Posts Tagged ‘Halloween’

This is my annual “got triggered by the Halloween store” blog entry. I guess I will keep writing it until my 11-year-old son is grown.

My son gets annoyed with me every year that I will not let him buy, or even try on, any costume with a black hood. No exceptions. Non-negotiable. Of course, in his 11-year-old mind, the black-hooded costumes are the scariest and “coolest,” and as an adolescent, he is looking for any way he can to prove that he is no longer a “little kid.”

He placed one hooded mask on his head briefly, and I felt a sharp pain across my head. His friend wanted to try one on, and just that knowledge sent more shooting pains through my head. I told the friend that my son would have to let her know how the costume looks because seeing children in black hooded robes makes me sick.

Last night, I have flashback nightmares. I reenacted one of my more heinous memories. I could feel and hear the same sensations I experienced when the event actually happened, and I jolted awake pouring sweat with my heart pounding. I eventually went back to sleep but continued having nightmares. I gave up at 4:30 a.m.

Photo credit: Microsoft

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On my blog entry entitled Is Anyone Else Struggling with This Time of Year?, which I wrote on October 8, 2009, a reader recently posted the following comment:

I wanted to respond to this post because this is a huge issue for me. I have been thinking about it a bit now because the holidays are coming up. I think I understand why they bother me so much and maybe it might be a bit of the same for you.

A few years ago I stopped going home for the holidays for obvious reasons. At first it was a huge relief to not have to go to my parents and pretend we are the perfect family. But very quickly the depression and sadness came back. And now the holidays are a HUGE trigger (starting now but getting worse around Halloween). It is because the not being with my family makes me think about all of the reasons I am not home with my family. Consciously or sub-consciously I am reminded of all of the reasons that I do not have the same family holiday as many people I know. Even if I have a boyfriend or friends to share these times with, there are still the constant questions from people about whether or not I am going home for the holidays, ect. My escape from my family is no escape when there are constant perfect family references everywhere. I think for 3 months before Christmas I am a freaking mess.

The freedom of not being with my family is an instant trigger of all of the memories of the things that are the very reason I am not with my family during the holidays- talk about a double edged sword!

I think we are all a bit screwed- putting ourselves around the people who hurt us is obviously hurtful. But choosing to not be around them means we also can’t escape and pretend that all of the reasons we can’t be around them don’t exist since and the holidays are pretty much a 24hr reminder of this.

Do you relate to this at all? ~ Tracy099

My response is yes – I do relate to this. I shared yesterday about getting triggered at the Halloween store over the weekend, and I am still not over it. All last week, life seemed easy and carefree. This long holiday weekend has been a real struggle. I am looking forward to having time alone in my house today (when hub goes back to work and child goes back to school) so I can focus on grounding myself.

I think Tracy makes a very astute observation. We protect ourselves by distancing ourselves from our abusive family, but the very act of distancing ourselves when society does nothing to talk about coming together throughout the holiday season is a constant reminder of the reasons why we are different.

I have done all that I can to ease this for myself. My sister and her children are the only family members that I stay in regular contact with, and they come to my house for the holidays. One the one hand, it is great because my son adores his cousins and I love seeing my sister. However, I am reminded of the family dysfunction whenever I see her (as I am sure is true for her as well), which makes it hard.

The holidays are definitely my Achilles heel, and it ticks me off because I have been doing so well lately. I don’t want to surrender three months of my life every year to holiday triggers (not including the Mother’s Day triggers at a different time of year). I want to reclaim this time and make it about something other than my history. I am not quite sure how to do that yet other than by upping my Xanax dosage.

Photo credit: Rosanne Mooney

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The weather over the weekend was absolutely gorgeous! Saturday was one of those days that just felt amazing … the weather was so nice that all seemed right with the world. I was in a fabulous mood as I drove my son to the Halloween store to browse. The Halloween store is only open seasonally (for obvious reasons), and Saturday was the grand opening.

When I left the Halloween store, I was feeling very cranky. My head was hurting, so I thought I might need to eat dinner early. That did not help. Walking the dogs with my son did not help either, nor did talking on the phone with my sister. I started to wonder if I was coming down with a cold, if my allergies were aggravated, or if I was starting to have a migraine.

I was baffled by how I could have been in such a fabulous mood all day and then be in this terrible place of feeling absolutely miserable. I recounted my day and realized that the switch happened at the Halloween store.

I know that there are things in Halloween stores that can be triggering for me due to the ritual abuse, but I really thought I did okay. At no point did I get that “floaty” feeling in my head that tells me that I am triggered. I literally went from being in a great mood to having a headache in an instant. Once I realized that I was triggered, I took some Xanax and went to bed. I slept for 10 hours with acceptable dreams (intense but not nightmares).

The next day, I asked my friend and asked if she noticed anything weird about me at the Halloween store. She said I was completely fine until I went into the dressing room with my son the second time. That is when my demeanor changed. On the second trip, my son tried on a “Scream” costume (without my permission), which is a hooded black robe. Apparently, that was the trigger.

I have told my son multiple times that he may not wear a costume with a black robe, so of course that is what he wants to wear. My friend has offered to take him costume shopping in the future and not to allow him to get a black robe. (She knows my entire history.)

Right now, I am just focused on grounding myself again. It bothers me that I could get triggered that powerfully and have no idea that I was. Yes, I felt the physical changes but was completely oblivious to the trigger when it happened. A day later, I am still not back to normal. (I am writing this on Sunday night.) I will probably take more Xanax to help me sleep tonight.

It p@$$es me off that the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) still has this kind of power over me. I know that PTSD is managed rather than cured, and I know that I pull myself out of triggers much, much faster than I used to, but it still angers me to have to deal with this crap at all.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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As I have shared several times before, October through December are typically very rough months for me. Some of this is the result of the ritual abuse I suffered as a child. I suspect that this is also a difficult time because there are so many holidays, which when I was a child signified being separated from those who were supportive (teachers and friends), leaving me 24/7 with my crazy family and their friends.

Regardless of the reason, October is generally a very difficult time of year. I pretty much stay triggered, alternating between feeling anxious and feeling very depressed. I am happy to report that I did much better this October than I have in previous years. Hooray!

I am not saying that I was able to avoid being triggered. Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that these last couple of weeks have involved one trigger after another. The big difference is that I have not stayed triggered. I have been successful in pulling myself out of the nosedives repeatedly. The good news is that I have had many “good” days. The bad news is that I feel like a Weeble-Wobble that keeps getting knocked down and then getting back up … up and down … up and down … until I start to feel dizzy.

In some ways, handling the triggers in a healthier way is just as tiring as staying “stuck” in the triggers. There is a certain amount of “comfort” in knowing that I am in a bad place and will stay there for a while. Even though I don’t enjoy it, I know what to expect. These days, I cannot tell you from hour to hour what state I will be in. That is exhausting, but I still wouldn’t trade it. As I pull myself out of the swirling currents over and over again, I gain confidence in knowing that I am not going to drown.

I was pleasantly surprised not to have to deal with any Halloween-related (ritual abuse) triggers this year. For as long as I can remember, being out after dark has been triggering. Couple that with seeing black hooded figures, and I typically have a very bad headache every Halloween. That did not happen this year (to my utter amazement), so I guess I am making progress in that area.

How did all of you deal with Halloween this year? Was it as triggering as ever? Or did you notice some progress in healing? (Or both?)

Photo credit: Rosanne Mooney

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Thank you for being so patient while I took a break last week. I was overwhelmed with many areas of my life, some of which I wrote about here. I am going to try to blog daily this week, but don’t be surprised if I need to ease back in. I try to write ahead, and I am writing this in real time.

On Friday, I did my monthly shopping trip to Target. I have a Target Visa that gives me 10% off one-day of shopping if I use my Target Visa enough, which is sooo not a problem. I always send my nephews a small Halloween present, so I went into the Halloween aisle to look for one. Mistake!

Seeing the black robes, etc., was triggering for me. I did not have a panic attack or anything, but I could feel the “tugging” on my brain in reaction as a part of myself sought to flee the triggers. We are just moving into the Halloween season, so I know I have an entire month of similar experiences ahead of me.

I have decided to try dressing up again this year. I have historically always dressed either as a little girl or a slut, and it took someone else to shed some light on why that was a problem. It seems so obvious now – that I associate ritual abuse with my being a “slutty” little girl – but I really did not see this until someone else pointed it out.

Two years ago, I decided to try dressing up again. (I had stopped ever since having that epiphany.) I was torn between being a spider witch (complete with a black robe) or an injured teen in a prom dress. I chose the spider witch and wound up getting very triggered in the costume – go figure. I decided that I clearly had not pulled myself out of being in the ritual abuse mindset at Halloween, so I did not dress up for Halloween last year.

This year, I am going for comedy, so we will see how this goes. I am going as Ugly Betty. I found a costume kit with the glasses, braces, and wig. I have put together some really tacky clothes, and I will wear sneakers (good for walking to trick or treat with my kid) with a skirt and really loud striped socks. I am hoping this will help me break the “slutty little girl” mold once and for all. We’ll see how it goes.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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