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Sunday, 01 November 2015 06:45

The Dark is the Devil - Halloween

As a young deaf person, I always despised Halloween. 

Now thinking back I was always petrified of the dark. 

Winter nights out with the family meant me being literally attached to one of my parent's arms whilst my friends excitedly raced off in front of me. 

I loved the thought of dressing up but not of going out.

I remember the outdoor funfairs not being any fun for me unless I was in a secure seat with a seatbelt on or a ride where adrenaline took over

School discos at primary school were always in the evenings.  I would look forward to the discos, I loved to dance but for me the best part was having sweets with my friends in a well lit classroom!

I would spend most of my time avoiding the low lit hall with it’s flashing lights and loud music.

My coping strategies kicked in even then, I would tell my friends I couldn't hear them well in the hall, as I needed to see to lipread (Oh the irony!)

The cinema was always an exhausting trip, I hated to be in a row that meant finding seats. I would often ask for aisle seats to avoid the need to rely on someone holding onto me. The huge  screen, the concentration to 'hear' the whole experience would often leave me with sore eyes... All that lip/ gesture/ facial reading and often missing the actual story, it wasn’t fun.

Halloween is all about the dark, ghoulish outfits, often face masks and trick or treating.  I couldn't see a thing and couldn't understand why everybody was so excited, I wanted to enjoy it but I couldn't see which meant I couldn't hear.  It was frightening and isolating.

There was one party I was invited to every year, I spent lots of time at this  house as I had often stayed over. I would go over, help decorate the place ready for the Halloween party every year, I loved this part. Being creative and inventive from young I loved it. 

However, when night came, I would dread it. I would dread seeing more and more people arrive to the party, the darker and darker it would get outside. 

This particular friend, deaf herself, pestered me one night to go trick or treating. I never went trick or treating, not even near my own house. I always preferred answering the door to give the trick or treaters sweets. I always enjoyed seeing people dressed up, all the painting and the masks but only when in my comfort zone.

Walking around outside on Halloween night, with this ‘friend’ and her mum, I would stay so close, close enough to either feel the proximity of her arm, or be holding onto it. At this point I just hated the dark, was terrified of it. 

This ‘friend’ started to realise how dependent I was. 

To my surprise she held onto me, the deaf children I knew were often quite tactile always tapping each other on the shoulder or arms to get each others attention, it wasn't abnormal for me to be holding her arm.

This one particular night, this ‘so called’ friend thought it would be hilarious to see me petrified. 

She walked me across what felt like wet grass, I was completely out of my comfort zone, I could no longer feel the presence of her mum behind us. I remember it being particularly wet this evening. The whole street spooked with Halloween decorations, soon I couldn't see anymore decorations. 

This nasty girl suddenly knocked on what seemed to be somebody's door and shouted "TRICK OR TREAT," she laughed hysterically and ran away leaving me on my own.

I could hear her laughing, she had a very distinctive cackle. Convenient for Halloween eh? 

My heartbeat began to race, my feet felt like they had been rooted into the ground as I just froze in terror. 

I decided to knock on the door again, hoping somebody would open it and help me but when I reached forward to knock I realised it wasn't a door, she had led me into the middle of a dark park and I was knocking on a tree. My knuckles were raw from the bark of the tree. 

I remember turning around in the darkness, I was alone, I was frightened and this ‘friend was nowhere near.

I could vaguely see some blurred light so made my was toward it crying out but nobody came.

I fell over several times before getting near the light where I recognised some lit up Halloween decorations however I was still incredibly disorientated. It was the worse experience of my life, I cannot describe the absolute panic. 

This nasty girl knew I was afraid and vulnerable in the dark but thought it hilarious to see me frightened! 

"Happy Halloween" she sniggered, having found the whole thing funny.  I was 9 years old.

From then on I hated Halloween even more.

Little did I know in 3 years I would be diagnosed with Retinitus Pigmentosa, Usher Syndrome with all the symptoms of night blindness. Of course this was still a shock, because, after all, what child likes the dark?

At 21, I dread Halloween. I still hate it, it triggers horrible memories.

Things have changed a lot since that cruel experience, for a start I certainly know who my friends are, how important it is to have real friends and if we must do something for Halloween it will be within my comfort zone.

My friends want me to be involved, they want me to be comfortable but most of all they want me to have fun.

A good friend or two, fancy dress, a few adaptations and I can be a part of any party, halloween included.