Today in the U.S. it’s Halloween.
I know there are many international readers in countries that don’t celebrate this day, so for those who don’t know, Halloween is a day when all the kids dress up in costumes and they go from house to house and collect candy and it’s called trick or treating.
I was surrounded by Halloween today.
It was in the kids who I tutor when they showed me their costumes, it was in the picture I have of my little brothers all dressed up, and it was at school with even college aged kids dressed up.
So needless to say, it made me reflect back on my Halloween experiences.
Halloween for me as a child was a bitter sweet holiday.
It was sweet because I got to eat all the candy I wanted for one night, but it was bitter because I was always the overweight girl in my group of friends and siblings and I always felt that people were watching me and my candy because of that.
My pediatrician at the time had told my parents that they should follow this rule for Halloween: let your kids eat all the candy they want on Halloween night, and then throw it all away the next day. That way, it’s not lying around the house for them to keep eating.
Now, of course at the time, the pediatrician was only trying to do her job and keep me as healthy as she could, and my parents, who obviously don’t have a manual on how to treat Halloween with three kids, two who are overweight and one who is skinny, adopted that rule into our home.
I don’t think they or I could ever know the kinds of implications that rule would bring to me about Halloween or the feelings associated with it.
Now that I am in recovery, I look back and see that rule was the most black and white rule I have ever seen.
Eat everything in one night, and then throw it all away.
It’s like Ed telling you to binge and then restrict the next day to fix it.
So when I think of Halloween as a kid, I think of of this one year in particular. I was 8 years old and I was dressed up as butterfly barbie, and I wore this big puffy blue dress with sparkles. I don’t know why, but for some reason, that’s the first time I ever remember feeling subconscious about myself and my weight on Halloween.
And I don’t know the reason for that. I just saw a home video one week ago, of me on that exact Halloween and I was eating pizza with everyone else on the floor and getting ready to go trick or treating just like everyone else.
But even at that age, I knew pizza was bad. And eating it on a night like that was a treat for me.
I guess Ed was just a baby then, but now looking back, he was there with me.
Anyway, I can still remember coming home after trick or treating, and spilling all my candy out on the floor with my brother and sister and eating as much of it as I wanted. No one said anything. No one stopped me.
We just watched TV and ate our candy on the floor in our costumes.
I love that memory.
I was truly a kid in that memory.
I don’t remember what I felt when I knew my Halloween candy would be gone the next day, but I do remember my twin sister always hiding hers somewhere and me going and stealing some whenever she wasn’t around.
This candy was so forbidden after that one night, that eating it afterwards was like a rebellious act that no one could know about; an act I did in secret.
So today, when the 8 year old girl I tutor offered me some Halloween candy, I froze. I didn’t know what to say.
I had planned that I wouldn’t eat any Halloween candy today, not even one, to protect myself from bingeing.
Or maybe Ed made this plan, I’m not sure.
But then this innocent little girl offered me some, and how could I say no?
I told her we could share.
I sat on my drive home just thinking over and over again about how I am no longer that 8 year old girl in her butterfly barbie Halloween costume who needs to feel self conscience that people are watching her.
I am not her anymore.
Where at one time that Halloween candy held so much power over me, I see now that it doesn’t have to be like that any longer.
There is no longer the rule of eating all my candy in one night and throwing it away tomorrow.And I think I speak on behalf of my parents when I say that too.
As a family, we all have evolved since those that Halloween when I was butterfly barbie. We’ve grown to understand and learn that black and white is not the answer to everything we face.
And now, as I am an adult, I am not that little girl who should feel lucky or rewarded to eat pizza and candy.
I can have Halloween candy now, and I have the right to enjoy it-and not just for one night, but for as long as I please.
Baby Ed may have left his mark on some of my childhood Halloweens, but now Ed and I are both grown, and I am stronger than him.
Today is my chance to take back Halloween from Ed.
So, am I going to go eat a whole bowl of candy? No.
Did I even eat an entire piece of candy yet? No, and I most likely won’t tonight.
But, I did share some candy with the young girl I tutor.
I did enjoy that.
And maybe that’s all I can do for this first year in recovery for Halloween?
Sharing a piece of candy with a little girl who I love.
Maybe next year I will eat one whole candy all to myself?
Maybe next year I’ll be the one offering the candy to someone else?
Who knows where I’ll be next year. But for now, sharing a piece of Halloween candy was a good enough start for me.
To all of the recovery soldiers like me who celebrated Halloween at work today, or who are taking their kids trick or treating, or who are passing out candy and are faced with the many eating disorder challenges that go along with all of those, may your Halloween be a positive experience that belongs to you, not to your Ed.