When I was young, it wasn’t easy for me to fall asleep at night. I’d have nightmares or worse, it was just the darkness that bothered me. This proclivity drove my parents more than a little crazy but they may have actually been somewhat at fault.
A few years ago, a study showed that religious children had a harder time distinguishing fantasy from reality than nonreligious kids. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense: you’re telling children that certain fantastical things that happen aren’t real, but that others–a talking snake, a talking donkey, using a stick to part a sea–are perfectly rational events. It’s confusing, to put it gently.
It also might be why I had a devil of a time sleeping when I was a child.
When I was younger, I watched a lot of science fiction. I grew up on things like Star Trek, Battlestar Galatica, Space Giants and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Now, for cheesy science fiction, to a young kid those special effects and aliens and everything else looked pretty damned real. Some of the stuff was truly unsettling if not terrifying; I was one of those kids who watched the rather infamous space vampire episode of Buck Rogers. Yes, that one, the one that traumatized the living shit out of a lot of kids. I sat and watched that episode. It goes without saying that I didn’t have a peaceful night’s sleep for weeks afterward.
Can you see why I’d have a little bit of trouble sleeping when I was younger? I mean, it’s fairly obvious right now.
It also didn’t help matters that I was a churchgoer. On one hand, I was told that everything I saw when I watched Battlestar Galactica wasn’t real. But the idea that someone had been nailed to some wood, died and then came back from the whole death and torture thing? Nah, that was actually real and I should believe in it.
Confusing? You bet it was.
It also didn’t help matters when my mother would tell her lovely stories of what would happen in the “end times”; how there would be soldiers who would come to the house and arrest us. How those soldiers would tie me up and hang me from a tree. How those soldiers would pour honey and fire ants over me and I would die. This isn’t a joke; my mother would tell me this and say that she would cry, but be glad that we would meet again in the “kingdom of heaven”.
Yeah, I have no idea how I was able to sleep at all when I was a kid. Seriously.
To say that I suffered through nightmares is putting it gently. I had nightmares of soldiers with evil dogs who would attack us. I had nightmares that I couldn’t remember. Then there was the fact that the darkness was too much, too overwhelming and I didn’t want to close my eyes within it. I needed some light to chase away the phantoms. If I didn’t have that light, I couldn’t sleep.
Things didn’t get better when I became a teen. I still had troubles when it came to sleeping and it still drove my parents–especially my mother–nuts. She’d lose her temper and scream at me when I was lying in bed awake or she’d belittle me because I needed a little bit of light in my bedroom and I was the ripe old age of sixteen. Wasn’t I mature enough to sleep in the dark? What was wrong with me? My mother would demand to know but I couldn’t answer.
It’s been almost seventeen years since I moved out of the house in which I grew up. Some of my sleep patterns have not changed; Prime and I both need a little light in our bedroom at night. It helps when we have to get up in the night. But in one very significant area, things have changed.
I can sleep at night. Insomnia is a rare occurrence for me now.
I don’t have nightmares as often and I can simply go straight to bed, pull the blankets over me and sleep. In the last few years, I’ve lost my credulity and become much more of a skeptic; the idea of zombies, rabid dinosaurs and even space vampires aren’t real. They won’t hurt me. Neither will marauding armies who kill people simply because they believe in a deity. They won’t bother me either. Because they aren’t real. At least, they weren’t where I was living.
Now Taco Bell before bed? That’ll keep me up. Bean burritos are evil after a certain hour. Just trust me on that one.
On that note: pleasant dreams.
The title comes from the lyrics to a song from Key the Metal Idol, titled RARABAI (Lullaby). The hiragana translates to “oyasumi yoiko” meaning “Goodnight, my darling child”. You can find the lyrics here. If you get a chance, watch the series. It is good.