Halloween: a holiday favorited by many. You get to dress up in costumes, scare or be scared and receive candy from strangers. As you can imagine, it’s a day every kid dreams about all year.
I remember every year around the last week of October, everyone started asking each other who they were going to dress up as for Halloween. One year, some kids offered up their ideas: werewolf, Snow White, a pirate or even Chewbacca. Then, some kids turned to me with the same question. I bit my lip, my mind racing for any logical answer I could give. “Umm, Professor X?” I uttered. The kids raised their eyebrows and shifted uncomfortably. “A girl..Professor X?” Some kid said. Another kid quietly stifled a laugh. “Y-yeah! Why not?” I said. I could feel the blood rushing to my cheeks, imagining myself with a bald cap and a grey suit and tie. In that moment in time, all I really wanted to do was give a Chewbacca gurgle and throw myself off a cliff. However, it was the fourth grade, and we were still in recess, and I at least wanted to see how my children would look.
That moment was ingrained in me forever and forcibly gave me crippling anxiety every time Halloween rolled around. See, as you’ve probably guessed by now, I am in a wheelchair. I’ve been in one all my life, and it’s basically been a part of my identity since forever. So being in a wheelchair doesn’t really bother me all that much, however, the recurring trauma from Halloween every year can still sting a little bit every time the day comes.
It’s like going into a Halloween store every year, looking at all of the hundreds of the new cool and scary selections they have this year, and knowing deep inside that none of them will be perceived right by the other kids at school. Also, trying on costumes at stores is a straight up hassle. One year, I felt brave enough to go as a disabled witch. So, my mom and I drove to the nearest Party City store to find the perfect witch costume that will fit me. We picked several (just in case some don’t work out) and headed to the fitting room with our fingers crossed.
(Before I get into this part of the story, know that most fitting rooms and even bathrooms don’t have small beds for my mom to lay me down on while she’s helping me change, so all of this is done through struggled breaths sitting on my wheelchair.)
We get to the fitting room and try the first one on. My mom wiggles and turns my body into this costume, and I readily look into the mirror on how it fits, and the costume looks extremely baggy. It’s loose and way too long and just doesn’t really look like a witch anymore. We try several more, and they’re all the same case. However, we get to the last costume we picked out, wiggle and turn and tug, and it fits! It doesn’t exactly fit, but it’ll do. With just a little bit of imagination on the other person’s side, we can definitely see that it is a witch. Mission accomplished.
But, to make this story short, the end of my Halloween night didn’t turn out like the perfect ending to an ’80s movie as expected. Instead, it ended with me falling straight onto my face on the sidewalk in my neighborhood while trick or treating, because my long witch sleeves got caught in my wheels and tugged my body to the ground. Tragic, I know. So, I spent the rest of my spooky night eating tootsie rolls with a fat bloody nose. However, I guess I achieved a milestone. My first Halloween night with real blood? You don’t have to laugh at that.
I suppose what I’m trying to make you realize is the everyday struggle that people with disabilities have to go through but on a much lighter note. Because Halloween is just the beginning for some of us, we have to continue this struggle even after Halloween; it’s a daily part of our lives. From trying on clothes that aren’t adapted to fit different bodies, dealing with inaccessible fitting rooms and bathrooms and just simply trying to fit in — it is exhausting.
So, the next time you see someone with a disability talking about their experiences and struggles from life, try to understand them. Because living out here, in an able-bodied world, is like jumping through hurdles in the Olympics every day.