I grew up in a house that had almost no treats of any kind ever. We felt SO deprived. The only snacks we ever had were dried fruit and whatever came out of the garden. Things like potato chips or Twinkies or sugary cold cereal were for “rich people”, and we couldn’t afford them. We grew or bought at discount stores the vast majority of what we ate.

The only exception was a giant sized bag of chocolate chips that was kept on the top of the refrigerator. And by giant, I mean like a bulk-sized 10+ pounds’ worth. It was so massive it wouldn’t fit in a cupboard. That transparent, tantalizing, make-your-mouth-water-just-looking-at-it bag sat on top of the fridge, mocking and taunting us every time we walked into the kitchen. It was the only sugar we had in the house and it was just begging to be eaten — but we were NOT allowed to get into it. My mom would wrap the bread tie around the top in a fashion to where she would know if anyone even tried.  

Well … my older sister and I were smarter than her! We poked a small hole in the bottom to where you could lift up the bag just so and have a few pieces of chocolatey, decadent goodness fall slowly into our hands without spilling all over the place. But we were only smarter for a little while. We did get caught and we did get in BIG trouble. Our stealthy days of trying to get a sugar high off of a mere half-dozen chocolate chips came to an end. But it was worth it! We remained sugar-deprived until Kari was old enough for a driver’s license and we would save our nickels and dimes and sneak to the store where we could buy and binge-eat Soft Batch cookies in the parking lot. It was our heaven.

You can only imagine how exciting Halloween would be for us kids who were so sweets-impaired. We would collect our precious treats and savor them like they were worth gold. Instead of gobbling them down in one or two nights, we patiently doled them out making them last for blissful months. Ahhh … Halloween was great!

Now? Not really! Is it because the candy still taunts me and I can’t eat it like I used to? Not so much. I think now it’s the scary, terror aspect. My friends and my kids LOVE to go to haunted houses and they love to watch the horror movies that invade our screens this time of year. They delight in being scared. “It’s just pretend, mom! It’s not real. What’s wrong with being scared for a little bit? It’s fun!”

They don’t understand (and I’m grateful they don’t fully understand) that my reality the last few years (and even decades) has been traumatizing enough. It trumps the fictional terror that people actively seek out this time of year. So why would I go look for more? Why would I add even one iota to the stress my heart has had to endure from almost a decade of nightmarish health and chronic illness issues? Of pain and crying and unimaginable suffering? It’s not pretend and it’s not fun for me!

So in the spirit of all the Top 10 lists I see for Halloween horror movies, I give you my Top 5 list of things doctors have said that have caused me real horror and trauma:

1. “It’s all in your daughter’s head. Even if she says she’s in pain, she’s not. She just thinks she is. So don’t believe her when she says she’s in pain. She needs therapy.”  

(Repeated dozens of times by dozens of uneducated, incapable-of-looking-at-anything-besides-the-obvious doctors!)

2. “I accidentally nicked an artery in your daughter’s brain and she bled into her skull all night long. I don’t know if I can save her or not, but we are going to try by tearing off the top of her head and doing an emergency craniotomy.”

3. “She’s in a coma and probably won’t wake up. If she does she may have little to no brain function. Don’t allow yourselves to be optimistic for her recovery.”

4. After a horrific experience of having her die and have to be brought back to life in an incredibly violent and traumatic to watch fashion:

“This was your daughter’s fault. She’s overdosing herself on medicine.” 

She was on a pain pump, for crying out loud. She couldn’t have overdosed herself if she tried. It was THEIR fault for giving her too much and too many medications all at one time trying to rectify their earlier poor care.

5. “The baseline of all these health issues is genetic. You shouldn’t be surprised if any of your siblings, your other children or your grandchildren start down this same path someday.”

So there you have it. Who needs Halloween? Sometimes life can be scary enough on its own.

I need some sugar! Where are those Soft Batch cookies?

Tara Signature


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