The Gloom

Before the Gloom

I’m pretty fearless when it comes to living life. Heights, flying, swimming, creepy crawlies, peanut butter; I can do it all. All except one. The dark is something that I still really dislike. I used to always sleep with a bedside lamp that I could switch on during the night when I woke up, but never had a night light on all the time because I needed as close to pitch black as possible to sleep! What a strange child I was.

I’m not so bad now, I still can’t walk around the house in the dark, I have to switch on as many lights a possible, stretching round a corner to illuminate a room before stepping into it. I’m lucky that electricity is able to provide a solution to my fears; if I had been living before the Edison Electric Light company began manufacturing light bulbs in 1880, I would have spent all my time making candles to ward off the darkness!

Thanks to Thomas Edison, it’s not often that I have to confront my fear of darkness, but sometimes life has other plans. I’m not taking about a power outage, although the last one I encountered saw me lighting all the candles I owned and finding my way about via the torch on my phone. I’m talking about a dark, damp tunnel taking me through a mountain.

Experiencing the Gloom

Recently, I was on holiday with my parents in Madeira and one day we thought it might be a good idea to walk and find one of the many waterfalls dotted around Madeira’s dramatic countryside.

We parked at what we thought was the start of the walk but unfortunately it wasn’t and without thinking too much about the tunnel that made up a third of the walk, we set off on our merry way. The sun was shining on the first leg of the walk and I was distracted by the many photo opportunities every three steps. 

Soon we came to the tunnel. It didn’t look so bad from the outside; the walls were dripping with moisture which meant there was a heavy growth of moss and algae loving life on the saturated brick surface.

Armed with two phone torches, we delved into the tunnel which soon became narrower and darker than I had first expected. Apparently it was built in 1970 and obviously electricity was a no go in the watery environment, but being provided with at least a flaming torch on arrival would have been acceptable!

I chose to walk at the back, a choice which I regretted and as soon as the blackness closed in I remembered those movies where it’s always the people at the back of the line that are the first to get snatched. I voiced this fear the whole way through, trying to put a comical spin on it but building it up in my mind so that I had to keep turning around to shine my torch behind me and check for monsters. It sounds utterly crazy but I was convinced there would be something following me or darting out of the way as I turned round. Maybe this is because I’ve watched all of the alien films and every episode of primeval or maybe not; I have a very overactive imagination and sometimes find it hard to draw a line between fiction and real life. My brain is constantly thinking “what if all the stories are true?” like I’m in an episode of Scooby Doo!

After navigating large puddles and passing some very menacing alcoves, we neared the end and there was literally light at the end of the tunnel! My dad thought that being 100 metres from the exit would be a good time to take a selfie and all at once the experience got too much and I cried. This was a good indication to my dad that no, this wasn’t a good time to take a selfie. Taking the torch from my mum, I took up the front of the line and powered towards the exit, breathing an immense sigh of relief as the ceiling swept upwards and I was finally outside in the open!

Tackling the Gloom

My dad is a hypnotherapist and I consider myself to be very lucky as he’s helped me get over many things in the past from coming to terms with the body shape that scoliosis has given me to getting over a particularly frustrating ex-boyfriend. This time his skills came in useful for tackling my fear of the dark, and in particular, that tunnel.

Some people might not recognise Hypnotherapy as a real thing but people have done some amazing things with it and my dad has helped an awful lot of people with various problems! This time he used a technique called Integral Eye Movement Therapy; it doesn’t look like much but it does some strange things in your brain that helps to combat emotional associations with certain situations, things or people etc. My dad can explain it better on his website.

In short, it worked and even though my parents were willing to take the long way back to the car, I was confident that I could tackle the tunnel! I have to say I wasn’t completely happy but I managed it without crying and without any feelings that something was going to grab me! I kept my head down and focussed on trying not to get my feet too wet.

I was very proud of myself at the end and I still have a great sense of a achievement that, with some help, I managed to tackle my fear head on and prove to myself that I could overcome it!

I hope that you’ve taken more from this than the fact that I’m over 20 and still go on holiday with my parents!

We beat ourselves up for being afraid or use it as a defining feature when describing ourselves, but fear is natural and it’s how we deal with it that’s important. If you let it, being afraid can limit your life in a way that you think makes sense but actually, it doesn’t. Imagine wanting to explore the world but you’re unable to because you’re afraid of flying? Some people might be ok with that and may have resigned themselves to living in one place, but isn’t it worth trying to fix it so you at least have a choice?

Taking it in my stride

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