw her I broke down in tears and told her everything, with the help of my boyfriend over the phone.
It was a valuable lesson for me, despite the scary hallucination. Because I let everyone know of my fear, and they understood how real this fear was, my boyfriend replaced all the old light bulbs in the house, as well as install better lightening to light up all the dark spaces in the house, so it would reduce the possibility of the shadow people appearing. My mom now leaves a dim light on at night so the house isn’t completely dark, and keeps the night lights handy. She also takes extra precautions in case there is a power outage whenever the weather is bad. Dad installed blindingly bright motion detector lights so that the short walk from the car parking to the door is easier (it was previously usually pitch black). It has made everything drastically easier.
However, since that incident, I’ve had to sleep with the lights on in my room. It has caused a drastic change in my sleep schedule as I can’t sleep when it is dark outside despite my room being lit up. I am scared that when I close my eyes, I will feel something breathing on my face and neck again, and when I open my eyes I fear seeing the shadow people in their now more realistic form, hovering over my bed. I can’t sleep at night without fearing the shadow people popping up in my lit-up room because as far as I’m concerned, when I close my eyes and see the darkness behind my eyelids, it is enough fuel for the shadow people. I’m more vulnerable to panicking when I am in the dark since I’ve gotten a taste of how terrifying it is. My heart rate rises when I’m in the dark and I need to turn the lights on or they will come. I am afraid to see something so frightening and fear for my life-like that again. Now I stay away from anything scary, including: YouTube gaming videos of Resident Evil (which I used to watch), horror comics, being careful of ads (in case they are a trailer for horror movies…. which has happened and I almost peed my pants), many things involving supernatural things… ect. Also now I get scared at sudden movements even more, or break down crying when someone (unintentionally) scares me.
I have talked to my psychiatrist about this issue. I have the option of taking some anxiety medications (due to the panic attacks and anxiety symptoms I get, but I don’t have anxiety), or I also have the option of taking sleeping pills to, y’unno, help me get rid of my beautiful dark circles and help me fall asleep before the ungodly hours of 5AM (I’m typing this right now at 2AM). I chose neither. Why? Because I’m a stubborn asshole that thinks she can handle everything by sheer will alone even though my mental state is a fucking mess…. Also I don’t want to deal with the side effects. The lithium side effects are barely manageable for me. I can’t deal with the anxiety ones or the sleeping pills. The negatives outweigh the benefit of the drugs. I am also tired of taking so many medications all the time. I just want to go back to “normal” even though I will never go back to that state of medicine and mental illness free bliss.
My psychiatrist suggested one last treatment option which I am not ready to start yet. It is forcing myself to be exposed to my fears in frequent short periods that increase in length as I get better, and treating myself after each session. Basically I’m making myself into Pavlov’s dog and conditioning myself to get over my fear. Except I’m both Pavlov and Pavlov’s dog…. so does that make me Schrodinger’s cat?
P.S. I’ve put this off for a while because I have shitty habit of delaying anything related to my mental health and in writing and in reality. (I mean really, I delayed asking for help last year with my mental health until I literally needed to go to emergency. Go figure.)