There is a small lamp on the table in my bedroom. On the table is also my music player and some CDs. Behind the lamp is a mirror on the wall. I spend the evenings with the lamp on and the main room light off as I watch television, play video games etc. When it’s time to go to sleep I walk over to the table, put my hand on the lamp switch, turn on my music player to the Blade Runner soundtrack, look at my face for about 5 seconds in the mirror, switch off the lamp, walk over and get into bed with the ambient music playing to put me to sleep.
This is what I do every night. Fine.
However sometimes I need to get up again for whatever reason. Could be I’ve had too much to drink and I need to go to the bathroom. Could be I forgot to lock the back door. Whatever. When this happens I don’t go over to the wall in darkness to switch on the main room light. Instead I walk over to the table and rest my fingers on the table lamp switch in front of the mirror.
Every time I put my hand on that switch I feel a sense of dread. I am in darkness and I can’t see myself in the mirror yet. Every time I switch the light on, instantly going from a dark room that my eyes have adjusted to, to a room of instant light, I know that I’m going to instantly see myself in the mirror. I have a dread-filled fear when my fingers are on the switch. I fear that the person I see in the mirror is not going to be me. It’s going to be someone else, or there’s going to be somebody behind me. Even worse is when I feel that the person staring back at me is me but a darker version of me, an evil, guilty version. I switch on the lamp and for just one second I see a different me as my eyes adjust to the light. It looks like me but inside it’s not me, it’s someone I don’t like. Nothing has ever been behind me. Not yet anyway.
This isn’t describing a problem. The actual solution is simple. Move the lamp away from the mirror or don’t use the lamp, use the main room light. Even though these behaviours and thoughts are irrational, it’s part of the allure of fear to keep testing it. I want to know why I have this dread. Why is the one second so bad and not ever good? Is it something subconscious? Does it mean nothing at all? Is it all part of routine and expectation now? I don’t know.