As Halloween approaches, monsters, cobwebs, and black crepe streamers line our streets and stores. We stock up on horror films and scary stories, and ready ourselves for a night of fun and fright. It is my favorite holiday–the single one that still leaves me with a glimmer of excitement, even though as a low-income mother I don’t have the means to wear an extravagant costume or celebrate among adults. Even if I can’t go to a dance party or flamboyant costume party, I still get to dress weirdly without being judged for it, and watch all the kiddos run around in their silly costumes while traipsing my kids from creepy house to creepy house.
Among the fun and excitement of Halloween, however, I can’t help but think about the real monsters that walk among us all throughout the year. Monsters who, by their very existence, make this world a sadder and more fearsome place. These monsters come in all types and shapes. Some of them are sociopaths, like my ex, who care only about themselves. Some of them are narcissists, like Donald Trump–even my daughters call him “bad scary monster”–who are so infatuated with themselves they can’t see past the length of their own shadow. Monsters can be bullies, or rapists. They can be wanton cheaters or jealous manipulators. Or, they can be a “mental illness monster,” and walk alongside us within our community.
I was a mental illness monster for years. I still have some lingering attitudes and habits. When someone hurts me, I became enraged. I don’t take kindly to being abused (who does?) and I lash out. I am working on these things, if slowly. For that reason, I don’t consider myself a “mental illness monster” anymore. Because I am working toward change–but there are those among us who refuse to even try to change. And that is what makes a monster.