Halloween

| By Paul | | Comments (26)

In the last couple of posts, here and here, I wrote about awareness and using specific skills that have helped me (and hopefully you too).

It was interesting that I also paid careful attention in those posts to say that the skills do not always work. Not working probably means many things to each of us at different times. For me, I am very specific. For me, it means that I have not been safe; that I have self-harmed. That is the case today.

I have to tell myself that it does not mean all that work I do means nothing. I have to tell myself that the skills really do help and it is expected that there will be setbacks. I have to tell myself that I will recover from today. I have to tell myself that I need to keep faith in myself that I will keep healing.

I will pick myself up and try again. I will try to be more aware. I will try to do more of what I know helps.

But this is not an easy time period for me. And I know for many others it is difficult too. In the US, Halloween is a major holiday. Well over a month ago, decorations were in the stores. We are surrounded by images and sounds. Images that never "seemed" to bother me in the past, now send me over the edge and reverberate all throughout my system. For the past several years, Halloween has been very hard.

It has always been a time of extreme activation of certain aspects of me; the parts who deal with issues of living and dying, good and evil, and other scary things. And, each year, very specific scary memories always rush to the surface. They are always exactly the same down to the last detail. My reactions seem off scale, but comparable to those I experience around Easter.

As I have healed, I have become aware of this unrest inside during this time. I have realized how sensitive I have become. How easily triggered I am. So, navigating through these weeks around Halloween is not ever easy.

I cannot even ride it out in peace because my wife has a huge Halloween party every year for all the neighbors and kids. It does not at all make sense to me. For several years, I have huddled in my bedroom, medicating myself to get through. I do not want to do that this year. I thought I could be involved in the party and have it be okay. I had a sense that things were going to be okay this year.

Until today.

11/2 Update: I just noticed that on Halloween, Dr. Kathleen Young put up an excellent article on the subject as it relates to child abuse survivors. It's worth taking a look at. See: Trauma Survivors and Halloween.

26 Comments


tai0316 said:

Paul I'm so sorry!

You know what? You don't have to do anything you don't want to do. That's a hard one sometimes because it's easy to think that we should be able to handle something so small or that something isn't that big a deal, we're adults now, etc. If this stuff triggers you, which I have to say why *wouldn't* it trigger you, then you don't have to deal with it. Can you do something else for yourself during this time? Something that will give you some distraction or some peace of mind, even for a while?

And you know what else? Actually I know that you know :) When we self-harm it's not a failure on our part. It's a message that we're under a lot of stress and strain and that we need to do something to help ourselves. Self-harm is a coping technique and sometimes it's the easiest thing to do. And yes it feels bad to do it, it feels like failure but you do SO much and you're SO intelligent and caring. I can tell by what you said that you know that we have setbacks, it happens, we just try again. I appreciate your honesty in your post. Personally I HATE Halloween and I find all of the decorations and noises disturbing. You are in tune with yourself and you're aware that these things trigger you. I say just take care of *you*. Do whatever you need to do to be safe and find some peace of mind until this passes. It's ok to take care of yourself. Maybe you don't have to huddle in the bedroom. Can you think of something else that you'd like to do that could be safe? Something that will make you feel like you accomplished something but that doesn't force you into a situation you don't want to be in?

Paul Author Profile Page replied to tai0316:

Tai, Thank you! I know you are right. It's just confusing because for weeks I have been all okay about it, thinking I would manage, even telling my wife that this year I think I can do the party, that I will make an effort to be "normal" and not have things bother me. I'm under no obligation to participate in the party (because I haven't for the past several years). I do think it's odd, though, to have such a huge party in my own house with me locked in my room. I mean I don't know why we can't have a party on another day. Last year I tried to do something else (goto a hockey game with my Dad) and that didn't work. I am seriously considering the hospital. That seems way too much of an over-reaction, but I don't want to have something serious happen to me.

tai0316 said:

Hi Paul,

I'd rather you go to the hospital if it keeps you safe I guess I never think that's an over-reaction :)

I've had that happen in my house, when my husband has a get together and he knows that I will just end up upstairs locked in our room, praying that no one knocks on the door. I'm bipolar and he knows it so I never understand why he does that stuff anyway. But, then it likes it's *my* fault we don't get to have people over as often as he'd like because I'm "sick" and that just feels bad too. Sometimes the closer an event comes, the more our minds are like "Whoa there! No way, we are NOT doing this!" You do what you need to do and if that means the hospital than so be it!

I don't know how your hospital is but the one I've been to here is very sterile and everything is nailed down. While I always hate being there after a while, the sterile, clean, safe enviroment always makes me feel better. At least this damn "holiday" will be over soon...

Paul Author Profile Page replied to tai0316:

Yes, Tai, I'll figure it out. The hospital I go to is a very very safe for me. But I am hoping things will settle down and I'll get through okay. We'll see.

Lisa said:

It's not my place to say, but something bugs me so I'm going to say it anyway. I just wondered why your wife is not more understanding. At the same time I also understand that marriage, or any partnership, is give-and-take. My husband and I go through this, too. Sometimes I have to go through something that I'm not comfortable doing, vice versa, etc.. I don't feel angry towards your wife, just wondering.

Could you go out to a movie or plan some other distraction that night? Stream-of-consciousness writing, painting, hammering wood, exercise, some other physical thingie (my brain is shot)? I don't know. I just feel for you.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Lisa:

Lisa, Thanks. You are not alone in being bugged by this! We aren't on the same page all the time. I think a lot of that has to do with her not really knowing what is going on or what the stakes are for me. And the desires, hers and mine, for things to appear normal. It's something I've been meaning to bring up here, about the issues around spouses. I will probably make every effort to do the party thing and watch football with my neighbors on television. Thank you!

Holly said:

Hi Paul,

October is my most difficult month of the year. This is generally the month I wind up inpatient, though I'm determined not to this year.

I think it's really hard for most people to understand anniversary reactions. (I haven't the foggiest idea why ... it doesn't seem all that complicated to me.) I wish they could see that it isn't necessary to understand in order to be supportive. And maybe this is just my experience, but I find that partners/friends/family get so wrapped up in the irrationality of it that they lose the ability to be empathetic. It doesn't make sense to them that the date on the calendar can ruin an otherwise innocuous and lighthearted day/week/month whatever. And I've found that most people can't see past that, particularly the ones who have an investment in our mental well being.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Holly:

Holly, Sorry this month is bad for you too. This is the year that I think I am meant to make progress on what it is that triggers me every year. Thanks for your understanding.

tai0316 replied to Holly:

I agree completely. I've never understood that either. I found my grandmother's body when I was 18 years old and she was only 66. Every year I get triggered and people don't get why it still happens. You're right on the empathy thing too. I feel like our DID community is so great at that, we all understand which is wonderful :)

Nansie said:

Hey Paul! Sorry to hear this is hurting you so badly. I know there is a piece of self harm that is designed to inject a diversion for the thoughts going on in our heads. The pain over-rides that sometimes. I agree with you trying to find something else to do that night that takes you away from the house, where your wife is throwing this and I am sure other mothers will be bringing their kids. Maybe some of the other husbands in the neighborhood would like to start a guys thing to do every year while this party goes on? Kind of like a superbowl but no playoff game? haha! It could be something for the husbands and then you could have it at the husband's house that is the farthest away from yours and you won't even have to see anything! Just an idea but is there something your parts have been wanting to do for a while that you've been putting off? You could use halloween night to do something special and comforting for them to help sooth and offset the way the holiday triggers them. Even if it feels stupid...t ell the parts out loud in the mirror "I'm taking you out for some fun and laughs to help you all through this hard time". You could ask them if they have any ideas? Whatever it is try to make it as silly as you can because keep in mind the parts are young and probably never got to laugh enough. I don't know if this helps you but sometimes it helps me. My parts like to go out for ice cream. But mostly they get tickled when I think of them and try to do something nice for them. I'm not where you are in this process but I am sending good thoughts to you and my fingers are crossed. Hugs!

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Nansie:

Thank you for all your suggestions Nansie. I wish they were all possible.

castorgirl said:

Be safe my friend...

Paul Author Profile Page replied to castorgirl:

You know this is my number one job, CG. I will do my absolute best.

Evan said:

I hope you find a way to look after yourself Paul.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Evan:

Thanks Evan. I am lucky now, because I always do.

Ivory said:

Here's adding my best to you that this weekend goes well.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Ivory:

Thanks Ivory.

anothersurvivor said:

Paul, our times are paralleling, if there is such a word.I find myself battling some problems in the hospital this year and the thought that I will not have to participate in Halloween is actually comforting. The holiday has always brought me fear and that incessant "religious" burden which I find difficult to explain even to myself. Since it was ingrained within my trauma even the slightest hint of good/evil/fear destabilizes me. When my young children celebrated I was able to use their eyes to see the fun but as the years go by their absence just adds loss to the strangeness of this holiday. The fear,dark, intimidation and pressure of this holiday seem to be some of the latent issues that linger in the background but then there is the anger that I can not pass this simple day unburned from my stuff. Why can't I do better I keep asking myself with the usual answer; I guess this is just the best I can do so far. Be well and thank you for the dignity you share in allowing us not to be perfect.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to anothersurvivor:

Thank you so much for what you said, Anothersurvivor. This is so validating and comforting for me. I am in the hospital now and haven't a hard time justifying my being here. What you wrote makes me feel a bit better. Thanks!

tai0316 replied to Paul:

I'm sorry you're in the hospital but I'm also glad that you're safe. Safety is most important. You're in my thoughts

Nansie said:

Hi Paul! My prayers are with you today! I am sorry you are going thru this but glad to know you are safe. I didn't mean to make lite of this in any way for you and I hope it didn't seem like that on my last post. If you feel you need to be there then that is all the justification you need... above all else we have to be safe. Halloween triggers many happy memories for me... there are not a lot back there either but this one I do enjoy. My thoughts are with you today... it will be over in 12 hours. Hang in there my friend!

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Nansie:

Nansie, Thank you. Yes, I am safe. I didn't think you made light of things.

anothersurvivor said:

Home and trying to recover from days on end of non-engagement has maybe for the first time showed me clearly that my mind is a separate entity from my body and from the core "me". I have never been able to see the negative self-destructive aspect as separate from me, though I really wanted to think I could be better than that "person" who is so constantly hurtful and jarring to the core of me. I threw a thought at myself that was so cruel it took my breath away. I have begun to be able to weed this voice and note its lies which is an absolute step in the right direction. I know theoretically why and how self-destructive actions work on me, it just makes me feel so sad that they still have so much power after all these years of work. Does that mean I'm so weak and as usual, at fault? There, the beginning of another attack, I guess the fight goes on forever.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to anothersurvivor:

Glad you are home Anothersurvivor! No, I think this is a sign of strength that you are able to now address what is so difficult for you. No, I don't think the fight will go on forever. I tend to look at it from a positive point of view. That you are doing what it takes so that the fight need not go on forever.

Nansie said:

Another: I think you are strong to face these things and deal with them. It takes alot of courage to recognize and then work with or on them. Very painful stuff but there is nothing about this that makes you weak.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Nansie:

I agree with you wholeheartedly Nansie.

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This page contains a single entry published on October 28, 2010 10:02 AM.

Cultivating Skills was the previous entry in this blog.

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