When I was a kid I was convinced of a lot of things.
There was a toothy monster lurking in the deep end of the pool, wild boars are evil and had a personal vendetta against me, I’d be kidnapped if I went to the bathroom by myself in a public place, my brother was adopted (quite possibly from another planet), and there was a coven of witches and a few spare vampires that lived under my bed. If I was particularly loud I might wake them during the day, but typically they were only active at night.
Now I know that most kids are afraid there’s something in their closet or under their bed. Maybe something in the attic or the basement. But I wasn’t just afraid they were there. I didn’t think they were under there. I knew it.
So even though I loved sleeping, every night when my mom told me to go to bed I experienced an unreasonable sense of fear, a lurking terror. It was all I could do not to break down in tears. Because as certain that I was that they were there I also knew that I was being unreasonable. That there was nothing but dust bunnies, Legos, shoes, and doll clothes down there. But I couldn’t shake that sense that I was going to be devoured like a child in a particularly grim fairytale. Every single night.
So I devised a strategy.
My bed was just far enough from the door that I couldn’t climb straight into it but close enough to make me think I could. So I’d run down the hallway pitch left into my room, grab the post at the end of my 4-poster bed, and swing into my bed with my feet hardly touching the floor.
This left the door open, so once I calmed down and caught my breath I’d crawl to the foot of the bed and reach my short little arms wide across the treacherous open expanse and pull the door partially shut, always of course, making sure it was open enough for someone wandering down the hall to see if someone or something had eaten me or drained all the blood from my body. Then I’d wriggle into the covers making sure that I was encased in blankets from toes to chin.
You see the witches would be lured out by bare feet and the vampires obviously went for the neck.
Then I’d lie there in that terror state completely covered and quite probably overheating reasoning that there was nothing to lure them out and then I would take deep breaths and internally narrate a different story, a calm story, a somewhere else story, until my little mind was too tired and distracted from spinning itself out to be awake any longer.
I didn’t know it at the time, in fact I didn’t realize it until years later as a grown ass adult, but that is the recurring event I can pinpoint as my first method for coping with anxiety. The groundwork for coping methods that would help me manage anxiety well into my adult life…