Sometimes Things Feel Safer in the Dark

I got to thinking the other day (and don’t ask how my brain ended up there, but it did – something to do with a conversation about enjoying being wrapped in blankets and snuggled up, and feeling safe) about the places I view as ‘safe’, the historical precedent I have for them, and the ways I’m probably still under the influence of these patterns of behaviour.

I’m a hider, you see.

Sometimes Things Feel Safer in the DarkI think it must have started when I was growing up. I’m not sure at what point it became a source of comfort and safety, but I can remember many occasions where I felt safe and secure and protected, and those times were generally alone, in the dark, somewhere small. Preferably where it would take quite a while to find me.

We had an abundance of places like that in my childhood home. The cupboard under the stairs, in amongst all the coats and boxes. The larder, in amongst the tins and packets. Behind sofas. Behind the shed in the garden, or under bushes. Under my bed. In wardrobes. And when I was REALLY tiny, inside the Ali-Baba-style laundry basket, with the lid on.

I remember the feeling of relief, hiding in those places; burrowed down and trying to be invisible and remain safe for as long as possible, shielded from whatever or whomever I was hiding from. I remember the anxiety building – would it be worse when I came out, because I’d done a vanishing act and worsened whatever transgression I’d made, by not being around to face the music? I remember the peace when I successfully disappeared and it didn’t matter and I could just stay hidden for a while and gather myself together again.

Small, dark spaces are my haven. The more constricted, the better. The more I can feel physically blocked in – skin touching the boundaries – the more confidence I have that nothing can get in there with me, and I feel somewhat protected.

As a thirty-something year old adult, hiding is no longer really acceptable as a response to pain. I think life would be rather difficult if every time I encountered a challenge, I shut myself in the wardrobe – I might never come out! But I am aware that my tendency now is to disengage. Not so much when the challenge is external – a problem which needs fixing – but when it is internal. Emotional. Something which tears at my heart. Then I fall back into old ways.

On those occasions, I step back, allow ice to seep in, cooling the connections and encasing my heart in a layer designed to protect. I feign insouciance because it gives me a stronger position from which to counter, should things get rough. I set armour around my vulnerabilities and make a big show of the hurt being naught but a scratch, when the wound to the soul may not be so deep as a well, nor so wide as a barn door, but ’tis enough – enough to make me lose confidence. Enough to send me skidding back down the neural pathways of inadequacy that I know so well. Sufficient to send me running scared, to the dark, where no-one can find me.

At some point it will be necessary to come out of hiding and face up to whatever truth is out there – whether it is my own perception gone awry (as it has a tendency to, given how incredibly sensitive I am to things like rejection (I can read it into almost anything when I’m feeling precarious)), or whether my perception was accurate, in which case work on the ice-palace I find myself building will continue apace, in a frenzied effort to keep myself together – but that time is not now.

For now I’m wrapping myself in blankets, embracing the dark, and trying to ignore the tug of anxiety, which tells me I might be right again – I’m not wanted after all…

 

I *do* realise that a lot of this is fear playing out to its natural conclusions. I also realise ‘logically’ that in most cases, this isn’t accurate. But at the moment there are a couple of situations (and I know I’m being vague and that’s annoying, but yaknow what – put it down to being part of that ice-castle – I have a tendency, once there, to start hurling snowballs to see how many people will be repelled, and how many will weather the storm with me) which I’m not prepared to go into, which have me shaken at the moment. If you know, then you know. If you don’t, please just bear with me and I’ll try to resume normal service as soon as the world feels safe again.

If you come within snowball-throwing range…just know that I’ll be terribly apologetic afterwards, if I catch you with one.

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71 thoughts on “Sometimes Things Feel Safer in the Dark

  1. I think hiding is a much more common trait than people would like to admit. I had many dark places to go when I was a kid. So often I miss those days. At the moment the small space under my desk is looking pretty inviting. Everyone has there own forms of coping with pain and stress. I think hiding in a dark space is much better than hiding in a pill bottle or beer bottle. Thank you for sharing. It’s nice to feel connected and not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Connection is why I write, and yes – it’s awesome.

      I take your point about hiding being better than finding other ways to numb the pain or manage it. There are many destructive ways of doing that 😦

      I kind of want a small space right now, and I think I’d just sleep, which might be good for me, but also when I sleep I have to disconnect, which I find sad to do.

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  2. Isn’t it really just a giant hug? Aren’t we all somehow wanting to recreate the pure love/safety of the womb? I tell hub that’s why he’s so happy floating around in a huge sea of salty amniotic fluid/water, and why my kitty used to burrow under the covers and snuggle up against me and start purring. The vibrations of love can never be recreated (still my my kitty). I like the yard ringed in trees; it makes me feel safe; on the other hand, hub needs to see the sky; he says he needs to see the stars or he feels claustrophobic, so we compromised by not putting a cover on the deck, we only have a big umbrella to block the sun, but it comes down at night.

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  3. I think all small kids and babies love being wrapped in a cozy spot. My younger son certainly enjoys the sensation by building himself a nest of cushions and blankets.
    I must say it looks very appealing to me too! πŸ™‚

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    • Ohhhhhh my Niece used to do that – the nesting thing. She would pull literally EVERY cushion off the chairs and pile them under the table and snuggle into the middle of them. So cute!

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  4. Safety has been on my mind a lot lately because I’m losing my “safe” person to divorce because he went off the deep end. Yeah, kinda vague I know, but the way we deal with things says so much about who we are and what we need to work on. I’d rather hide away in a dark place, but at least there is writing.

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    • Oh Jeri, I’m so sorry 😦 Your situation is closer to mine than you know, and it’s so, so hard. I hope that you have a village of friends-and-relations around you to lean on, and to provide smaller amounts of safety in different places. I can completely empathise with you wishing you could hide in the dark from this situation. Thank goodness for writing, for both of us. I hope it continues to be an outlet and a comfort for you. *hugs*

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  5. Sorry you are feeling this way, Lizzi. Feeling safe is so very important to our existence. Although I prefer open spaces with lot’s of light, my bed is my haven. That is where I go to hide from it all and where I feel the safest and the best physically. All is good when I am under the covers with my head poking out and maybe a foot – if I get too hot. Hee,hee. Sending lot’s of gentle hugs! No snowballs – they suck! πŸ™‚

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    • On the whole, I prefer open spaces with lots of natural light. I guess I enjoy the extremes more than the kind of middley, dim spaces. I’ve discovered lately that when I’m emotionally wrung out, I SLEEP, so I guess my bed is a haven, too. But oftenest with a hoodie on, and the hood tucked over my eyes, so I feel more contained.

      I’ll try not to snowball you, especially in light of your efforts to bring springtime closer πŸ™‚ Thanks for caring πŸ™‚ You’re sweet like honey xo

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  6. I really was hoping you would say tis just a flesh wound…..

    But yes even not knowing the situation I understand and I also think that laundry basket would be a fabulous place to hide…my first reaction is to hide but I also got yelled at for hiding so its like trying to fight a natural instinct.

    Also I am pretty quick and sneaky so first you have to catch me sneaking in before you can get a snowball at me!

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    • Tisn’t – tis soul-deep and rending and sapping me…t’will do, t’will do, and t’is almost enough. We shall see but I’m getting beyond The Point.

      I wish there was a giant laundry basket I could hide in. These days I don’t really have a hiding place in the same way. I might have to create one for myself. A little nook somewhere, where no-one can reach me.

      I’ll try not to throw a snowball at you – they tend to be inadvertent as a result of me being careless and icy. At the moment I just feel puddley, so not a lot of snow left to chuck (or energy to chuck it).

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  7. Sometimes we need to turn inward to be able to extend outward, dear one. And there is nothing wrong with blankets, and snuggles and darkness. We all need that space. We all do.

    Touch the sky,
    Dani

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I totally get the throwing snowballs when you feel excluded. I too, can perceive rejection in almost anything, and I respond by fuming and obsessing until my head explodes (figuratively speaking). I try, and succeed sometimes…to force myself to politely re-engage with whatever or whomever I’m fuming at – it is a terrifying feeling, waiting for that possible confirmation. You are amazing, and I hope you find your way back into the sunlight soon.

    Liked by 2 people

    • My snowballs are usually inadvertent. The alternative is to end up angry and ready to burn ALL THE BRIDGES, especially ones I’m standing on at the time…but I thought that mixing the fire and ice metaphors would just confuse matters. Rejection is such a huge thing for me, and in this case, I was WAY off, which is such a relief, but I was so scared to confirm it that I waited a whole day and in the process, caused upset – THOSE are the inadvertent snowballs. I’m always sorry afterwards, but the possibility, in the moment, is too painful.

      Your strategy of politely re-engaging is a good one. I need to learn how to do that.

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  9. I used to hide on the top shelf of my brother’s closet as a kid. It was like my own private world there. I’m so sorry that you feel like hiding right now and I send hugs and prayers that you’ll soon remember how wanted you are. That the need to throw snowballs soon disappears. xo

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    • I’ve run out of energy again, to throw any. I’m depleted and puddley. I still want to hide but also I want to run. And I can do neither because neither is productive. One thing got sorted, the other is going to take time. Your own world in the top shelf sounds delightful. There’s something about either being below or above the level of ‘normal life’ isn’t there? It helps.

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  10. This was such an AHA moment for me Lizzi. I have never thought about my need for small, dark places before but it is there. I even have a code for my husband that let’s him know it’s happening. I will say “You need to put me in your pocket.” That’s where I want to be just a small little thing in the darkness of his pockets were I am protected and safe. That means get me out of here I can’t take it. I want to close up and hide from the whole world in the back of my closet some days. Most I am able to control it, but not always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you feel safe and protected with your husband. That’s really nice. And I love that you have a code which lets him know that you need to be a little bit rescued and given some space. I can definitely relate to wanting to hide from the whole world, some days. Occasionally I’ve wondered about what would happen if I got into my car and just kept driving.

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  11. Bridget does something similar, when she is overwhelmed. She takes my hand and places it over her eyes. So she shuts the world out, in the only way she can. When I feel her body tremble and flush as she curls against me then takes my hand and places it just so over her eyes….I’m just thankful I am her ice castle. If you need any snow or help making those snow balls let me know, I have about four inches left on my deck.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s adorable. I’m so glad that she has you, and she trusts you to keep her safe and protected. That’s a lovely, lovely thing. I’m glad you’re her ice-castle, too. I’ll let you know about the snowballs – I keep running out of energy to even form them. But I’m sending you springtime wishes to melt your snow. Enough is enough!

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  12. A neighbor girl when we were kids had a closet in her room with a cool little hiding place. I wanted one. I had a sister with whom I shared a room and two obnoxious brothers, and I really wanted a hiding place. But then, when I did make one for myself in my own closet, I was bored out of my skull. I never used it. Hiding away just isn’t my thing, I guess.
    I pray that whatever has you yearning for the dark, small spaces gets resolved and you are feeling better very soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The smaller part is resolved most beautifully. The larger and more awkward part remains at large. Thanks for the prayers. I’m out of hiding.

      You got bored? I rarely get bored, but I think that’s part of my nature and being a chronic over-thinker – I’m good at entertaining myself with just my brain. Yes I think until I stopped sharing a room with my sister I probably hid from her, too.

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  13. I understand this completely. I remember as a child I would huddle in the corner as close to the floor I could behind my bedroom door. I would do the same in my closet. As an adult, I find my comfort lies in the shower, lights off, curtain pulled tight. I just lie there in the water. In times of utter distress I force my way to that place and stay as long as the hot water holds out. I suppose it’s better than other alternatives but I often wonder if just shutting down and hiding is healthy. Not that I’ll stop doing it. I just wonder.

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    • I don’t think I’ve ever showered with the lights off. I’m notoriously bad at falling over and so I think I’d probably kill myself by slipping in the wet and knocking myself out on the side of the bath or something. And I don’t like water on my face. Blankets are definitely the thing for me. Even in hot weather, I feel safer under a blanket.

      I think it is better than other alternatives, and it gives our brains space to de-frag and sort things through a bit. Or just a BREAK from the immediacy of whatever’s going on that’s sent us off on a hiding spree.

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    • Yes – those aren’t comforting thoughts. I think I’m fortunate in that I wouldn’t need to worry about those particular fears, because I have my village around me. But there are certain ways I wish sometimes I COULD hide and never come back again – only fleetingly, but that’s a thing, too, on occasion.

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  14. I picture your insouciance, at your boxing class, wreaking havoc on the big bag. I feel like that insouciance (my new favorite word, btw, thank you) we wrap around us is our protection from any more hurt getting in, until we have time to process the cuts and anxiety.

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    • I think you’re absolutely right. It’s a total front so we can try to appear ‘together’ until we either DO start to cope, or fall apart completely. I haven’t been to boxing for days as I’ve been so wrung out and exhausted. Hoping to get back to it tonight tho πŸ™‚

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  15. My way of hiding is to run away to some place where I can be alone. Preferably in the midst of nature. Open air places calm me down. I am claustrophobic so small closed spaces freak me out.

    I know I shouldn’t run away from things but at times I cant resist doing it even though that makes me a coward…

    Gotta change that…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Adunno – I think we can all be a bit cowardly and have a tendency to prefer to hide instead of acknowledging a source of strife. It’s absolutely human nature. I guess the key thing is to make sure we do face up to the thing, having hidden and gathered ourselves for a time.

      Nature is good, and I find that being near the sea lets my soul breathe. Climbing a tree is also helpful. But I’m not at all claustrophobic so it is the small places of containment I enjoy most, when I’m freaked out,

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  16. So much British here. Is the larder the pantry? I can’t hear ‘cupboard under the stairs’ and not think of Harry Potter.
    I liked this, too, as a kid and later. I remember trying to set up a outside fort in the bit of wilderness in our backyard. It had a blanket and pillows, and I could only fit lying down. Sadly, I was driven out my mosquitoes.
    I sort of got over all that with pregnancy. I think I felt encumbered or smothered or something by the whole experience (though overall it was something I enjoyed). I quit wearing sweaters, was hot all the time after Maggie was born. I never would wear more than a long-sleeve shirt or blouse in the winter because I was so hot for years! But that’s gradually fading. I wonder if I’ll want to creep into small spaces again. Isn’t the body weird?
    I’m sorry if the pregnancy parts were offensive.

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    • They weren’t at all, but it IS weird that it made you hot for so long. The body is very peculiar! Do you think it was a metabolism thing? I’ve never heard of someone getting hot in pregnancy, though apparently it can happen when you’re on your period, so who knows! Maybe an exacerbation of that!

      Mosquitos SUCK (pun intended). Gnats are worse though, because I react to their bites, whereas the mozzie ones just go away. I think I’m one of those lucky people who mozzies don’t LOVE, but gnats seem to adore me, for whatever reason.

      HA! To Harry Potter, and yes – a larder is like a pantry, I guess. But small.

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      • I think it’s kinda normal to feel super hot during pregnancy, but it didn’t hit until after she was born for me. And the lasted through Leo’s pregnancy until around now when I feel it fading. I think it was a hormone thing maybe.

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  17. Hi Lizzi: I used to like private spaces when growing up, but not as an active escape. More of a way to be at peace with myself. I seem to grown away from doing that (being a parent can pretty much eliminate any real chance at finding a small, private space that is unoccupied by a child!), but can sympathize with your need.

    I hope that you find that your concerns are manageable upon emerging from your small space, or ice castle. Remember that hundreds of bloggers from around the world have followed where you are willing to lead, and that you are, therefore, strong by definition. Strong enough to handle that which is troubling you now.

    Sending warm, snowball-thawing, hugs your way!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anna that’s such wonderful encouragement – thank you. I really appreciate it. I hope I’m strong enough and time will tell, in a way, but one of the two things which were bothering me has been sorted out already, which is a HUGE relief. And so far only a couple of snowballs thrown – ALSO a relief!

      I’m trying to think where I’m most at peace with MY self now…I think it’s by the sea πŸ™‚ I shall try to dream of the ocean tonight. *hugs*

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  18. Can I climb under the blankets into the darkness with you? It might be a really tight fit… but it’s worth it.

    Ya know what? I think sometimes it is absolutely okay to go into that safety zone of self protection and preservation. It’s how we cope- yes, I said we. Because you share this as if you are so utterly alone in doing such a thing- butt he truth is, it’s a very natural response to stress. Common really.

    So go hide. And do me a favor? Pray.

    And I will too.

    But be warned, I might try to sneak a peek in to check on you once in a while, okay? I’m all in for a snowball fight. I’ve played that game with the best of them. πŸ™‚

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  19. The world seems scary these days so I don’t blame you for wanting to escape into the shadows these days… I try not to watch TV news for too long as it freaks me out after a while! I tend to relax with a cup of tea and rest my mind when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Thank you for the genuine post here that is speaking to so many xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hate the news. It actually hurts my heart to watch it, a lot of times. I saw a photo shared on Facebook, of a little girl in Syria whose photo had been taken by a journalist, and she hadn’t understood that his camera wasn’t a gun, so the photo is of her with her hands raise, surrendering to him, with the sadness of a thousand years in her eyes. It tore my soul to shreds. She only looked about three years old, and to have that response is absolutely devastating.

      I tried cups of tea. I even tried naps. In the end it WAS coming out of hiding and facing the issue which helped, for one of the two. Turned out that my imagination had run away with me and a situation wasn’t as bad as I thought. *phew* πŸ™‚

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  20. I can relate. I don’t necessarily feel the need to “hide”, but I do feel more at ease and less anxious when the sun goes down. Dark time is my best time. Why is that? At work, if I am feeling overwhelmed..I do go hide out in a stall for a bit and just regain my composure. It does help. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s sometimes a really necessary thing just to be able to have five minutes in your own company to marshall your resources and be ready to put on a ‘public face’ again. I’m lucky at work – I run mobile clinics and there’s a room in the back of the van where I can shut myself away, especially at lunchtimes, and just be in the dark and the peace for a while. It really helps.

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  21. I find myself hiding away at times. Normally when the noise of family life gets too much, I’m someone who needs a certain amount of peace and quiet in my life.
    The thing about snowballs is that hopefully they are fairly soft so its all okay.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sometimes mine have inadvertent ice in the middle. I know what you mean about needing peace and quiet. I think there are times I need that, too, though usually I draw my energy from people.

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  22. I can take a snowball quite well, Lizzi. Whatever it is that’s making you hide, I hope it all resolves itself and you naturally will want to come out again because your presence is always a present to those around you. Hiding once in a while is good for you, but don’t stay away too long, m’kay?

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  23. I can see over your castle walls from a hiding place in my tree. I can see out, but you can’t see in. So your snowballs will miss. I’ll watch over you until you feel ready to come out again.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Although I was much of the hiding kind physically, I’ve always been that way emotionally, Lizzi. Now I’m ready to take on people and situations a lot more, but still need to disconnect with certain people when I’m hurt or angry with them.
    Take your time…..Hugs!

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  25. You may win the internets today with your use of insouciance. I love it.

    I don’t much care for spaces that are so close that I can touch the perimeter walls. Much too constricting, but I do tend to take things that eat at me and let them fester in my chest or head until what I can only assume is a tumor sucks it in and grows just a little. Lol. Something like that. Well, I hope you weather whatever it is that’s eating at you. Aren’t you coming to ‘merica soon? Did I just make that up? If yes, then you have that to look forward too, right? It’s the land of milk and honey and Beth’s and Mandi’s so there’s that. I’m gonna stop now or I’ll prattle on like a wanker for 7 more paragraphs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You got a small smile for ‘wanker’ Officer Don. Yes…you’re right. There are bigger, gooder things to look forward to, and I just hope against hope that it all goes according to plan. It’s kind of feeling a bit jeopardised at the moment, and that’s part of why I’m hiding out, but this knot in my stomach isn’t getting any smaller for ignoring it, so I think I might have to bite the bullet and just face up to what I’m avoiding…I kind of don’t want confirmation that I’m right though. While I don’t know, it remains Schroedinger-y in a way.

      *sigh*

      And thanks. Insouciance is an awesome word, and not used enough.

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