I am proud to say that readers from around the world visit and subscribe to Daisies and Bruises. Mental health is a universal issue, so I’m hoping even a few advanced alien species pick up on my site now and then.
So if you’re reading from somewhere that doesn’t celebrate Halloween, here’s a link to explain the traditions and celebrations we do around here in North America: Halloween History
Halloween was always super fun at my house when I was growing up. My parents went all-out in decorating the house with spider webs, jack-o-lanterns and black cats. A massive homemade ghost twirled from a window on the second floor of our house. My mom usually dressed up like a witch to hand out candy, complete with cackling and a scary soundtrack in the background.
It was my favourite holiday until I reached high school age, when trick-or-treating was no longer “cool” and all parties involved alcohol and only sexy-themed costumes.
Ever since I remembered my abuse, some of the fun things about Halloween now seem sinister. Post-traumatic stress disorder takes hold and points out some things that trigger me:
Halloween Props That Trigger Me
- crime scene tape
- fake blood, scars, stitches
- people jumping out at me (this has ALWAYS scared me to death, even as a little kid. Especially as a kid!)
- strobe lights/fog (anything that obstructs my vision)
- fake severed limbs
- overly sexualized anything
- fake chains
- cemetery props
- background sounds of human screams
Halloween Props I Still Love
- spider webs
- non-gory costumes
- candy, candy, candy
- black cats
It feels weird to list the Halloween things that trigger me, like I’m signaling myself as the biggest party pooper or something, but I can’t be the only one who feels this way.
It’s important to think about the messages we give to the world in our actions and decisions, from the every-day to special occasions. Just because it’s a holiday, it doesn’t mean my traumatic feelings go away. On the other hand, what triggers me may not trigger someone else and vice versa. If we stripped Halloween of everything that triggered people (which would be impossible anyway), some of the fun parts of Halloween would be erased too.
This post is about awareness, not scrubbing Halloween of all the potentially triggering things. Ask the following questions when you decorate this season:
- What kind of messages are my decorations giving?
- Is this appropriate for children and feelings of safety?
- Could these props be upsetting to some people, making them feel unsafe at my party?
- Can I add to the fun of the Halloween tradition without jumping out at people or playing “music” involving human screams?
- Is fake blood something to laugh at and decorate with?
This is also a guide to understanding why your friend maybe isn’t enjoying Halloween. Maybe that background music of human screams scares us for a reason, and we shouldn’t be ignoring that sometimes people do scream like that outside of Halloween. Real torture exists in this world, as well as real human monsters and real crime scenes. We should never allow ourselves to become numb to the real dangers in the world.
In two weeks we will celebrate Remembrance Day, to pay respect to veterans past and present. That holiday isn’t a joke to anyone, and most war veterans I know have seen more severed limbs than the rest of us can imagine.
Trauma memories aren’t mindful of the calendar. They don’t just go away because it’s Halloween. They are ever-present. That’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: the painful past remaining present.
This year, let’s find a balance between fun and safety for Halloween. Think about those reflective strips schools hand out to kids now so that they are extra visible to traffic when they’re trick-or-treating in the dark. We can improve on traditions, making Halloween more fun for everyone.
Share this post! Spread the word before the 31st, so we can plan to have a great time.