An Impostor’s Halloween

Halloween isn’t my thing. Sure, getting whole candy bars from my childhood neighbors was great. And I really do love seeing pictures of adorable baby costumes, ingenious pun-costumes, and snarky couples’ costumes. But in general, holidays or games that include strangers (imaginary or real) coming to my house or me visiting strangers aren’t high on my list. Yes, I hate Santa Claus too. No, I will not “spoil” it for your kids, and yes, I’ve been repeatedly asked that by many well-meaning people. I’m not some jerk that enjoys crushing traditions and drinking the tears of children who have discovered the tooth fairy isn’t real. (Okay, maybe there’s a sore spot here… Don’t get me started on Elf on the Shelf. That guy’s just twisted and wrong.)

But unlike knowing how to handle the societal expectations that a strange rabbit with thumbs will supposedly gain access to my home and leave candy to poison my dogs, Halloween has me stymied. I don’t want to ruin the fun for other people; it’s just not something I personally get excited about.

Here’s the thing. Halloween is traditionally celebrated by dressing up, pretending to be something that you’re not, and engaging in a social game, right? Well, when you’re a person with depression that feeds a mountain-sized impostor syndrome (‘a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”‘ – thanks, Wikipedia), every day can feel like Halloween. For me, it’s not a fun game; it’s a minefield that makes my stomach start to churn.

I spend a lot of my life pretending. There are very few people in my life that I’m able to not “act” for, and even they receive quite a lot of “acting” now and again. If you’re one of the people I “act” for, it doesn’t mean you’re less of a friend or something. Heck, I “act” for me sometimes. It’s a sense-resisting scab that I haven’t learned not to pick. Getting dressed is a daily decision as to who I’m going to be. (That’s true for everyone to some degree, and I’m not trying to make myself sound like some extreme to be understood and pitied – oh hello, impostor’s fear, thanks for taking over my sentence structure and thought patterns.) Am I going to be lazy-lumberjack-Kate today that feels confident clomping around in boots and is cool with having muddy paw prints and fur on her jeans? Or am I going to try for sweet-and-spunky-Kate who looks like a giant kid and is willing to be silly? I have a parent-teacher conference to go to this afternoon, so it’ll probably be my put-together-responsible-adult-Kate costume. Oh lord, please tell me I still have one of those and that it’s semi-clean.

We all do this kind of thing whenever we choose to wear fancy clothes instead of a t-shirt and yoga pants to a wedding or put on a pair of shoes that didn’t get worn to pick up dog poop out of the back yard before going to a party. For me, putting on clothes is changing into a different personality entirely as if I’m just this mannequin that doesn’t become a person until it’s dressed. A piece of hardware sitting idle until software is programmed and downloaded to do something. Most of the time, it’s just an exhausting but routine part of my day, but Halloween feels excruciatingly stressful. You see, day-to-day Kate is based on who she needs to be for a given situation. Halloween is about who you’d like to pretend to be. My brain doesn’t know what it wants to be or who it’s supposed to be without it’s daily costume. The phrase “I don’t know what to wear” in Kate-speak translates to “I don’t know who to be.” The phrase “I don’t have anything to wear” in Kate-speak loosely translates to “HELP! PANIC! LIFE IS OVER! I’M A FRAUD! OH GOD, CAN I JUST HIDE? MAYBE I CAN STILL FIT UNDER MY BED! DON’T MAKE ME GO EXIST WITH OTHER LIVING HUMANS!” In any given moment, you can probably safely bet that I’ve over-thought what I’m wearing, am regretting not thinking enough about it, am assuming that I made the wrong choice, or of course, all of the above.

For those who know me, this all might seem odd when considering my chosen field of study and psuedo-career. Among other things, I’m an actor. (Even typing that is hard, because I want to qualify it so that no one thinks I think I’m more or better than I am.) But playing a role is putting on a personality; it’s what I know how to do. It’s what I’ve been doing most of my life. You want to throw me for a loop? Ask me to play myself. There’s nothing scarier or more confusing to me. Does not compute. 404 Error, page cannot be found.

In an effort to play along, I’ve had some horrifyingly awful and embarrassing attempts at Halloween costumes in the past. Please, if you have photographic evidence of me on Halloween, I beg you, burn it and bury the ashes. My parents are the only people exempt from this, because they’re not going to burn pictures of their baby even if she feasts on scraps of spoiled dreams and tells kids their parents lie to bribe them to behave (come on people, what kind of monster do you think I am?).

Yesterday was the best and worst of Halloweens for me. On the one hand, I didn’t have to leave the house and played Dungeons & Dragons with The Hubs and The Boy instead of trick-or-treating. On the other hand, The Bear (my depression) woke up right along with me. Monday had been an amazing day even if it was very full. Yesterday, I had an emotional hangover the size of Massachusetts. Everything could be turned into its opposite. Good was bad. Up was down. Cheese was evil. There’s no costume at that point that trips my brain chemistry. I was able to keep all communication online – so much easier to type as a reasonable, normal person than speak as one – but instead of at least enjoying others’ fun tangentially, I came awfully close to trying to hide under my bed. There’s a lot of pet fur down there, and I’m claustrophobic. I’m also 6′ tall and fairly plump. I could have gotten stuck, died from panic and fur-inhalation, and been found un-showered, costume-less, and half-eaten by the rabbit-with-thumbs that might exist after all who came six months early to poison my dogs. (I never claimed that The Bear was logical.)

Most of the time, I’ve got some little tidbit of a resolution to what I write. It’s often an intentional choice to encourage (read force) myself to embrace a splinter of hope or perspective. As usual, I don’t really have anything earth-shattering here other than, hey, it’s November now. The earth turned, coffee still exists, and I still find babies dressed as lawn gnomes hilarious.

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