Written by Deb Jurkoic, NAMI NH Family Network Coordinator
Fall in New England is a time of joy for many, but it can also bring anxiety to others. As we transition from the September days of apple picking, cider donuts and tractor rides in October, the local apple orchard transforms from being family friendly during the day to fright fest at night. For some, Halloween is fun and exciting but for others it can be scary and anxiety driven.
These feelings go beyond the apple orchard as the prevalence for neighborhood Halloween decorations has become abundant. Stores pop-up with larger-than-life interactive moving displays, gory costumes and eerie sounds that can be all too scary for some. My family has been unable to navigate beyond the fright to access the fun makeup, fairy costumes, press on nails and glittery tattoos.
The season of fright is also the season of flight as stores and seasonal spaces can become inaccessible. My 21-year-old daughter lives with anxiety and has since a young age. I have always tried to put myself in her shoes to understand her anxiousness when suddenly the display next to you moves quickly or makes a loud sound. The pop-up stores, along with several of our regular shopping haunts, are often avoided during the Halloween season for just that reason. Others, we have found, have tamer displays that are less overwhelming in terms of scope and choice or simply put, are just not so scary. And as our household has matured, there has been growth in how to manage our anxiety during the orange and black season.
Overcoming anxiety and fears that hold us back is a journey that comes down to priorities. In our household, my daughter wanted to work through this anxiety because she does enjoy Halloween. It is important for us to all have perspective that this can be a challenging time for several different reasons.
For some, it may relate to anxiety, dreams of the boogie man, or real-life challenging experiences. Increasing this awareness can help many. Fortunately, numerous Halloween venues have added family friendly events to increase accessibility for all, which enables individuals like my daughter to take part in these annual fall festivities.