In Bedroom Doorways

My significant other likes the idea of sleeping in separate bedrooms. This is not so much a concern that affects us, yet, as we do not share living space, but the first time it came up my reaction surprised me. It's not that I mind distance in my love, even.

But the thought of having my own bedroom is panic inducing.

The first time in my adult life that I had an unshared bedroom, I was newly divorced in a small apartment with my two-year-old son. I took care setting up that room--the cream quilt with embroidered leaves, walls a light forest green, an ecru lampshade with petals dried into the paper. Mosquito netting canopied the bed and gave me a barrier that looked romantic enough to obscure its actual purpose: protect me from the trigger of the doorframe. Still, most nights I slept in a chaise lounge.

Doorframes don't much bother me in larger, public rooms where there are plenty of exits and space for traffic to move through. In a public room, there is the potential for friendly disruption.

Put me privately in a bedroom, though, and let the house hush? That doorframe will morph. The hinges will crawl like caterpillars up and down, and the memories of old creaks will start down the hallway. Then I'll see his shadow over the room.

I don't sleep in a bedroom now, and I haven't since I split with my most recent ex, with the exception of when my daughter slept in the room with me. Having other people in the room keeps the past out. When I was a child, having a sibling or spend-the-night guest would ward him off.

When I've lived with or slept with romantic partners, so long as we shared trust I could sleep in a bedroom with them. Waking up to the scent of someone I love, being able to wrap around that person in the dark, pressing close to skin that's not his skin--the sensory present dissolves the man at the door, sends away the caterpillars, and leaves in his place a simple frame.

When I sleep alone at night, I prefer a couch or a chaise lounge. Even a recliner or patch of floor will do. Lately I sleep on a twin mattress in the living room, against the wall and between two end tables, couch-like. I've been telling myself that my not having a bedroom right now is a matter of economics. Maybe, though, that's not the whole of it.

If I'm spending the night with friends or relatives, and I'm offered a guest bedroom, I'll not be able to sleep. When I ask to sleep on the couch, I'm met with, "Are you sure? That doesn't seem comfortable." I respond with, "Yes, thank you, I'd prefer it," and not with, "If I sleep in a bed, the shadows won't stop. If I sleep in a bed, the caterpillars will come," because it's fucking weird to tell polite company that their thoughtfully arranged and comfortable bedroom is a portal to my hellscape.

When I first started therapy all those years ago, I thought (hoped?) that sorting through these things would somehow make me less affected. I hoped I'd be able to lie down alone in a bedroom at night and be able to sleep. Normal people do that. They go to sleep in bedrooms. They don't stay up all night keeping vigilant over their children's breaths in the dark. Their door hinges don't become caterpillars.

In recent years I've moved away from hope, lovely as some may find it, and settled into a sort of reckoning. After twenty-plus years of anxiety attacks, flashbacks and dissociative spells, I don't hope they'll lessen. I'm not so keen in medicating them away. I don't even particularly need them to go away, disruptive though they may be, as I've learned to fold them into the rest of my day.

But no, darlings, I won't have a bedroom. I have caterpillars to keep away.