When I was alone, I feared the night. I feared the dark, but mostly I feared my bed for the haunting nightmares it brought me. My pup, Kizzie, was a small consolation, but she is not much of a snuggler and preferred to lie resting against my legs or on my feet. With none other than my dog for protection (a fierce and happy 20 pound fireball, who might only lick you to death, at that), I would lie down, close my eyes, and wait for the demons in my subconscious to break through in REM sleep.
I spent years being alone literally in bed and alone with someone in bed, fearing the night. Being alone with someone was almost worse, because they never understood. It came to a point where my mental health would start disintegrating around nightfall. My depression would increase, I was hyper-vigilant, my mind wound over itself over and over. Nightfall would often find me crying, loudly, for no apparent reason, other than it was night. I could not seem to console myself, or tell myself tonight might be better. Because it never was.
When I met DSB, that all, very slowly, began to change. I began to be less preoccupied with night, and learned to watch funny movies and eat popcorn as the sky fell dark beyond the curtained window. I learned to never watch horror movies, or sad movies before bed. I learned that there were two someones in my house that would fight to the death for me if something bad were to happen, in the night.
I had DSB and I had his dog, Rascal, and I felt safe for the first time in a long while. Not only did I start feeling safer during the day, I started to feel safe at 5:00pm and beyond. DSB, Rascal, Kizzie, and I would all spend 5:00pm and after doing things that I imagine couples and their child-dogs do around the country. Cook dinner. Reminisce about the day. Talk about our failures, our triumphs, our dreams. There were biscuits for the pups, Kool-Aid for me, and coffee (always coffee) for DSB.
I began to treasure the time between 5:00pm and 10:00pm. Good things happened in that space. There were a lot of hugs and kisses and dog licks, but there was also a warm and sweet and full feeling in my chest. DSB made me feel like I could do anything, go anywhere, be anyone in those first few months. He saved me from myself, from depression and anger and disappointment.
We had the longest talks, about anything, about nothing, about everything. I learned to calm myself in the hours leading up to bedtime, and DSB taught me how to do that. With his words, his gestures, his smiles, his stories of life. I began to relax.
Even now, the time between 5:00pm and 10:00pm is probably my favorite. It has been two years since DSB kick-started the hard work it would take for me to make my peace with bedtime. We developed a routine and stuck by it and life was predictable. I learned that I needed a nighttime routine and we found one and stuck with it.
Those golden hours between coming home and making supper to slipping into bed and turning on my Kindle seem too short, sometimes. I want to make them last, I want to linger in them and take in every small detail to store in my memory. I never want to lose this time, and I will never forget how it feels to not feel safe, because I treasure so much the safety that I feel now.