When I was waking up this morning (in half-dream state), I remembered scenes from a movie I saw at least parts of when I was a child. A teenage baby sitter was watching it. I remembered the scene when a woman was in a shower that turned to blood and a brick like wall distorting then exploding. I knew the timing was around 1979 to 1981, leaning towards 1981. I remember standing in the doorway to the lounge, frozen and terrified.
I managed to find the movie, because other people were also scared seeing it as a child. It was This House Possessed, a TV movie from 1981. When I looked it up, I recognised the male actor (Parker Stevenson) was in the Hardy Boy TV series from 1977-1979. Apparently the female actor was also, but I didn't really recognise her in the same way I recognised Parker.
I found the scenes which didn't scare me so much as an adult. Everything is different as a child. Different perspectives. Everything seemed bigger, more literal. I watched the movie back and with an adult understanding, the shower scene was suggested as a hallucination (which I had no understanding of as a child). It was basically about a haunted house that was killing everyone who tried to take the woman away who apparently grew up there but had no memory of it.
I tend to place the memories of movies and songs to the exact year. I was thinking 1981 but then because a lead character was also on TV in 1977-1779, I was unsure of how old I was. I was 8 years old in 1981, which was the year a childhood friend died. The actor's name is also linked to another babysitter involved in the childhood sexual abuse, plus a link to two childhood friends, one who died. A lot of the triggers are names.
The childhood sexual abuse trauma happened around 1978, which resulted in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Complex trauma because of an adult sexual assault trauma in 2014 plus bipolar tangled in. During my processing, taking years, both on my own and with a clinical psychologist specialising in trauma, somehow my brain has linked both the death of the friend and the childhood sexual abuse trauma, as they were themes that kept erupting in bipolar mania episodes, which also set off post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
I am a visual person, and I remembered the trauma like the movie scenes, with the same degree of accuracy. Some parts have been blanked out, which is typical of trauma. I remember the baby sitter for this movie was a girl who lived around a corner. She put us to bed and watched horror movies, but I got out of bed for whatever reason and saw things that scared me.
I watched the movie back just now and as an adult with different perspectives, it was a bit disturbing but not as scary as when I was a child. I don't like the horror genre but quite like thrillers. It comes under both. The worst part was that it was a bit hard on the eyes (bit fuzzy and dark) but it was quite good for times before computer generated special effects.
I think the movie might be one of the reasons my mind linked romance and death, which are themes I explore in my art (my paintings, and currently writing about love and loss). I am pretty sure I saw the beginning of the movie with the teen romance, then was put to bed. Then got up (perhaps needing a glass of water) near the end parts. I don't even know if the baby sitter was aware that I saw.
Later, I had panic attacks in the shower, so bad on one occasion that I was hospitalised for a breakdown. I have processed most of the trauma now and it's less intensive and still putting together some missing pieces.
When I watched it back, I made notes of dozens of themes and triggers in the movie that were related to the traumas. Things like phone ringing, camera watching, 'believe' etc. What I have done with my processing is identify and pull apart the triggers and themes, then put them back together in a creative way, as part of my story telling (my first novel, Pet Purpose: Your Unspoken Voice).
Another movie that scared both me and a friend when we watching TV, aged around 11-12 years was Sybil (from 1976). It was a disturbing TV movie involving childhood sexual abuse with Sally Field as a young woman for the lead. Described as a psychological drama.
My friend ran out of the room leading up to an abuse scene which I saw but blanked out. Years later, I had a panic attack when testing green pine disinfectant in a workplace as a laboratory technician. It was later that I connected it to a scene in Sybil (an abuse scene was in a green kitchen with disinfectant) plus the house I was abused in which had green pine trees nearby.
I couldn't even remember what the name of the movie was or who was with me when I recalled seeing it in a manic episode. My friend on social media said it was her and she was terrified. I was also terrified at the screeching cat scene. I froze and couldn't look away. The cat in the rubbish bin seemed to literally leap out of the TV at me.
I strongly recommend that parents and baby sitters do not let pre-teen children see movies with disturbing themes. It can result in unnecessary anxiety. I also recall being terrified reading violent scenes in the Bible. As a visual person, this was very distressing for me. Children are not being monitored on the internet which has inappropriate, adult material such as porn accessible without even searching for it.
Mum recalls noticing I started being anxious in an obvious way at around 8 years old. This was around the time my friend died. Linked to various movies, songs. I still remembered accurately the movie scenes over 40 years later. This is how my mind remembers things - like video/movie with picture and sound.
I have also watched Sybil back, a few years ago. It was disturbing but nowhere near as scary as when I was a child and took things more literally. I also have more understanding of mental illness now.
Processing was very intense and could be terrifying for me at first (especially in mania episodes with fully activated PTSD) but I figured out that all the links were potential triggers and that I could use this in a creative way. I pretty much figured out my own mind, which is very complex.
I am no longer making videos on YouTube, but will leave up the hundreds of raw, improvised videos about mental health and my creative process for now. I am now writing a memoir, Bipolar Courage about some of the behinds the scenes connections during a two year advocacy journey. Most of my processing is now more recent, the past few years rather than decades ago.
Review from someone else who was scared by This House Possessed as a child with detailed plot summary.
Xanthe finds creative expression including writing and painting to be therapeutic and helps her to manage her diagnoses of bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).