Traditionally speaking, October has been a time of shutting down, tuning out, and imploding. It has been this way for as long as I can remember and my symptoms have only worsened as time progresses. Recently Octobers have been almost unbearable.
Towards the end of September every year I start to feel my psyche shift. I get what I have inaccurately been calling "stressed," the symptoms of which include the following: I become more irritable, my muscles tense up and refuse to relax (especially in my neck and shoulders), my menstrual cycle goes awry, I don't get any restful sleep, I develop an annoying twitch in my left eye, I hallucinate, my memory stops functioning, my hair starts falling out, I have bouts of confusion, and I have serious difficulties thinking and speaking properly. Halloween marks the grand finale. Then, November comes over me like a cool mist on a still early morning and I start to breathe normally again. Well, whatever normal means. Teehee I'm just stressed out, alright?
It wasn't always so bad. In the beginning it started off with a little stress that I could easily ignore. Then it became an eating disorder that I blamed on myself - if I hadn't been a part of the early 2000's pro ana scene then I wouldn't have these issues, right? Then self-harm. I would sit in my bathroom, break the mirrors out of my powder compacts, and use the glass shards to scrape and cut at the skin on my thighs. When that dried up, I began chasing sensations. I would speed, go to clubs I shouldn't be at, hang around dangerous people, and get piercings regularly just for the pain (thankfully it wasn't something more permanent). When that got dull, overindulgence fixed my problems. Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa morphed into Binge Eating Disorder. I began buying a huge amount of junk food at work every night and consuming it in the privacy of a toilet stall. I would go grocery shopping alone and buy ten thousand calories worth of snacks intended to be inhaled in the parking lot before going home. Eventually, food alone wasn't enough and my attention turned to more intimate physical pleasures. Then to substance abuse. I developed what idiots call marijuana use disorder. In other words, I got addicted to the green stuff. I went from getting high once a week to consuming an ever increasing dosage of edibles every day, often times multiple times a day. I started having regular migraines, I became ultra paranoid, and I was delusional. All of these "stress symptoms" increased tenfold around October.
All the while this "random stress" was just accumulating and my body and mind started changing. It wasn't alarming. I felt like everything that was going on was a part of the normal human experience. If anyone were to ask me at this stage how my childhood was or how my life was going currently I would have replied with something along the lines of "perfect!" Not because I was intentionally hiding the truth or because I felt some need to come across as perfect and unproblematic (all of which may have a little truth in them), but really because I had totally convinced myself that everything was fine and normal. I was struggling internally but so was everyone else. It's fine. I'm fine.
I'm just a little stressed, okay?
But then it started getting to the point where I couldn't deny the problems anymore. They were growing and changing into something too big for me to handle. I started hearing a voice, my own voice detached from myself, saying "she killed herself." It happened randomly and interrupted my thoughts. I also started hallucinating. It started off as night terrors where I'd be in bed, in the delicate space between being awake and being asleep, and I'd hallucinate black geometric shapes flying directly at my face or giant black shadow spiders on my pillow or the wall. My heart would leap into my throat, I would scream at the top of my lungs, and I'd jump out of bed completely naked and run towards the bedroom door before realizing what was going on. One time, barely conscious, husband attempted to comfort me by throwing his favorite fuzzy blanket over me once I got back into bed telling me I'm pretty and that he loves snuggling (a sly way to get me to share fuzzy?). The night terrors turned into full blown daytime hallucinations. I will not describe them here. They occurred infrequently, maybe once every few months and almost always during times of heightened stressed and anxiety. I was scared.
I do not have schizophrenia. I do not have OCD or autism (two disorders my family have historically used as blanket terms for anything they deem abnormal). I do not have a depression or anxiety disorder. I am mentally unremarkable. I am just an intense, sensitive person dealing with unprocessed traumas. Traumas that I pushed deep down inside of myself and tried to forget. Traumas that sat inside of me for a decade slowly eating away at my sanity. Traumas that desperately desired to consume all that I am and replace it with disordered darkness. Traumas that tried to kill me by telling me that all the bad stuff going on is just because of "stress." I was not fine. I was not just a little stressed out like everyone else. I was a traumatized child who was taught that expressions of negative feelings, thoughts, and emotions were bad and so I did the only thing I knew how to do: shut up and be perfect. Otherwise I'd be given something to cry about.
Halloween is something different now. October is something different now.
October is a month of new beginnings. Halloween is just another manufactured holiday for children and worse, adult children. It's just the day before All Saints Day. It's really nothing at all. October is just the tenth month when it starts to get chilly and the leaves turn pretty colors.
This October I did something different. Husband and I took a well deserved mini vacation to a lovely resort and spa I've had my eye on for a little while. We stayed for two nights doing nothing but reading, eating, and relaxing. We had a couples massage which, to my surprise, husband actually enjoyed. I splurged on a facial and some new skincare products. We took everything easy. Breakfasts were delivered to our room and we ate wearing white robes and slippers as the fireplace kept us cozy. We had champagne and chocolates in a lavender scented bath; flickering candles lit the path for the rose petals floating by. I ate the most delicious meal I've ever had, proven by the goosebumps on my arms as I took my first bite. I relaxed in an outdoor spa, warmed up in the sauna, and walked the grounds hand in hand with my love. Everything was a dream. I left the resort with a newly gifted inspiration. I wanted this experience more often. Right away I began researching other resorts and spas in the area. I looked at spa menus and calculated how much money I'd need to get x, y, and z done every month. I flicked through photos of hotel bathtubs trying to find my next luxury soak. But then I realized what I was doing and I changed that, too.
Instead, I started cleaning our home. I filled big black garbage bags full of the old, the expired, the unused, and the unwanted. I began to organize things. I dusted, vacuumed, wiped, and polished. I bought some necessary household items that I had been putting off. I got on top of the laundry and learned how to make my bed a little fancier. Then I started researching new recipes I wanted to try including some inspired by some of the meals we had at the resort. I made a meal plan and wrote a menu for the next few days. I invested in quality ingredients and spoiled myself with fancy salt flakes and a salt cellar. I started cooking - a lot. So much so that my feet have been consistently sore by the end of each day. I baked cookies because I wanted something sweet. I experimented more with husband's coffee and he's been very happy with the results. I did all of these things because I wanted to have a better experience from my life. By switching my mindset this way, everything was relatively positive. My body no longer turned into deadweight at the thought of cooking a meal or washing dishes. I listened to podcasts or music and enjoyed the chores I gave myself. I did not follow a list of things that I needed to do but instead I flowed from task to task as I wanted. I listened to myself. I took as many breaks as I wanted, as frequently as I wanted, with no regard to how many things I must complete. I gave myself ample time to work on hobbies and relax. Nothing was an issue. Our place isn't spotless, I haven't organized everything, my calves are on fire (thanks to a false fire alarm + 24 flights of stairs), and I have a ton of work to do to get to where I'm going but I couldn't be happier. I'm finally in control of myself. I can make every day as close to a resort experience as possible. I can do the things I want. Hi, it me.
October will never rule me again. I have been working so hard to get to this point, and I believe I have finally broken through. All it took was a bit of pampering, I guess. And lots of therapy but whatever.
Sameness produces sameness. Happy Halloween.
Listening: Change Style - Benny Benassi
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