Mental Illness is Not a Halloween Costume

One year, when my oldest daughter was about ten years old, she dressed up like a cereal killer. When she told me about her idea, I loved it and thought it was a very clever and creative idea. I loved the play on words, cereal killer versus serial killer.

We made her costume to look like she was a box of cereal and then added a lot of blood, maybe too much blood. We were having fun and may have gotten a bit carried away with adding too much blood. I helped turn her into a scary, gory and ghoulish looking box of cereal. I thought she looked great and I was proud of her creative idea. I love creativity.

So the bad mom that I unknowingly was at that time for letting my daughter dress like this, sent my cute little daughter out onto the streets to go trick or treating. When people asked her what she was, she told everyone she was a cereal killer, but of course people heard serial killer. I thought it was a great costume and was cute and funny because she was a box of cereal. Not everyone thinks like me.

When Kylie was Trick or Treating she stopped at one house and a woman told her, in a very unkind tone, that she didn’t like her costume and that it was in very poor taste and she shouldn’t dress up like that. This made my daughter Kylie feel very bad and she didn’t understand why she said that. I told her not to worry about that and the woman was just probably a crabby person that didn’t have a good sense of humor. I told Kylie her costume looked great, she looked awesome and it was a cool and very creative costume.

My cute little girl told everyone she was a serial killer. When I look back at it now it was just for fun, but we might have gone over the top and gone too far. That woman was probably right, it might have been in poor taste.

Since I have become more sensitive, perceptive and aware of words and language and with what is going on in society today, I would never let my daughter dress up like that now.

When I was in college I dressed up like a bag lady, which is what I called it at the time. In actuality, it was a homeless person. I wore layers of old tattered clothing and made them and the rest of me look dirty and unclean, teased up my hair so it looked like I hadn’t showered or bathed for days and had a missing tooth. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was actually making fun of homeless people. Being homeless is not funny at all, but is a very painful and sad reality for many.

Ironically, I become homeless and lived in three different homeless shelters during a three-month period. I didn’t look like the costume I wore back in college, but I was homeless and was a so-called “bag lady.” I wore normal clothes and I showered. I just didn’t have a home. I became homeless when and because I had hit a severe full-blown manic episode and was at a very low point of my life. It still haunts me to this day.

Approximately one-third of the total homeless population includes individuals with serious, untreated mental illnesses according to a research summary compiled by the Treatment Advocacy Center. Approximately 33 percent of the homeless are individuals with serious mental illnesses that are untreated. Many of these people suffer from schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder or major depression.

For Halloween, many people dress in weird, bloody, scary costumes and say they are a crazy person. Crazy is defined as a mentally deranged person, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way and people use the word crazy in a belittling, degrading and shaming way that stigmatizes people with mental illness.

Stop the Crazy Talk

Stop the crazy talk and… mental illness is not a Halloween costume.

If you want to dress up like a person with mental illness, wear normal clothes. You could dress up in fancy clothes and wear pretty make-up looking beautiful, glamorous and fabulous because that is also how a person looks who has a mental illness. You could also dress up in sweats or in your pajamas and even have messy hair and look disheveled and unclean because sometimes a person with depression and mental illness just does not have the energy or ability to function or take a shower. That can happen too, but mostly we wear normal clothes. We look like everyone else.

There is no look, face, uniform or costume for mental illness.

Mental illness is not a Halloween costume.

I hope everyone has a happy and healthy and safe Halloween.


Copyright © By Susan Walz and myloudbipolarwhispers.com – All written content and personal artwork is © myloudbipolarwhispers.com and Susan Walz. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner/artist is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to My Loud Bipolar Whispers and/or Susan Walz with appropriate and specific directions to the original content. 

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14 comments

  1. Sadly, I’d bet 1/3 of the people with homes population includes individuals with serious, untreated mental illnesses too. Even people in the rich population includes individuals with serious, untreated mental illnesses. I appreciate what you wrote because there are so many things this made me want to say 🙂 I’ll leave it at appreciation for your ability to talk about it and bring awareness. God Bless you :):)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes I agree mental illness is everywhere sadly. It has no boundaries and is limitless and does not discriminate… It includes everyone. So many are touched by mental illnesss in one way or the other… That is why we need to educate and start up the duskogs about it. Thank you for reading and for your reply. I was teaching Special Education before my symptoms became too severe… And have master s credits etc…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comments,. I appreciate your kind and encouraging comments and I am happy you liked my post and could relate to it. For some reason while I was in the middle of replying back to your last comment, your last comment and mine got deleted for some reason… strange. Just vanished. I must have hit something without knowing it. So sorry. I didn’t intend for that to happen… hmmm… but some of what I wrote before it was deleted was… We are similar in some ways. I too was not diagnosed until later in life. I was 29 years old and was diagnosed when my first daughter was born. I had onset postpartum bipolar, but had PTSD from childhood abuse, anxiety personality disorder and mild depression my entire life. It wasn’t until my daughter was born that the bipolar tsunami hit hard I lived with my other mental illnesses my entire life. The symptoms and signs were there but undiagnosed even though I had many signs and symptoms. I managed to survive with them and get a bachelor’s degree and master credits and teach for over ten years. I wish I still had your last comment. It was beautiful. We need to educate so we can save lives, prevent suicides, get people to get help sooner and reduce the awful and painful stigma that still exists. That is why I am a mental illness advocate. Thank you for replying. Have a happy, healthy and fabulous day. Happy Halloween. Hugs, Sue

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes I understand. It takes time to feel comfortable speaking about it. You are right too when you said in one of your comments something like you have to decide when you are ready to speak about it and who you want to tell. I have gotten to the point (and it was a gradual and slow process. It took time) that I have decided that this is who I am. It is my job to educate others. If they do not want to know me or like me because I have mental illness than that becomes their problem and not mine. God has saved my life numerous times and I need to share my story that God wrote for my life. I only have one life and this is it. I am only sharing the story God wrote and planned for my life. I cannot be ashamed of who and how God me. I am not ashamed of my illness. This is who I am and I am proud to have overcome what I have and to be a suicide attempt survivor and a bipolar survivor. I want to help others in as many as ways as I can. If I can help people know they are not alone and help even one person and make a positive difference and impact in even one person’s life than I am happy. It is my passion in life to help others. I must reduce this stigma and I keep trying. If I see stigma related issue and injustice as a mental illness advocate I feel it is my job to try to help the situation and turn maybe a negative situation into something positive and make it a teachable moment. Sorry for my ramblings on. I talk too much sometimes especially on this subject. I talk too much and thus I write too much hahaha….. I apologize. Thanks for reading and thanks for your kind comments. I appreciate them and they made me happy. You are a great person and you are a strong survivor. Never forget. it. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. The people who shame are the ones that have something to be ashamed of. Okay. I will stop. May your life overflow with blessings today and every day. Hugs, Sue

        Liked by 1 person

      • No apologies needed. It is a subject that is not talked about enough. I should clarify, I can talk about t when I’m not what I call “elevated” I am coming out of an “elevated” patch, and if I talk about it too much, I can talk it back up. If you know what I mean. It will take me about a month to even out to where my heart rate will be my “normal” 100bpm. But when I’m elevated that resting heart rate is 125, as high as 140, ALL day, every day. This last patch lasted for going on over 2 months now. It will wear on me physically, mentally and emotionally. So, I am being careful to help it get down, and not triggering it, which the talking about it will do. Or it does me anyway. Sue, you are doing great, and have accomplished so much. Importantly you are working hard to give it a voice. That’s the good work. :):)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you very much for your kind and encouraging words again. I appreciate them greatly and love to hear them and probably need to hear them as well. They help me feel better. So, thank you. I understand what you are saying about too elevated and you do not want to trigger anything to increase that. I understand that. Thank you very much for sharing that with me. BTW that is a very high heart rate. Please be careful. That would be difficult to deal with it. It sounds like you understand your illness and are coping well with it. You are a very strong and beautiful woman. Keep on keeping on and keep fighting. Have a happy and healthy and fabulous day. Love, hugs and many blessings, Sue

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on J-Dubs Grin and Bear It and commented:
    Sue writes “If you want to dress up like a person with mental illness, wear normal clothes.” I agree. May also we part of why they call it the invisible illness. I am a little loose with my word choices too but only when I am referring to myself. I need to ponder than one for a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful post, and so true. People just think that depressed people look one particular way. So wrong. I can understand about your daughters costume though…I think it is very clever. I think in a child especially you can’t judge these things too seriously. Children don’t get illness when they’re young and that’s ok I think…enjoy it while it lasts. Great post anyway and I don’t think you should feel guilty about that. Love, Lucy ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Lucy. I don’t feel too guilty about it. It was along time ago but it is funny how things work out and I never would have thought of it negatively but today with all of the terrible things going on in the world (mass shootings, ISIS etc.) the “Cereal Killer” would not be tolerated and I would never let my daughter wear a costume like that. Too sensitive etc. Times have changed a lot compared to when she was little. She is 25 now, so it was a long time ago. Thank you for your kind comments and usual encouraging words. I appreciate them all greatly. Love ya lots. Love, Sue

      Liked by 1 person

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