Halloween

Oops, this is a day late. Wonder why!

I wrote about Halloween on October 2, 2011. It’s a history piece and traces the origins of present-day customs. You can see it at https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/samhainhalloween/

I have never, however, written about what Halloween means to me personally. I think I felt that I had nothing much to add because fear is fear and disgust is disgust and flashbacks are flashbacks and Halloween is awful for pretty much all of us. I still feel there is little I have to add, but I have found that people like to hear others’ experiences. Makes them feel less isolated, I guess.

I just have little snippets of what they did on Halloween; most of my knowledge comes from “feeling” flashbacks and my present-day reaction of “now that makes sense.” Earlier, I just felt embarrassed because all of the other kids seemed to have a good time and therefore there was something really wrong with me, something to hide, something to pretend didn’t exist. I must say I did a pretty good job of keeping it secret; not my fears, but the “it” that caused those fears. And the “it” is still pretty well hidden from me today.

A few years ago I was reading a diary my mother kept when I was about twelve. Apparently I blurted out that I was afraid of the dark and that it started with a Halloween party. My mother took it to mean that it was a child’s party, but I never went to one. The only regular Halloween party I went to took place in the school gym every year and was pretty tame. She wrote, “I didn’t know. All these years, she never told me. What is a mother to do?”

I felt so sad. She really didn’t know. Her amnesia was even more impenetrable than mine.

It is dark every night, not just on October 31. So I shivered with fear every night. I also believed I would forget how to breathe. I remember being smothered and being told I would stop breathing and become a ghost. I don’t know if I was smothered to the point of stopping breathing and needing resuscitation.

I was also told I would forget this happened. I guess I blurred the forgetting and thought I would forget how to breathe all on my own, not with somebody else’s help by putting something over my face.

(This has nothing to do with the cult, or at least my cult. It was war-time during my grade school years. People were very afraid that the Germans would manage to get to the East Coast and would  bomb us. We had to tape black window shades to the walls and turn off the lights so that there would be no visual trace of the city. Adults patrolled the street at night with flash cards of their planes and our planes. Even my incompetent mother had this duty! Every time a plane passed overhead I was terrified that we were about to get bombed. To this day I am frightened by low flying planes and unfortunately I live under an airport flight pattern which the planes use when the wind comes from a certain direction.)

The gym had a space where kids bobbed for apples. I refused. Nobody asked why because I had a reputation of being a timid, anxious child. I was afraid somebody would push my head down and I would drown, of course.

Piecing things together, a large part of the Halloween rituals had to do with making kids believe they were going to die or actually bringing them to the point of death. Death and resurrection, near-death and terror.

This occurred toward the end of the ritual; the preceding part had to do with bringing animals close to death and then sacrificing them. It didn’t take much to make us believe we, too, were to be sacrificed.

I have gotten a handle on my flashbacks by now, but I still protect myself from major triggers. I live on the third floor and can make it appear that nobody is home. I just turn off the lights in the rooms facing the street and curl up in bed with junk magazines. That way I don’t have to look at costumes nor do I have to say, “Happy Halloween” over and over. So the actual holiday is okay.

But there is no way I can protect myself from the commercial hype that starts about six weeks before Halloween. The costumes and masks. The pumpkins. The fake spider webs and the skeletons that glow in the dark. And orange and black everywhere I look, day after day. It’s tacky as well as triggering. All I can do is tough it out.

One year I actually found a nice way to celebrate the evening. I was in my pagan phase and I took advantage of the fact that the “veil” between this life and the next was thinner than usual. I wrote the things I wished to say goodbye to on little slips of paper, lit a fire, and burned them. I also prepared a nice dinner for myself and for my dead ancestors and placed their plate on my deck. I  told myself that my ancestors had remembered what they had done and were shocked and remorseful. Since they felt that way, I did not have trouble reaching out to them and offering them food this one evening of the year.

In the morning, the food was all gone. I gasped! It couldn’t be true – the ghosts of my ancestors hadn’t really come and enjoyed my offering, licking the plate clean, had they? Then I noticed lots of little raccoon paw prints. How sweet. How clever of them to find it. How normal.

Ripples

You will find an entry on Halloween (Samhain) on October 2, 2011.

I decided to share something personal that I find uplifting on this least up-lifting of days. It was published in the Survivorship Journal, Vol. 17 No.1 (March 2011.)

When you drop a stone into a pond, you never know exactly where the ripples will go, what they will touch, or how long it will take them to fade out. So it is with every time we say something about ritual abuse.

This instance still makes me shiver.

Twenty-four years ago, when I first remembered, I disclosed to my college-aged children. I tried to give them just enough but not too much information. I don’t know how well I did; perhaps I could have made it a little easier for them at the time, but I did the best I could.

About six months later my youngest daughter organized a “Take Back the Night” rally at college. She felt she should disclose something in her speech because everybody else would be talking about times they were raped, sexually assaulted, or sexually harassed. But nothing much had ever happened to her.

So she said that she was very lucky that nothing major had happened to her, but that her mother had recently told her that she had been sexually and satanically abused as a child. She spoke about her reaction to the news — besides being horrified, she was so grateful that I had kept her safe.

When the event was over. she thought that what she had said probably fell on deaf ears. Nobody would have been able to relate; it was a small college and only a couple of hundred people had come to the rally. The chances of anybody having been ritually abused were zilch. Many would have outright disbelieved her. In fact, not a single person came up to her afterwards to talk about what she had said.

Two days later, a boy approached her and said that he was really glad she had talked about her mother. That was his story, too. He had decided in his childhood that he never would have children. He was afraid he would abuse them, and, even if he didn’t, he assumed that he would be a terrible parent. But he knew her from classes, and he thought she was great. If her mother could raise her to be competent and healthy and happy, perhaps he, too, could be a decent parent.

She was totally amazed. When she told me, so was I!

My decision to disclose led to her decision to speak out about ritual abuse, led to that young man’s decision to reevaluate his potential as a parent. Who knows, it even may have, by now, led to a new human life.

And so it is, not only with what we say, but with what we do. Every time we are kind or honest or brave we affect those around us. And they affect others. Our words and actions ripple far into the future.

Reactions to Holidays

 There is an entry on Samhain, or Halloween, on October 2, 2011.

I have a friend who calls them cultidays. And another friend calls them hellidays. I love it! That makes it impossible to confuse them with days that others in our society celebrate without torturing each other. Maybe there’s a family fight, but it’s nothing compared to what the cults do.

That’s not what I want to write about today, though. What is on my mind is how my reaction to cultidays has changed over time.

During the first few years after I remembered, waves of fear crushed me to the point that I could hardly breathe. My baseline then was fear and anxiety, so I didn’t always spot that something different was going on. It all blended in and made a big terrifying mess. It wasn’t until a few years had passed that I began to see that there were nuances and patterns.

I’ve been maintaining the ritual calendar posted at http://ra-info.org/for-and-by-survivors/ritual-dates-and-symbols/ since 1999, I believe. That helped me see that I felt especially bad the day before a cultiday. Later, I learned that my cult, like many Satanic groups, started the ritual the night before the actual day.  So the day before was filled with dread and the day itself brought a wave of relief because it was actually over with for another year.

Of course, being dissociative, I would forget to look at the calendar. If I did remember, I would promptly forget what I had read. I thought it was weird that I had spent so much time looking up phases of the moon and the dates of that year’s national holidays, typing it all up, proofing it, and still forgot.

For years I had a hard time a day or two before any major helliday and then felt a sigh of relief on the actual day. Recently, though, I find I start feeling bad a week or so before. Why? I do not know. Perhaps it is because I am more sensitive to gradations of anxiety and so can pick up on it. I would like to believe that. Another possible explanation is that I can imagine the future better — I can see a week ahead, not just a day ahead. Or perhaps the bad days came every week, rather than every six weeks. (I’d rather not have that be the explanation.)

The reason doesn’t much matter, though. Whatever it is, I have to deal with my reaction. Each year living through these hard days is different — not necessarily easier, but always different. At least it keeps me from getting bored.

That was fun, saying helliday and cultiday!