Boo! Halloween is upon us! Children are thrilled and deliciously chilled with the anticipation of costumes, walks in the dark with friends (trailed by parents), parties, images of witches and ghosts and, of course, the promise of lots of candy.
But what happens to you on Halloween? The shops are full of binge bags of every treat imaginable.No one in a shop line or at the check out counter would consider anything amiss if you bought one or many huge bags of candies. In fact you could buy cakes, cupcakes, cookies and ice cream by the cart full because it's a time for parties. You could "get away with" loading up for a private binge fest.
Except you wouldn't be having a happy time in that binge. And even if you don't buy, Halloween presents another challenge.
Candy is so available now that you might feel you can barely take a step without bumping into a bowl of it at work, at friends' homes, on counters in businesses and stores and maybe even freebies in the mail.
Can you resist? Are you challenged by all these treats? Maybe you feel anxious about the presence of so much sugar... or angry or really frightened.
You know the drill. Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep. Eat nourishing and substantial meals so you are not hungry and so that you feel satisfied, at least physically. This will make you less vulnerable to the lure of the sweets.
But let me add a different note, appropriate to the occasion. On Halloween, children ring your doorbell in the night. You open the door and the little princesses, cowboys, ghosts and goblins shout, "Trick or Treat!" They hold out their bags or plastic pumpkins for candies. Most of them don't realize that they are saying, "Give us a treat or we will do a trick on you." That meaning has grown dim in our celebrations of Halloween.
If we go back in time, All Hallow's Eve, the night before All Saints Day, was a few hours when two worlds came close and the boundary between them became so fragile that it would break in places. Spirits of the dark could mingle with spirits of the light. Goblins and Saints shared the same space. Humans were caught in the rift.
If you met a good spirit, nothing bad would happen to you. But if you met a bad spirit, it might do a trick, even a nasty trick on you. You could choose several options. One, just bear it and hope you made it through the night. Another would be to wear a disguise so you looked like a bad spirit. If you looked like one of them they wouldn't harm you. (This is why children love to dress up as monsters. You don't have to be afraid of monsters if you are one of them, even if you are only pretending.) Another option would be to give them treats, in other words, buy them off or distract them by catering to their greediness.
You experience times of emotional fragility when the part of you that is moving solidly on your recovery path comes in close contact with the part of you that feels helpless, angry, frustrated, entitled and ready to dive into your eating disorder behavior as a total retaliation for your recovery progress.
You can choose among the three old choices: bear the feelings and hope you'll get through the challenge, pretend you are in your old eating disorder without actually doing the behaviors (trying to trick yourself), or feeding yourself the candies to stop powerful emotions from hurting you.
None of these are really satisfactory ways to care for yourself. Halloween comes every year. Nothing gets resolved. The meeting of the two worlds repeats.
You are not looking for repetition. You are looking for healing and recovery. You want to put an end to the painful choices that arise when you live with an eating disorder.
What can be helpful to you? How can a candy holiday like Halloween inspire you to make new kinds of choices that can build your strength and deeper you sense of healthy self so you are less vulnerable to the black and white options of "trick or treat."
What if you didn't hide or pretend or succumb? What are other caring possibilities for you? Pondering your choices, discovering them and bringing them into your life is part of the creative action that develops your healing and recovery.
Can you rally your courage and say "Boo!" right back to those goblins and jack-o-lanterns?