Halloween scares me.
And it has nothing to do with the year my brother jumped from behind a bush when I was walking back to rejoin my husband after taking my toddler son potty. Although, that was pretty scary. I nearly peed my pants.
Nor does it relate to the grotesque costumes that abound: Zombies, vampires, people sporting fake (but very realistic) injuries on their bodies.
My fear of Halloween stems from something far scarier. On October 31, 2006 my husband nearly took his own life.
He hadn't yet been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but he had been suffering from depression since late summer. We'd taken a few trips to a psychiatric emergency room, but at that point we were still waiting to get him in to see someone on a regular basis. And none of the medications they gave him seemed to be working. In fact, they were making things worse.
On the night of October 30, my husband and I stayed up late working on his pumpkins for a work contest the next day. We had purchased a nice little set of carving tools: scoops and various saws and knives. As we worked, I noticed that my husband kept pausing in his work and examining the implement in his hand. His eyes had a strange faraway look, and I wondered if, at those moments, he was even aware that I was sitting beside him.
Realizing that my husband was considering how the carving tools could be used for suicide, I quickly counted how many we had and started tracking each one, hoping to prevent him from pocketing any of them. When the pumpkins were finished, I cleaned up the tools, while my husband protested, insisting that he was fine and he could put things away.
After sending him out of the room, I found a hiding place for the tools and did a quick sweep of the kitchen for anything else that he might find useful. I had already hidden most things weeks before. Finally, I was satisfied that he was safe.
I was wrong.
I didn't know about the knife he'd found in the sink before my daughter washed dishes earlier that day. The knife he had hidden under the cushion of the couch in the living room.
I expected him to be subdued as we prepared for bed, but instead he was oddly cheerful. When I questioned him about his mood he shrugged his shoulders. "Tomorrow things will be different."
His answer worried me. I continued to press him until he finally confessed that he planned to take his life the following day, but he wouldn't tell me how. I spent nearly an hour reminding him of all the reasons he had to live, of the people that loved him, and how empty our lives would be without him. Nothing seemed to reach him.
Halloween was the day he'd set as his last day on earth.
To this day, I'm not sure what I said. But somehow my husband ending up huddled in the corner of our bathroom, crying. He told me to check under the couch cushion. I ran out to the living room and found the knife, which I hid.
He insisted on going to work the next day since we had worked so hard on the pumpkins, so I insisted that his father drive him in. I wanted someone with him at all times. I picked him up from work and we took the kids out trick or treating. Then I stayed up with him until after midnight, until the day changed from October 31st to November 1st.
Halloween had passed, and he still lived.
Six years later, my husband's bipolar disorder is controlled, and his moods are failry stable. But he cycles in the fall, which happens to coincide with Halloween. And lurking in my mind is the fear that one day he may again decide that Halloween truly is the day of the dead.