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Halloween Reflections From a Girl With PTSD

I spent the majority of my time from age 10 to 15 sitting in hospital wards and doctors’ offices due to my father’s cancer, and eventual death. 

I didn’t go out with friends. I didn’t join clubs. I spent a lot of time in school nurses’ offices pretending to be sick because I didn’t want to be in class, where I could be reminded my peers experience of adolescence was so very different than mine.

I never celebrated Halloween. I’d always felt guilty if I could enjoy something when my father couldn’t so I just didn’t… enjoy anything. 

It has been a few days since Halloween has ended, and I am beginning to grieve the memories I don’t have. My friends posted pictures on Facebook of Halloweens gone by, from when they were young to now. I watched parents take their kids trick or treating on my road, and groups of teens dressed as ghouls walked to Halloween parties, and it hit me I’d never had any of that. 

For five years I hadn’t been able to have fun, or had permission to act like a regular young person. Halloween felt like a kick in the ribs, an ugly reminder of all that I have lost, and of all that I will never have.

Due to the traumatic experiences I went through I developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), so even when my time was no longer fully taken up with my father’s sickness, I still could not live life to the fullest and try to make happier memories. I could not escape the past no matter how hard I tried, and due to this Halloween is a celebration I have not yet been able to appreciate and partake in. 

A part of me is afraid I will never enjoy Halloween, that this event will always be tinged with pain. But I have realized I cannot let my PTSD dictate what I am able to do. I have always wanted to experience Halloween, and I am determined not to let my illness, and the grief of the past stop me anymore.

This is why I have decided to participate in Halloween next year. I have missed out on so much already, and I refuse to let another Halloween go past uncelebrated. Maybe I’ll have to ease myself in — order some pizza and watch a PG spooky movie with a friend, rather than going to an intense alcohol fueled party, but I will do it. 

I am worth happiness, and I should not feel shame for trying to love life despite the past. I will no longer let PTSD control me, and perhaps my decision regarding Halloween will encourage me to make more decisions that bring me joy. Halloween is only the beginning of my journey of healing, and I am finally looking forward to what the future holds.

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