Halloween is painted as the time of year that’s fun and exciting for children and an excuse to be wild, unique and let’s be honest a different type of “fun” for teenagers. As young child I did look at it like this, through a child’s eyes it was a magical time; when I did really think I turned into a witch (i don’t know if I had a really vivid imagination or it was my mum watching charmed that made me believe I could be a witch) but because I did I felt like I was a character and looked forward to being able to do that every year. However at about the age of about 9 eventually I came to the realisation that I was still just me but in an outfit. At the age of 9, I had no clue why this made me uncomfortable as I didn’t know social norms or anything about mental health but still remember so vividly feeling so uneasy about the fact that people were giving me more attention than I normally would get because of what I was wearing. The thought of judgement didn’t even come into my head because I hadn’t fully developed that concept in my mind yet. All I knew was i did not like the attention one bit!
Over the next couple of years, I would not take part in Halloween activity’s just to avoid the attention it came with. This tacit to control my anxiety around Halloween worked well until I got to the point where I hit secondary school and everyone was having Halloween themed parties and trickle treating. Not that I got invited to many parties but I did once and I just didn’t go because not only would I be getting attention by going to a party in costume and now was in secondary school fully aware of what judgement was and I was feeling what I now know to be social anxiety. The invite brought up so many things in my head that could lead to judgements that I just didn’t go. Questions such as what if my costume doesn’t look scary enough? What if it looks too childish ? What if I look anxious and people think it’s because I’m scared of some silly costumes and decorations when really I’m anxious about what their thinking of me? They will try to scare me ill jump even if I’m not scared cause of my nerve damage due to my disability and then I just look like a massive idiot? Even though when I think about it logically I realise most of the answers to the questions above are they won’t I still a week ago had the same questions and worries pop into my head when I heard there is a Halloween party at my uni that I’m unfortunately to anxious to go to.
One Halloween tradition I didn’t turn down and have tried is trickle treating at the age of 13. I was more excited for this at first because even though I was 13 I hadn’t been allowed out to do it before cause mum thought it would be too dangerous for a group of teenagers hyped up on sugar to push my wheelchair in pitch black. (at the time I thought this was highly unfair looking back now and seeing how many times I was nearly tipped out because of a pot hole or narrow path she was crazy to even let me do it even at 13) But back to the point of the trickle treating story and probably the point of the whole post as it was while doing this I figured out why Halloween made me so uncomfortable. I remember feeling rude knocking on people’s doors asking for sweets, thinking it’s not on a normal thing to do I’ve been to friends houses repeatedly and would never ask for anything I’d wait to be offered so how was it ok and not rude or wrong to go up to strangers demanding sweets? I also remember not knowing how to gauge these people’s reactions some would be miserable and just shove the bowl in our faces others would spray us with water. I remember the anticipation of the reaction of the person behind the door was going to be sending my heart racing.
Now at the age of 19, i can analyse all these thoughts and feelings I have around Halloween and no why they make me feel like this, well as good as any non-trained professionals can anyway. As a person with diagnosed social anxiety, the social norms that I had learned to use to protect myself from being judged or looking stupid were gone I just had to do what I felt right or wanted to do in the situation at that time which left me feeling vulnerable and in all honesty terrified.
So to anyone celebrating Halloween, this year do have fun cause I’m sure it’s a great day and I know your right and it is just a bit of fun and it’s my anxiety riddled brain that’s creating these problems but please just be aware that people around you might be feeling like I do on Halloween.
Wow, that was kind of like theraphy, in the end, thanks if you made it to the very end of this post it was a long one. And as always any experiences you wanted to tell me or questions to ask please comment below or tweet me.