A big trigger for me is when I can't see someone's face when they're speaking to me, which is why it's so hard for me to have phone conversations (and sometimes even texting is hard!) Anxiety sufferers are like prey animals, we are always 100% aware of everything going on around us. We have to be, because having anxiety is having a constant sense of being in danger. You don't know why you're in danger or from what, all you know is you must always be on guard. Always.
Halloween is a holiday that revels in scariness. To be terrified is kinda the whole point of the holiday. Thanks, but daily life is terrifying enough for me. So why on earth would I enjoy parading around to houses covered in spider webs, where a scarecrow on the porch may or may not come alive; or have the door opened by a zombie from the Walking Dead in full makeup. Also it's dark, everyone's wearing a mask, and you have no clue who anyone is. Have fun!
Nope. Nope nope nope nope.
I was little enough that people felt bad about scaring me or my brother, so I could stay really close to my mom and dad. Until I got to 5th grade. At my 5th grade Halloween party, we all got to change into our costumes. My tablemate had a dark robe on, with a skeleton chest. He had a hood, but we weren't allowed to pull them up or wear a mask. I thought I was safe. He sat down (with me in my fairy costume) and I probably had my nose in a book when he said my name. When I looked up, he had on the mask from the painting Scream, and pressed a button to make fake blood run down his face. Apparently he liked the look of abject terror on my face, (and because I'm a trusting and naive little child) since he was able to do it 3 more times before I ran to my best friend and refused to look at anyone else for the rest of the day. I avoided Halloween parties, trick or treating, or anything to do with the holiday. I said I was “too old” to be doing that stuff anymore. But secretly, I felt like I was missing out.
When I was in 8th grade, I moved to a different school. But my best friend and I live within walking distance, we still saw each other regularly. In early October, she begged me to come with her to a Halloween party. All my friends from my old school would be there and I really wanted to see them. But Halloween.
But as a smart anxious child, I had figured out all ways to hide that I was anxious. I told my friend that my mom wasn’t a fan of Halloween and so I wasn’t even going to bother to ask. And because my best friend is also highly intelligent and knew that I was full of shit, she asked her mom to ask my mom to let me come. My mom agreed and was overjoyed that I was going out on Halloween.
As you have probably guessed from reading her posts, it’s really hard to pull one over on my mom. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been able to fool her (and all of these events have gone as well as being a crane operator in a lightning storm). She bought my “too old for Halloween” excuse for approximately zero seconds. I see my anxiety as the other personality that lives in my brain, or a “brain buddy”. When October rolls around, Megan stops being part of the conversation and Anxiety takes over. Anxiety makes all the choices; whether I like them or not. My mom told Anxiety she would stay at the party, that she would walk with us during trick or treating, even reminding Anxiety about the big bag of candy that comes at the end of the night. The final thing that allowed me to get back control over Anxiety was that my mom said she would bring my dog with her. I agreed to go to the party. Anxiety was not pleased.
Halloween night rolls around. I spend most of the day alternating between panic and excitement at seeing my friends again (whom I hadn’t seen since the summer). But it was mostly panic. Finally, my mom and I drove over to pick up my best friend and go to the party together. Upon arrival, I was relieved to see that there were no masks or face paint on anyone (I think there may have been threats involved). During trick or treating, my mom walked slightly behind with the rest of the mothers, and Anxiety was okay with that because I positioned myself in between my two best friends and right in the middle of the pack. Although there were a few times that I walked so close that one of them tripped on me, I survived the journey. We all cheerfully ignored the houses with billowing smoke machines and creepy porch ornaments. When we got back to the house, a little after dusk, we all poured out all our candy and traded among ourselves so everyone got their favorite types and replaced all the broken and unwrapped ones with candy our hosts had purchased. We had moved on to the movie Monster High when my mom called up that it was time to go home. I was shocked at the time; Halloween was almost over and Anxiety hadn’t crashed the party!
While a great experience, this party did not cure my Halloween phobia. I still dread the appearance of decorations in stores everywhere, and the copious amounts of candy that fill every aisle. But this one experience taught me that Anxiety doesn’t always have to crash the party. and the Halloween party taught me that scary things doesn’t mean I have to hand control over to Her. So, despite the terror, I go anyways. I do Halloween parties, I hand out candy, I've even gone trick or treating with friends. I still walk close enough to my best friend that she sometimes trips on me, and I won't go without one of my dogs with me. But I go. And, in spite of the triggers that abound on this night of the year, I even have fun. Because I'll be damned if I let one of my brain buddies take away walking around with friends, laughing, and of course, a huge bag of candy!
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!