Monday, October 30, 2017

My Sensory Halloween: A Retrospective

Pretty Princess
Halloween and I have always had both a loving and clandestinely stormy relationship. As a child, unaware of my unique neurology and willing to do pretty much anything for a single Reeses Peanut Butter Cup or Kit Kat bar, I outwardly loved Halloween - beautiful costumes! Sparkles! Crowns! Chocolate! - and I inwardly hated it - roaming from strange apartment to strange apartment and brightly lit hallway to brightly lit hallway in the quest for my beloved candy. I was, after all, an undiagnosed child with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

You'd never have known my displeasure back then, though. I wouldn't have had the words to explain the anticipatory anxiety I experienced every October 30th, or the discomfort and detachment I felt from the fluorescent lighting and echoed stairways, and the fear of who and what was on the other side of the door after we yelled, "Trick or Treat!" (and the noise and movement that their presence would introduce into my already atypical, un-patterned evening).

I never would have admitted that I struggled in any way, shape, or form with Halloween or anything that strayed from the norm of my social group. We were 80s and 90s American kids, and so naturally, we went trick-or-treating. How would I have begun to verbalize why something like this, something deemed fun by my peers, was any sort of an issue for me?

Captivating Cat
Blushing Bride

And yet, Halloween is still one of my favorite holidays.

Much like I wrote about in the post, Here I Am (Say Cheese)when I'm in costume, I can pretend to be anyone feeling anything. 

It's always been that way for me.

As a kid, this meant dressing up and feeling more than myself. While I couldn't stand the feel of lipstick on my lips or eyeliner on my face (something else I would have never, ever admitted for fear of ruining my costume and my sugar prospects), I knew both helped to transform me into that extra special version of me - one that was less sensitive and had no questions or unexplainable quirks - and instead was bold and shiny, all while being just another kid in the crowd. I wanted people to look and comment: what a pretty kitty! What a beautiful bride! - because that's all that they'd see about me and that's all they'd need to know. How simple to merely be that one, uncomplicated thing. How nice to take a short detour from certain aspects of myself.

As an adult, I still insist on dressing up for Halloween.

Exhibits A, B, and C:

Kate from the t.v. show Lost


Janice the Muppet from Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem

Baby's First Halloween Costume

. . . and honestly as frequently as society allows (ANY excuse to wear a tiara is legitimate, IMHO). I think it harkens back to that same feeling of pressing pause. A butterfly isn't complex. A butterfly doesn't have sensory issues or anxiety disorders. It doesn't lose its connection with the world when its brain decides it's overwhelmed and needs to pause. It is the unfurl from a chrysalis and gossamer wings. It's the freedom to be temporarily free of unusual intricacies. 

Beautiful Butterfly
This year, my Handler and I will be dressing up to match our daughter, and the two of us will take her trick-or-treating for the first time. It's fair to say I've never been more excited for a Halloween. At 9-months-old, our little girl won't remember this day - how her costume got lost in the mail, how her dad and I had to scramble and get very creative to recreate it - but she'll relive the day sometime in the future through photos. I can't say for sure who she'll be then and what her relationship will be to either Halloween or the sensory world. I don't know much for certain yet. When it comes to babies, every day is an adventure with a brand-new roadmap.

I do know one thing, It's something I whisper to her as she sips away at her bottle, fighting to stay awake; something that I hope she stows away somewhere in her rapidly developing mind. She'll have the sense that she, too, can be anyone feeling anything in this lifetime, whether or not she happens to be wearing a costume.