Whew! What a ride this life can be. Completely out of the blue, I found myself in overtaken by a full-blown PTSD episode when was in the store the other day. Life was good. Things were happy, and we were just going about our business and getting the grocery shopping done. And then, BOOM! All of the sudden, my heart was racing, my head was spinning, my stomach was in knots, my chest felt like it was in a vice grip, and all I wanted to do was turn around and run out of that store as fast as I could!
When Trauma Meets Tacky
Trauma sucks. Triggers suck. They truly can come out of nowhere and slap you across the face when you least expect them. Are you curious to know what could have possibly triggered me so deeply and so quickly as to elicit this type of intense response? It was nothing more than a lovely display of adorable, happy, smiling Reese’s peanut butter jack-o-lanterns.
It wasn’t so much what they were or where they were. It’s that they were there in the store and prominently displayed in JULY! Come on, people! I get that all the retailers just want to make a buck, but it’s still 100 degrees outside and we’re all still in sun dresses and swimwear! Pushing this stuff that is still this far out of season is just annoying.
But alas, it is what it is. They do it because they can (and obviously because it works) and there’s nothing we can do except buck up and deal with it…and rant about it on my blog and in a YouTube Short, of course.
The Trauma is Real!
The candy itself wasn’t really the problem. It’s that Halloween items have started to arrive in the stores even before the “Back-to-School” season is in full swing. What used to be contained to October no longer is. Just like Christmas, Halloween gets bigger and bigger and it’s pushed earlier and earlier every year.
While Halloween might be fun for some people, it is definitely not for our kids, or honestly for many adults as well, who have a traumatic past. Even when things look cute and fun as those peanut butter and chocolate pumpkins did, it doesn’t change the fact that EVERYTHING about Halloween glorifies trauma. It’s all about death, blood, terror, gore, and evil. It’s witches and ghosts and goblins, and most mind-blowing of all, it’s about purposely being scared just for fun.
However, if you’re among the growing number of unfortunate many who have lived through unspeakable horrors in real life, there is nothing cute, fun, or funny about it.
For many, many, MANY years, my kids would lose their ever-living minds during the entire Halloween season. It was constant rages, screaming, defiance, self-harm, aggression, arguing, and kicking holes in walls, along with a whole host of other unsavory survival behaviors that were being used to communicate their deep level of fear. It started the minute the first stuff started showing up in the stores and didn’t stop until it all went away on November 1.
Especially when the kids were younger, there were times during the month of October we literally could not go anywhere because meltdowns were so bad and there was no way to escape all the triggers. Of course, we also couldn’t get the schools to listen or provide any other accommodations for the kids to escape all the Halloween stuff. Most of the time, all we could do was hunker down and get through it.
Those were some scary days! Sheesh! Even just writing about it puts knots back in my stomach! It was the memory of those horrible times I’d rather forget, triggered by the cute pumpkin candy in the store in JULY that sent me over the edge…and my kids aren’t even living with me anymore!
But when they were, the back-to-school season that is normal for this time of year was bad enough. Anyone who’s had trauma kids in school probably knows that anxiety runs high for everyone at this time of year. It’s hard on kids. It’s hard on parents, and most teachers I’ve met aren’t really jazzed about it, either.
There are new classes, new people to get to know, new expectations, new rules, new people to schmooze, new things to learn, new people to educate and train, new ways for kids to get into trouble, new triggers that will pop up…and nobody knows how any of it is going to play out.
So, to have Halloween collide head-on with back-to-school is just a recipe for disaster. It’s kind of like standing on the sidelines watching a tsunami roll in, knowing what’s coming, knowing you can’t escape or stop it, and knowing it’s not going to end well for a lot of people.
Even though I’m passed the worst part of most of it now, it still made me literally sick for all of you Moms out there who are still in the trenches, who still have kids who are getting ready to head back to school, and who also still get very stressed out by Halloween. I’m afraid there are some really long rock and roll months ahead, for sure!
The Time is NOW to Take Action In Your World
There’s actually another reason I’m posting about this now. If you’re one of those moms…or you’re a trauma warrior yourself who can resonate with what I’ve shared, this is definitely the time to start practicing every healthy coping skill you can find and using every calming tool available. It’s also time to start upping your own self-care routines and rituals, because my goodness, we’ve still got a long way to go before this year is over. That’s a long time to live in a high state of crisis!
Don’t wait until things really heat up to start making plans. With all the stuff already starting to show up in the stores, it’s not too early to start talking about things and putting boundaries in place around Halloween, especially if you or your kids react very poorly to it.
One of my kids never went to school on Halloween. Ever. Nor did they go on Valentine’s Day. Those were two days that it just wasn’t worth it. I called them in sick every time…because in my book, PTSD counts!
This may also be the year that it’s time for you to break away from all the traditional Halloween activities and do something different. Again, don’t wait until all the stores are full of all the creepy, spooky, shiny things to make that decision. Do it now and make the plan clear.
I remember well the year we firmly declared “No more Halloween!” It was actually on the most hellacious, blood-curdling Halloween night in history. There was absolutely nothing fun about it for anyone, it was truly terrifying (as opposed to the manufactured terror of the season), an d we finally woke up and realized we were only doing it because we were “supposed to.” And that was it. We simply and decisively said “NEVER AGAIN!”
Nope, the kids weren’t upset. They didn’t buck us. They didn’t fight us (ever!) They were relieved! For many years thereafter, they also had fun planning our own family fun night that we enjoyed in the safety of our own house. We didn’t receive Trick-or-Treaters, and part of our fun was trying not to get caught being home! Our kids could dress up if they wanted to, and sometimes they did using stuff they found around the house. Some of their favorite memories also include knocking on all the doors in our hallway to get various pieces of their meal…including silverware and dishes!
It’s all about what works for you!
Don’t worry about what the neighbors think. Don’t worry about the neigh-sayers who say you must do it like everyone else, especially when they have no clue about your kids or what is actually best for them or your family. Most importantly, always practice safety first…including both physical and emotional safety for everyone!
Be brave, be you, and do what works for you.