From a young age Halloween has been one of my least liked holidays. I didn’t like dressing up. I hate being scared. I get nervous at nights. Dark scares me. Haunted Houses. . .absolutely not for me. Blood, skeletons, spooks, masks - all of that was way too much for me. I could handle the cuteness, but nothing else. I don’t know who’s around, what’s looming around the corner.
I tried. I tried to like it. Even in college I agreed to go with a group of friends to the State Mental Haunted House. That didn’t go well. I was scared to death! AND THEN, one of the scarers came at me with a needle and blood was dripping from it and I passed out. I had to be carried out of the haunted house and that’s the last time I went to a haunted house.
I found more joy in Halloween, when with my parents, neighbors and a lot of my family got involved with doing Nightmare Express Train rides at my parents on my dad’s train. My boys absolutely LOVED being scarers and being a part of this activity each year as 10,000 people would come and ride the trains. I could handle this because there wasn’t blood, no gore and we were making some great memories together with family. It made me super sad when the kids would come out crying, but we worked at making it fun for them too.
That ended and I thought alright we’ll take the boys and go trick or treating and Tanner was like what is this, why would we dress up and knock on people’s doors and ask for candy. Where we’ve found joy in the holiday is being with friends and family and doing different “other” traditions - like our family halloween picture, carving pumpkins and potluck halloween foods.
This year we are at a baseball tournament for the weekend. We won’t be home for any of the Halloween festivities. Tanner wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, but baseball. He doesn’t enjoy dressing up either and baseball is all he needs.
Friday as we drove to the field I saw junior high students getting out of school and all dressed up in different costumes. Then scrolling instagram and facebook I saw lots of pictures of costumes from littles to adults. They were fun to look at. I do love people’s creativity and honestly I admire people who can dress up and have fun with all of it.
As I was at the ball field I was visiting with a mom that was trying to decide what to do with her kids. Should she go to the store and get some costumes and let them trick or treat out of town, trick or treat on Sunday at home, etc. Her kids were talking about different costumes and what they would want to dress up as.
As I pondered this I thought to myself, what would I dress up as. If I had to dress up in a costume for any reason, what would I choose? The only thought I had was, “You’ve always hidden behind a mask. You have always dressed up.”
I hadn’t really thought about that before. Yes, until 2 years ago I did hide behind a mask. In fact; many different masks.
Not only did I dress up in certain types of clothing, but I’ve always had a rule I couldn’t leave my room until I had makeup on and my hair done. I had to look the part. Through my teenage years and into college I didn’t own levi’s or tennis shoes. I owned nicer clothing, heels, nails done and was all put together. When Rick and I got married for our first Christmas he gave me tennis shoes. I didn’t know what to do with them. I was also super worried about my weight so I watched what I ate and if I felt I was gaining too much I could easily throw up the food. Appearance was something I could control.
Then along came 4 boys and life and I started getting more and more casual in my clothing. I wanted nice clothing and tried, but it was difficult to take care of 4 boys, be at the ballfields and keep things clean and nice. I did a pretty good job and for sure I would never be seen in a t-shirt. That was forbidden. I didn’t really even own any t-shirts.
Then my health starts to take a toll and here comes weight gain that is out of my control. Then the health and weight takes a toll on my body and here comes pain. It becomes a very vicious cycle. And now, every time I look at myself all I see is a fat person. A person that can’t hide behind the mask of looking all put together anymore. I try to purchase cute clothes, take care of my make up and my hair, but the weight has become a part of my ugliness. It’s something that hurts me everyday. That comes to mind as something that might hold people back from wanting to be my friend, me posting pictures of myself and thinking I feel I ruin the pictures. For so many years I had that mask mastered.
Some of the other masks that I hid behind for over 40 years were:
I could do it all
We have it all together
I could be in 50 places all at once and pull it all off perfectly
Always had a solutions
Could fix anything
And the list goes on. . .
I had lots of masks and to be truthful no one, not even my husband, knew the real me. To be honest I didn’t know myself so there was no way anyone else could know me. I was sooooo busy volunteering and putting myself out there and solving problems and making a difference and being in the public eye and the community I wouldn’t and couldn’t stop for even a second to really take a deeper look at Who I Am.
I didn’t want to face the truth. I couldn’t. I hadn’t told anyone. No one. There were very deep dark secrets that I thought if anyone found out about me there was no way anyone could love me. I hadn’t loved myself - EVER! I would be judged. If I ran and worked and served harder, better, more I would finally feel love and love myself and all of the past could be erased. It would go away. I could go to my grave keeping all of these things to myself. Isn’t this how it works? It’s the safest, happier way to go. I wanted so badly to just be enough. Tasks would eventually = enough. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t hurt. I couldn’t face the pain.
THEN, things happened. I had to slow down. My health became so bad I could lose my life. Stress had to go. Life was unraveling. I had to resign from positions - how embarrassing. I failed. I let so many people down. Some were no longer my “friends.” Then came more. Son getting married. Son leaving on a mission. Son getting sick. Coming home 3 months later. Being judged. Treated poorly. Mom protective bear came out. I lost it. I had a nervous breakdown. I had nothing left. There was nothing left to me. NOTHING! I just cried. And cried. Cried and cried and cried - there was no telling when the tears would stop.
That’s when life changed. . .time for counseling. Reality was setting in. Nightmares were hitting me hardcore. Memories flooding. Couldn’t sleep. Terrified. It was like living in a haunted house - my own cobwebs and scarers from my life. Apparently the locks on the abuse were coming undone. The hundreds of locks I thought I could keep tight on there forever.
Behind all of those masks who I really was:
Abandonment issues super deep
No one would ever stay in my life
I couldn’t be loved
I didn’t deserve anyone good
Being alone was the only safe place
I would never be enough
Not even Heavenly Father and my Savior could possibly love me - I had to prove myself
I had to earn love and I couldn’t do enough to earn that love
I was terrified of being touched
Touch was evil
I had sinned for years through my childhood and teenage years because of the abuse
Carried so much guilt - it was my fault
And the list goes on. . .
Over the last 2 years of counseling, PTSD, anxiety and antidepressant medications, the masks have come off. The layers and layers of masks. I didn’t need Halloween to put on a costume. I didn’t need Halloween to be scared. I didn’t need Halloween to show me all of the skeletons hanging in my closet. I live with the fears and costumes that Halloween brings everyday of my life.
I’m rewiring my brain. I’m learning. I’m being retaught. Changing over 40 years of belief about myself. My old life is a habit. It’s an addiction. It’s what I know. It’s what I’m familiar with. I’m fighting it! I’m giving it all I’ve got to be me! To be true to me! I make mistakes. I lose people in my life now because of my mistakes. My heart has learned to love. Now my heart loves deeply - too much now at times, because I’ve now felt a broken heart in many more ways than I could have ever imagined. At times I miss the old me. I miss all of the masks. There’s something comfortable about that space. But I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t true to myself. I couldn’t feel love. A caged heart isn’t selective. Now I understand the love my husband has for me. Now I understand loving him much more. I love my boys in a whole different way. I’m loving myself for the first time.
I’ll keep working on removing the fake masks. I’ll keep moving forward and being me. I’ll keep praying that I can be enough and that those I love will love me. That my mistakes won’t “scare” those who matter most to me away
A wife and mother of 4 boys and 2 daughter-in-law, I have spent my entire adult life devoted to my family. I have been busy in their schools, supporting them in all of their school work, sporting events, activities, etc. I spent years heavily involved in the PTA, church callings, etc Life for me has always been overwhelmingly busy. While I thought this was my sanity, the truth is it masked issues - real issues - that I needed to work on to gain true sanity. I am sharing my story in this blog. I do this so that I might be able to help other women find their true sanity