How Disney is helping me come to terms with my diagnosis.

In between the parties and travel, 2018 has been a struggle.

On the outside, I’ve been all smiles. On the inside, I’ve been at war with myself. If you know me, you know that I try to see the silver lining. What you might not know is that there is a rather bleak flipside (*surprise*). For my whole adult life, I’ve balanced highs and lows, mostly trying to pretend the lows don’t exist. After one particularly low low earlier this year, I was lost. To add what felt like insult to injury, an official bipolar diagnosis hit me. There, I said it. I am bipolar and it’s ok.

Hearing the words “you are now on the government’s list of mentally ill people” from my doctor was rough. It took a few minutes to sink in. Then I had a little cry (one of the most relieving cries you could imagine). But then something that I am quite proud of happened. I acknowledged that my diagnosis was a monumental step towards freedom.

There has always been a level of discomfort in me. I have always craved acceptance from the outside, not really knowing why, but the words “you are clinically bipolar” flicked a switch. It was an instant confession to myself. The truth is, I’ve always craved acceptance from me. I didn’t want to admit that, until now. Becoming aware of my fragility and my need for help was empowering. Scary, but empowering.

On my walk from the doctor to work (yes, I went straight to work afterwards, because I’m dumb) so many questions ran through my head. At rapid speed, of course. Who the fuck am I? Am I now defined by my diagnosis? Do I look different? What’s the deal with my medication? Holy shit. By the time I sat at my desk, the internal soliloquy had calmed and some kind of clarity washed over me. This was it, my time to accept who I am and just be fucking me. No ifs, ands or buts. Time to take control. Not just for show, but for real.

My sister had recently given some solid advice. She suggested I write a list of all the things that make me feel good and the same for what makes me feel bad. Number one on the “good list”? Disney.

7BD5D620-EC60-4444-BB01-934FEE8C8031.jpegY’all know I’m a Disney gal. What you don’t know is that my relationship with myself is slowly rebuilding. What’s the foundation of the rebuild? Disney. Dependable, weatherproof and environmentally friendly, it’s practically perfect (*cue Mary Poppins theme*).

I like to think of myself as creating my Disney life, imagineering myself, if you will*. This is a life where I am proud to be me. A life that is centred on be 100% me, boyfriend or not, success at work or not, six pack or not. To put it in context, I have recently been suppressing my Disney passion, trying to fit in with “the cool kids”. This is because I have been publicly labelled a “Disney freak” on a number of occasions and I know that there are few who really understand the magic that Disney is for me. No one cares. Why would they? Disney is just for kids, isn’t it? Hakuna matata.

For me, Disney fuels my sparkle.

Sparkle: To shine brightly…(Cambridge dictionary)

Sparkle: Something to leave a little of wherever you go. (classic Disney mantra)

In a time when my mental health has never been more fragile, a sparkle is what I need. I read a quote somewhere: “if you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, light a fucking fire”. That’s exactly what I’ve done. Like a fire, my Disney relationship needs a few elements to come together in the right combination. These include discipline, a commitment to myself and … faith, trust and a little bit of pixie dust?

As with all mental health management, we need to focus on how we feel, rather than how anyone else feels about us. In my world, this has meant deciding to not give a fuck. The “cool kids” are out the window and as far as I’m concerned, the confident and fully fledged Disney lover that I am letting myself be is the coolest kid around (haha). Hey guys, not sure if you know this, but Disney is pretty cool.

My love for Disney is back with full vengeance and it makes me happy. It’s not going anywhere. If you catch me smiling, it will likely have something to do with the Incredibles 2 soundtrack that I’ve just had on repeat, or the Mickey earrings I’m rocking. Ask me a question about Disney and you had better have some time to spare, once you get me started, it’s hard to stop! I’ve now allowed myself to love that about me. My diagnosis has reminded me that I deserve and need to love me, today and every day.

Every day leads to the future. As a millennial, the question over what my “future will look like” plagues me most days. Stuffed if I know, but it will look like me. It will be lead by my sparkle, nothing else. That’s me being me and not apologising for it. By bringing Disney back into my life each day, with music, clothes, jewelry, movies, research and endless other ways, my sparkle is shining brighter each day. I’m owning something that is just for me. That is a first.

*Honesty alert*. Part of my bipolar includes uncontrollable thoughts (if you want to know more about my pain, we will need a negroni first). Uncontrollable, until now. When my brain switches into this dark place, I am training myself to instead think of Disney. Like any training, it is taking discipline, practice and an unconditional commitment to getting back up after I fall. Sometimes the getting back up part takes a little while.

My favourite way to stop falling before I go any further is to first play some centering Disney beats, and now, do something that I really should have started a decade ago – connect with the online Disney community. Turns out that there are alot of people that like Disney as much as me (crazy, right?!). They just happen to be sprinkled around the world. Thank goodness for the internet! Starting my “magical moments” instagram and well, this blog, have provided me a platform to express my passion. In some weird way, the idea of helping others add a little sparkle to their day makes me feel good. Even if no one takes my tips onboard, I hope that looking at one of my Disney pics will make someone, somewhere smile. If not, I like it haha.

More than that, the community that I am just now entering have given me something to run to as soon as I need welcoming, non judgemental comfort. No matter how painful my thoughts are, the Disney community and their pictures of magical memories and experiences share a sense of peace. They remind me that I deserve to come alive.

Alongside the real world community, I have my internal sidekicks, if you will. Like most Disney heroes, there are trusty pals to help me through. First, Walt’s classic words of wisdom never fail to remind me that everything is actually ok and life is a rollercoaster, so we need to just ride it. He is the main man for a reason! Of course there are also elements of each Disney character that inspire me to have strength in myself. Perhaps most powerful is Winnie the Pooh. Have you noticed how Pooh always manages to see the simple truths in complex situations? I often turn to the silly old bear for a reality check.

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” : Winnie the Pooh.

There are so many layers to my Disney life. I really could talk all day about the power of Walt’s outlook and magic. For now, I’ll leave you with my tattoos, have you seen them?** For so long, I tried to avoid being “that girl with the Disney tattoo”, but I’ve found a way to tie subtle reminders of my sparkle to the rest of my life. There is no giant Mickey on my forehead, but simple physical expressions of my sparkle. I’m proud to take Disney with me for the rest of my life. It’s me.  

By actively making a lifestyle change perfectly tailored to me, I feel stronger every day.

The most exciting part is that where I am today is still quite early in my journey to becoming comfortable with my diagnosis. Each day has it’s new challenges and it’s new moments of sparkle. I am not rushing myself, or trying to “be perfect”. That is what old me would have done. No, present me acknowledges that even magic takes a little time. That fairy godmother wisdom is grounding and reassuring.

At the end of the day, it is the foundation of Disney’s inspiration that keeps me on track. One piece of advice that I’ll take wherever I go and whatever my doctor says is “whatever you do, do it so well that people will want to come back and see you do it again”. Well, I’m doing me and I’m learning to do me well. Hope you enjoy x

*Imagineering refers to the engineers and creatives at Disney that bring the creative concepts to life across theme parks, theatrical productions and real world experiences.

**If you ask nicely, I’ll show you.


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