Fair Warning: You probably shouldn’t read this post. Really, I’m serious. I’m afraid it’s not going to be very uplifting. It will probably be unsettling or disturbing. To my knowledge, my wife has only read this blog once or twice, but if you decide to start now, Love, move on to a different post. I know for sure you don’t want to read this one. I promise the next one will be happier.
So if this is such a downer topic, why am I writing it? Two reasons. One, I am a writer at heart. I was a writer before I was ever an engineer or a lawyer. Writing is how I process feelings. It’s how I dig them up and get them out. Great, but why not write it in a private journal and leave it? That’s reason two. I know there are other people with similar gender issues. I have met some of them online. I have found that we have many common experiences. Being able to feel like it is a shared experience has helped me, and I hope it has helped them. So maybe somebody has had similar feelings, and maybe my putting it out there will help in the sharing process. Or maybe not. I don’t know.
With that out of the way, I’m going to talk a little about irrational fear. Fear may not even be the right word. I’m talking about something more oppressive, like a crippling paranoia. Interestingly, one of the reasons this is on my mind is because it’s heavy allergy season. Weird, huh?
Ever since I was young, I have have been in this very interesting paradox. I have always been a night person. I think better at night. I write better at night. Something about the stillness and quiet of nighttime invigorates my mind and sets it at full throttle. Unfortunately, nighttime also awakens some darker impressions. This, I suppose, is for one of two reasons. Either it is because Lucifer and his minions have greater dominion over the dark night than the daylight, so I actually do sense the malignant presence of fallen spirits, or my imagination is very active at night, and I just subconsciously imagine that’s the case. To this day, I don’t know which it is. Perhaps it is a combination of the two. But for whatever reason, I am sometimes deathly afraid of the dark.
The strange thing, like I said, is that the stillness of night, when everybody else is asleep, is a marvelous time for thought and introspection. It is when I do my best creative thinking, and when I can ponder important things undisturbed. Prophets like Jacob, Samuel, Nephi, Lehi, King Benjamin, and Joseph Smith have had great spiritual manifestations and visions at night, in dreams or otherwise. I myself have had some powerful spiritual experiences at night.
So the bottom line is, I don’t know why night is sometimes (but not always) such a frightful place for me. I suppose part of it is that I just think I am a little pre-disposed to feel an oppressive (but perhaps irrational) fear of a vague evil lurking somewhere nearby. I avoid scary movies for this very reason. Whether the impression is real or imagined, scary movies excite it, and the impression doesn’t pass easily (for example, I watched The Sixth Sense in 2002, and I still have to sometimes consciously remind myself that there’s nothing under the bed). I even had disturbing dreams after watching The Mummy, which was more like a silly adolescent fantasy than a movie.
That bring up the next point: I am occasionally prone to nightmares. I have been since I was little. Consistent with my sometimes oppressive feelings, they generally involve something sincerely evil trying to harm me. Most of the time, there is some climactic point where I wake up suddenly, breathing heavily, scared out of my wits. There have been a few times where I have struggled and felt bound and helpless, and I can’t wake up for what seems like an eternity, hard as I try. There have been times I have wanted to cry out and pray for help through the darkness, but felt my tongue bound. One time, I felt like demonic tentacles had wrapped around me, and were trying to drag me down through my bed while damned voices screeched. Eventually I woke up. I always do. Then I say a prayer, begging for comfort, and try to occupy myself until I can sleep again. If I can get back to sleep, sometimes I’m fine the rest of the night, sometimes not.
There are also times I don’t wake up in a panic. There have been a few times when I have had these nightmares where I have somehow been boldened by a powerful and good spirit. In those dreams, I have stood up and fearlessly faced the evil thing and rebuked it, and it has cowered and withered before me. I have no idea if this all means something or not.
Anyway, about this time two years ago, I had an interesting experience. It was when I was in law school. This was one of those times when I felt like a mess with respect to my GID. It was probably the low point in my life in terms of feeling suicidal and worthless. I was very busy with school, which means I was not getting enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep always makes everything worse. On top of that, I was frequently sleeping alone. This happened because I would often have to stay up late to study. My wife is a light sleeper, and if I wake her up coming to bed, it disrupts her sleep. Then she can’t get back to sleep because either I fall asleep quickly, and then I’m snoring, or I can’t sleep, and then I’m restless (either of which keeps her up). And then everybody’s in a bad mood. Since I studied at a desk in our little guest room, which had a bed too, I would often just grab a pillow and blanket and sleep in there rather than disrupt my wife.
Unfortunately, being alone is the other big thing that seems to throw my mind out of joint. Night after night, I would try to sleep in that room, and I would be unable to sleep. I would lie in bed on pins and needles, every little sound carrying some ill omen. It was all irrational, and I knew it was, but I felt like there was something evil always hovering about, wanting to harm me. And every time I was just ready to drift off to sleep, some new, minute sound would catch my attention and jolt me awake.
I found one thing that could drown out the fearful sounds: The sound of sacred things. I once told Mormon Soprano that the music of the Tabernacle Choir has carried me through some of the darkest times of my life. This was no exaggeration. I filled an iPod with choir music and conference talks. Night after night, I drifted off to sleep with the Choir singing great hymns of praise to Christ, or Elder Henry B. Eyring teaching me to become “As a Child.” With my senses full of those sacred sounds, I was not afraid.
Then one night, something strange happened. This was around the time I started true, committed, uninterrupted, daily scripture study. To set the stage for this experience, I went to law school in what must be the soggiest, moldiest city in the world, with one of the foulest rivers I have ever seen (there were good things about it too, but for allergies, it was the pits) (CP can back me up on this). It was early fall—bad allergy season. I take Claritin basically year round, but when it gets really bad, nothing works better than Benadryl. I have learned to live and function with the drowsiness. I can take Benadryl during the day and still get stuff done. At this point, the allergies were so bad, I was taking Benadryl a couple of times a day, plus just before bedtime. A side benefit is sometimes it would make me drowsy enough that it would push me over the edge to a sometimes fitful sleep, even when my mind was racing. On the other hand, if I’d had too much, it could make me excitable and restless, and then I had a really bad night.
This particular night, I had just finished studying whatever I was studying and was about to go to bed. I was sniffling like crazy, plus I was having one of my paranoid spells, and I grabbed some Benadryl, hoping it would both beat the sniffles and knock me out. I was about to down it when the Spirit told me very distinctly, “No, don’t take that. It’s part of the problem.” I was a little surprised. Benadryl? I had thought it was pretty innocuous, except for the obvious side effect of drowsiness.
My curiosity was piqued, so the next day, I went to the trusty Wikipedia to learn about diphenhydramine HCl. Turns out it’s not so harmless as I thought. It actually has hallucinogenic properties, though proper hallucinations generally require higher doses. Still, I was taking a lot of the stuff at the time to try to survive my allergies. It made sense that I was suffering milder versions of those side effects, like this paranoia.
So I laid off the Benadryl, and things settled down a little. It’s not like the dark, oppressive feelings totally went away. But before then, it had been a constant problem. After I laid off the Benadryl, it once again became an occasional thing, with one notable exception—the time I spent several weeks as a Monday through Friday bachelor, only seeing my family on the weekends. During that period, I slept with music every single night.
The problem is, now when it gets to be allergy season, I face a choice. Do I spend all night restlessly sniffling and trying to breathe, or do I spend all night battling my demons? Fortunately, I have found that if I take it only at night, and not for more than a few days at a time, I’m usually okay.
If there’s a point to all this, I guess it’s that, to the best of my knowledge, GID is caused by some malformation and/or chemical imbalance in the brain. I imagine this paranoia thing is related. I wish I could now say, “And here’s the great solution,” but I don’t have one. I still have times when I feel like something evil is lurking with malignant intent. I still sometimes have bad dreams. But it’s not as frequent. I sleep in our bed now, so not being alone certainly helps (seriously, I would be such a hopeless wreck without my wife). And I’m just doing better in general than I was two years ago.
And finally, I know that when there is no other way to dispel the darkness, I can pray and hum (or listen to) a favorite hymn. Because I have found that no demonic power, real or imagined, can abide the presence of sacred music.