I love hearing about people’s weird interests or hobbies. The weirder the better. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, I’m a big believer in non-conformity and embracing whatever makes you happy. I, for one, have an affinity for all things dark and spooky. Halloween has been my favorite holiday since I can remember, and the older I’ve gotten, the more it has evolved from just a “one night a year” type of thing into something that ultimately feeds my soul and helps my mental health year round.
As someone who has spent a good portion of their life dealing with depression, anxiety, and trauma, I’ve had to put in a lot of work to figure out what works for me in terms of channeling my energy into things that have a positive impact on my mental health. I have a solid go-to list of tips, tricks and techniques I’ve picked up throughout the years that really help me be the person I want to be for myself, my husband and our kids. Having a firsthand view of mental health trials and tribulations also informs my job as a counselor, and I’m able to help my clients with both a personal and professional scope of experience, and guide them on their journey of finding their happiness and balance.
So where does Halloween fit into all of this? Well, I think it’s kind of a multi-faceted answer. There’s a lot to be said for nostalgia, and how everyone’s personal connection to something from their childhood can usually elicit some sort of “warm and fuzzy” feeling, no matter how small or seemingly different from someone else. Certain holidays, songs, places, or even smells can transport someone to a certain time in their life. Nostalgia can be bittersweet as well, and staying in the vein of incorporating it into the present day rather than living in the past is a fine line to walk.
I have so many fond memories of Halloween. From really early memories of trick or treating, to later years of having Halloween parties with my cousin in her (what we decided was “definitely haunted”) attic. Hayrides, haunted houses, pumpkin picking, there’s just something about the air that changes that time of year.
What really catapulted my love for Halloween off the deep end was getting married and PCSing for the first time. It was the farthest I had ever travelled before, and for the first year or so, being homesick was a daily occurrence. To try and distract myself in a constructive way, I started getting ready for my favorite holiday…at least six months early. What started as a way to curb the feelings of missing friends and family, actually turned into my personal form of self-care, and something that stuck with me even after falling in love with the nomadic military lifestyle.
Since we have kids and dogs to accommodate for, we usually will rent a house instead of an apartment at every duty station, which means every 3 or so years, I get a new front yard to decorate. We’re always that family in the neighborhood that are the first to put up their decorations (some might say too early, but we don’t entertain that kind of negativity). This year we’ve already started building some of our own bigger prop-type decorations for the front of our house, which also gives my husband an opportunity to do one of his favorite hobbies, woodworking. We’re able to put his analytical brain and my creative side together to really start making things over the top. It has definitely become a family affair and we fully welcome being the weird family on the block.
To make it more universal, what this all boils down to is finding what makes you happy and capitalizing on it. So much of life is spent having to worry about fitting into other peoples boxes in order to get by, and I for one spend as much time as possible trying to be as true to myself as I can. One piece of advice I always see recurring from people reflecting back on their lives is that they wish they had done more of what they loved.
Being the neighborhood Addams Family isn’t for everyone, and I’m fine with some people thinking it’s weird. On the flipside of that, however, is something that brings me so much happiness: Seeing other people enjoying something we’ve created, and that far outweighs any judgement we might get. Our house becomes a conversation piece during the beginning of fall, and I love being able to make people smile in that unique way.
Finding things that make you truly happy is a gift, and figuring out ways to make it part of your everyday life is a skill that can really help your mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. Be good to yourself, and don’t be afraid to be weird.