If you haven’t heard of Spoon theory, it’s definitely a great metaphor for chronic pain and illness. It can help you understand yourself better, and prepare to do helpful things like pacing. It can also serve as a great way to educate your friends and family on what it’s like to have a chronic illness or pain so that they can understand and support you better.
I LOVE Halloween. I literally call October Halloween month (despite the fact that in Canada we also celebrate Thanksgiving in October). And while I’m in remission right now, I have had several Halloweens (including last year) when I wasn’t. Yet I’ve always managed to have a blast on my favourite holiday! For this post, I thought I’d chronicle my last several Halloweens, and then follow that with some tips for enjoying this particular holiday when you have chronic illness/pain.
2015 – Pre-diagnosis but pain was existent – I was in a new relationship at the time (technically we weren’t even official at that point). Since I did not know better I celebrate “as normal” – big street party, dressed up (Alice from Resident Evil). Paid for it the next day. 2016 – After initial diagnosis (lupus, fibro), still in lots of pain – I did a cool haunted house attraction with a friend a few days before Halloween. It was a fairly slow walk through, so totally manageable. She also knew about my illness and was accommodating. Halloween itself was quite chill, I dressed as a Jedi (including at work) and then my dog and I watched horror movies in the evening. 2017 – After actual diagnosis (UCTD, fibro), still in lots of pain – leading up to Halloween I actually did a lot of stuff. Rocky Horror Picture Show screening with a friend (we both dressed up). Haunted house attraction with coworkers. Dressed up for work (Casey Becker from Scream) and did the street party. However, everything was paced out and I made sure I had “recovery time” the next day. 2018 – slightly less pain – I did a solo trip to LA mid-October for the purpose of going to Universal Studio’s Halloween horror nights (and of course I did a bunch of other stuff while in LA). Also in October my friend and I did the Rocky Horror Picture Show screening again (dressed up again). Halloween itself was the street party (dressed up as Elle from Kill Bill). Again, paced and did things with people who were more than willing to help accommodate my needs (or by myself and I knew how to accommodate for myself). 2019 – slightly less pain again, last Halloween before the pandemic – October included pumpkin patch day and pumpkin carving with a friend, annual Rocky Horror screening with another friend, Halloween Jack & Jill (wedding fundraiser) with friends (I dressed up as Ellie Sattler from Jurassic Park – and my friend was Alan Grant). On Halloween itself I did a haunted walking tour with a friend. Paced. Helpful friends. 2020 – less pain again, pandemic Halloween – Again, I did a pumpkin patch, followed by pumpkin carving with a friend. Dressed up as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and had a horror movie night in on Halloween. 2021 – less pain again, literally finished moving – I was actually exhausted last Halloween. I had moved across the province (after moving across the country 10 months earlier). Moving + unpacking my new place. I wore my Hocus Pocus sweatshirt and had a horror movie night in while Skyping with a friend from Toronto. Definitely not paced and not enough Halloween in my opinion, but there was no way around that one.
From all of those experiences, here’s what I learned:
Pace yourself – spread out activities, allow for “recovery time,” and only go at speeds you’re comfortable with. If you need to take breaks in the middle of activities, take them. It will be more fun if you’re feeling okay.
Go with your support system – I have only done things with friends who are supportive and understanding. They are willing to pace, accommodate, and be helpful when needed.
Wear a comfortable costume – admittedly not all of my costumes were, but I learned as I went. Definitely avoided high heels (other than for Rocky Horror, but my friend was helpful and I eventually learned to bring a change of shoes). Cool costumes are great, and I’m known for being able to inexpensively assemble a wicked costume, however, if they aren’t comfortable or accessible, you’ll have less fun.
Mostly, if you enjoy Halloween, then do as many of the Halloween things as you can! All in the effort to keep making the most of it!