Disney means different things to a lot of people. For myself, as well as my friends Lisa & Lindsey, it isn’t just childhood nostalgia, thrill rides, and drinks from the World Showcase- it is also a advocate in our everyday struggles with mental health.
I met Lisa & Lindsey through Instagram fairly recently. We had all been following each other for a while when I reached out to see if they would like to collaborate on what ended up being this blog post. Little did I know that I would form a bond with two wonderful women with amazing stories to tell, and I would like to share these stories with you.
I’ve always loved Disney- there are videos of me at a young age dressed in a Lion King outfit, singing Hakuna Matata, and explaining to my mom what the circle of life was. The Lion King was actually my first movie theater experience! My mom’s side of the family has lived in Florida my entire life and I can vaguely remember going when I was very young- my grandfather was wheelchair bound and I can remember going on Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean with him since they could wheel him right onto the boats!
Lindsey’s family moved to Orlando from St. Pete when she was five for her dad’s job as a contractor working for Disney during the run up to what was then called Euro Disney, and her mom began working in the corporate side of Disney not too long after that. So, she pretty much grew up with Walt Disney World as her backyard.
Lisa’s family also moved to Orlando when she was little for her dad’s job at WDW. He was a computer programmer and his team designed the dining reservation system used throughout the mid 80s – early 2000s. She always watched the movies with her aunt and grandma and she got to go to Disney whenever she wanted! Or, when her mom felt like taking her. It was always a comfort, a break from reality. Bored? Go to Disney. Sad? Go to Disney. Happy? Go to Disney.
All of us have different stories that lead us here, but we share one similarity- we all are battling depression & anxiety. And while to some our love of Disney may seem a bit over the top and silly, it helps us cope in numerous ways on a daily basis.
To someone with anxiety, Disney can be a very overwhelming place. But, it doesn’t have to be and if you embrace the opportunities and the resources around you it can help you cope and grow immensely. Take, for example, the first time I traveled solo to Disney. It is hard enough being alone with your thoughts when you are depressed, but then I threw myself in the middle of a very crowded theme park just to have my anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks as well! Within the first few hours of getting there, I was sitting at a table in Epcot in the France pavilion, sipping a Grand Marnier Slush, and hiding my tears behind my sunglasses. I sat there crying for probably 30 minutes when I decided to push myself to enjoy being there alone no matter how hard it was. Since then, I’ve gone by myself many times and that moment in Epcot was to thank- it was a huge turning point in my attitude and my feelings towards being alone.
Lisa has managed to gain the same perspective through her time at Disney. “I don’t even do errands by myself, but I’m down for a solo Epcot trip. I love it so much that I can push past the agoraphobia and social anxiety and go do something I enjoy. I’ve come to realize that people just don’t care about what I’m doing, they’re not judging me. If they are, screw them. It’s a safe escape from reality for a few hours.”
To sum it up, here are the reasons we collectively think Disney is a place of relief from depression & anxiety:
- Disney stirs a sense of positivity and hope within you even during your darkest times. Shows like Wishes, Fantasmic, and Dream Along With Mickey have such an inspiring message and you can’t help but feel overcome with optimism.
- It gives you something to look forward to. When you suffer from depression, everyday task can sometimes be a challenge. If you know at the end of the week you get to take a ride on the grand and miraculous Spaceship Earth or dress up for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween, it gives you the extra push you probably need.
- It allows you to get out of your head and live in the moment. It’s pretty difficult to obsess about your anxious thoughts when you’re hugging Chewbacca or watching Festival of Fantasy, after all.
- It allows you to step outside of your comfort zone while still being in a “safe place”.
- And, if nothing else, Disney is a great distraction for at least some temporary relief.
And, although we can’t all be at Disney 100% of the time, all of these things have carried over into helping us get through hard times in our everyday life. For one, it is so easy to listen to Disney music or think of certain shows to help lift you up and bring you hope when it is needed.
However, I think the most important thing that I’ve learned to do while at Disney that has helped with both my depression and anxiety is to try your best to be in the moment. If you are feeling sad, allow it. Feeling anxious, embrace it. Excitement? Feel it envelop your entire being. While at the parks a few years back, I had started feeling strong moments of happiness and excitement that I hadn’t experienced in a while and I became more in tune with what was making me feel that way. I (very slowly) started bringing those moments of acknowledgement into my everyday life and I have felt a shift; for the things that normally would have stressed me out or made me upset, I now try to find little thing to be thankful for or realize they aren’t that bad.
And, of course, the friends you meet through Disney may end up being there for you 100% and help you in your recovery and day-to-day healing.
I met with Lisa & Lindsey for the first time in Disney World during Dapper Day Weekend. (Bonus tip, dressing up for Dapper Day and looking fabulous is a MAJOR confidence booster and helps you feel a little bit better as well!) And yet another reason how Disney has been a significant part of helping me deal- it helps me to connect with wonderful human beings. I definitely think I’ve found life long friends in these women!
Some Outfit Details:
Lisa (Me): Dress- Hot Topic (similar), Ears- Some lovely young men at Mouse Gear made them for me!, Purse- Ears By Mellie, Shoes- My friend Scarlett’s closet (similar)
Lisa M: Dress & Belt– Torrid, Shoes– Target, Ears she made herself- poofy bow and all!
Lindsey: Dress- vintage, Shoes- Steve Madden (similar), Gelatoni Bag- Tokyo Disneyland, Pin-Parkbound Buttons, Sun Bonnets Tsum Tsum headband she made herself (Country Bear Jamboree fans, I know you will appreciate the look!)
I would love to hear your personal stories about how Disney has helped you through a hard time or listen to any advice you have about coping while at the parks. You can also find Lisa and Lindsey by visiting their new blog, The Lina’s Conquer The World.