October once was my favorite month. Carving pumpkins, drinking hot cider with my siblings on Saturday afternoons, and weekend softball tournaments with my dad cheering me on. Summer was a time for spreading out and escaping, but October always signified a time when I could squeeze my family in. But then there were the dark underbellies of October. Panic attacks before homecoming dances because I was worried I wouldn’t look perfect and hadn’t eaten in days because I needed something to control. Staying up late after my parents went to bed so I could sneak outside to check every pumpkin because I was anxious and thought our house would burn down from a stray candle. But those were past Octobers.
Octobers at Kenyon were different. Same anxiety, same worries, but at least I was in a place where I belonged and was loved, I told myself my first October. Instead of calling home I would have more panic attacks because I couldn’t tell my parents I was drinking too much or sleeping with people. I couldn’t tell them that I was crying myself to sleep. It’s a bit ironic though, because as much as I couldn’t call them, they couldn’t call me and tell me the two words that haunt me to this day: colon cancer. At Kenyon I would disappear for hours because I didn’t want people to know that I was having anxiety. I would drink too much when I was feeling anxious and blackout out each time, scaring my friends and pushing away others who didn’t know me and only saw me as “that girl.” But none of this could prepare me for the news my parents would tell me in November. I knew my dad was sick, but he had been sick in the past and it was fine. It was nothing; it was just October.
Last October. I had a stronger group of friends that supported me, but there was still that thing I couldn’t tell them. The panic attacks were getting worse and I couldn’t hide them. October that year started with Mercury Retrograde. For those who don’t know me, a large part of my anxiety manifests itself in micromanaging myself through horoscopes or superstitions. The week before I had blacked out again, another case of me trying to drink my anxiety away. My friends were worried, but I didn’t notice because each day I woke up and sat in bed wondering if he was going to die that day. My phone became a death clock as I waited for the call from my mother. One day it came: my father was going under another serious operation he might not make it out of. So no, I didn’t realize how low I had gotten or how much my friends were worried about me. Then there was one last night of blackout. I fell as a friend was trying to take care of me and hit my head a lot of times and sobbed for hours about my dad. I remembered nothing the next morning except that all too familiar pain in my head with my sheets thrown against the door and another message from my mother that dad had gotten through the operation. That afternoon my friends sat me down and told me they were scared. They didn’t know how to take care of me. I looked in the mirror and realized I was scared too. Leaving my room each morning that October had become terrifying. I picked up my phone and set up an appointment with Counseling, called my mother to ask if I could come home for October break, and things slowly started to change.
But now it’s October. I never realized how pretty the trees look this time of year. I didn’t even realize how much I loved horror films or long crisp walks through the woods. October this year is better; I haven’t blacked out since that night in October last year and I may not know what is going to happen in the future but I know right now I am happy. The panic attacks still come, but I know what to do now. I am able to tell myself, my family, and my friends I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. But I don’t want to make it seem like everything is fine. October brings with it memories. This is the first October without my father. He died last November, so it’s almost been a year. There is no pain like losing a parent. Each day I think about him and last year waiting for doctor’s calls and waiting up until four a.m. over Thanksgiving Break only to find out that morning he had died and realizing I can never tell him about how hard midterms are or how in love I am or what acting project I am working on. Taking two weeks off school to see your father’s burial changes you. The pain is so deep you can’t even cry but just stand like a ghost. But then acceptance comes and October is scary for the right reasons again; witches, horror films, cobwebs. My mom came for Parents’ Weekend this year and as I was showing her around campus and introducing her to my boyfriend I realized daddy was there with us, smiling and making jokes and calling me “Tasha Bear” like he used to. He may be physically gone, but now I know he is always with me, spiritually. I think for the first time in two years I can say October is my favorite month again.