You will not defeat me this year.
You used to be my favorite month. Everyone who really knows me knows I love designing a good costume. The macabre side of my personality gets to come out and play as you seem to be the only time of year others deem it socially acceptable. Not to mention the candy.
But every year, for the last ten years, the changing of the leaves heralds a change in me; as if the waves of vermillion surrender washing over the trees triggers a shift in the tide. October is my high tide.
I can already feel it happening. I can smell Autumn on the shifting winds, feel the crispness creeping in. And I have to admit, I’m nervous.
October 26, 2020 marks ten years since I was raped at a Halloween party. Since then, you have become unbearable, October. The shapes and sounds of Halloween coming triggers me every year. Where once a well-decorated haunted house would give me butterflies with excitement, I now receive the familiar death moths of triggered PTSD.
Triggering things just seem to happen in October.
In October 2016, tapes were leaked. Tapes containing the voice of a man bragging about sexually assaulting women. A man to whom, a month later, we handed the power over our country as if sexual assault isn’t a crime worthy of pause.
In October 2018, a man was sworn in as Supreme Court Justice after weeks of public allegations of sexual assault topped national headlines.
In October 2019, I was volunteering at a Halloween event in Detroit. I was clearing empty cups off tables. A man twice my size, much more drunk than I, grabbed my hips and attempted to pull me into a dark corner of an empty mezzanine. I never learned his intentions, as the arrival of an angel, dressed like a devil, loosened his grip.
October 29, 2019, I walked into my school social worker’s office and burst into tears. I walked out of the psychiatric hospital two days later.
But October 2020 is going to be different.
Today is September 4th (happy birthday Beyonce) and as always, the Halloween memes have already started. Cider mills are opening. I can see clusters of orange peppering the trees as I walk my dog in the morning. October is on its way, and with it, my preparations.
This year will be different because I am prepared. A major difference between this October and the ten previous is that others know. I finally let others in. I have a support system this year. Until I attempted suicide and decided to make my healing process public, I kept all of this about October locked up deep inside. And every year, I would silently fall apart in solitude while simultaneously gluing a smile to my face for others’ benefit. Not this year, October. Now people know about you.
Also, I have skills now. For better or worse, my mental breakdown forced me to seek help. October 2019 seemed to be the final trigger for real change. After attempting suicide, I had to go to therapy. And not biweekly, for an hour, where I usually chose to talk about work — as that’s from where I was always coming. Real, intense, full time therapy that forced me to confront the shit about October I spent ten years avoiding. And I built skills. Skills that I practice every day, skills that I can use as a buoy as this year’s high tide crashes in around me.
If it sounds to you like I’m reassuring myself, I am. In all honesty, part of me is terrified of you still, October. I was really hoping I’d be more stable than I am by the time you arrived again. But if there’s one thing I’ve proven over the last year it’s that I’m a survivor. And I don’t plan on changing that any time soon.
See you soon, October. I’ll be ready.