Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. Ever since I can remember I have always been fascinated by Tim Burton movies, haunted houses and the idea of life after death. This is probably why my brothers chose to nickname me “La Louche” (“The Weirdo” in French).With Halloween right around the corner, people are starting to put up their scary decorations. The city is infested with skeletons, pumpkins, and all things spooky — which I love!
Until this year, I never took the time to appreciate these decorations. Having more time on my hands, I decided to stop and “smell the pumpkins” and pay closer attention to my neighborhood’s Halloween ornaments. I walked through the streets of the Upper East Side, nostalgic of the time I used to trick or treat as a child. At one point I heard an extremely excited kid ask her mother, “Mom look how scary this house is! But what does Asylum mean? It’s written on the front door.” In fact, I walked by the townhouse in question and the front door was covered by a large “Welcome to the Asylum” sign. The mother calmly answered, “It’s a place for scary crazy people.”
This shook me to my core. In what world is it okay to associate an asylum to Halloween? In what world is okay to associate individuals suffering from serious mental illnesses to scary crazy people? Are we teaching our children that people suffering from serious mental conditions are individuals that we should avoid and fear?
Instead of screaming against this perfectly manicured Upper East Side mother, I just stood there in disbelief.
This just made so much sense. All of a sudden I understood why so many people cut ties with my family as soon as they heard I was suffering from a mental illness. I understood why so many people who once let me into their homes now closed the door shut at my face. I was labeled as a “scary crazy person.” I understood the root of the problem; ignorance teaches ignorance from one generation to the next.
Would it be okay to call an individual suffering from a physical illness “a crazy scary person”? I think not. For this reason, men and women are ashamed of their mental illnesses. Many individuals are even reluctant to seek treatment for fear of being stigmatized. An illness is an illness whether it’s physical or mental. I almost died from a mental illness. I sought treatment and today I feel stronger than ever.
Will I still struggle? Probably. However, without this illness I would have never become the confident woman I am today. Call me scary, call me crazy, but my place is not in a Halloween parade.