“Frozen” and Mental Illness

I know that it has become cliche to say that Frozen is your favorite Disney movie, but there are a few reasons why I really connect to the story. I relate to the feelings of trying to conceal who you are because you are afraid of hurting others. I have thought about suicide since I was a kid. I always thought that these thoughts were bad, that there was something wrong with me because I kept thinking about suicide even when things were good. I tried to hide my depression, my suicidal thoughts, my mental illness, because I was afraid that if people knew, if people saw, they would get hurt.

In Frozen, Elsa is told that there is beauty in her gift, but also danger. She gets so afraid of endangering others that she locks herself away from everyone else. She hides her gift because it scares her that she cannot control it. Her parents unknowingly reaffirm these thoughts by telling her to “conceal, don’t feel, don’t let it show.” Eventually though, she breaks. She is unable to hold it all in and does the very things she was afraid of doing by hurting the ones she loves. But by breaking, she finds freedom in allowing herself to feel and to use her abilities.

Elsa's_loss

This picture of Elsa is a very familiar scene for me. Sitting in my room, isolating from the world, feeling like I am a monster unable to control myself, feeling like no one could ever understand the darkness, feeling so alone because even though people are so close- they just don’t know what lies behind my closed doors.

I finally went and saw my therapist again. It has been about 6 months since I last saw him. When I left the last time, it was on such a positive note. My life was going well, I had been feeling hopeful about life and felt like I could handle my thoughts. Going back felt like somewhat of a failure, as though I was not good enough to keep up those positive thoughts, that I had failed in my recovery. My therapist told me that it is like riding a bike though. You have times when you are going downhill and you do not need to peddle because life is easier. There are other times when you are going uphill and you have to put all you have into peddling because otherwise you will start slipping backwards.

That is how I have been feeling lately. I had been doing so well for a while, but with the accumulation of health issues, disordered eating, added stresses of school and business, life became difficult. I got tired of peddling and started sliding back into the familiar darkness of depression and thoughts of suicide and self harm. When I recovered enough to look around again, I realized how far I had slid backwards and it was disheartening. It is difficult to realize how much your choices have affected you. I understand that eating disorders and depression are not entirely choices, but I had slipped. I had slid into familiar destructive habits and realizing the toll it took on my body was almost devastating.

I remember learning about addictions in my health class and the teacher saying that relapse is part of recovery. This was my relapse. I had fallen back into harmful behaviors that hurt me physically and emotionally. Realizing you have relapsed is one of the hardest parts of recovery. You feel as though you have failed, you have let everyone down, you let yourself down. At this point, it is easy to convince yourself to stop trying because you feel as though you are never going to get better anyway. I remembered that relapse is a step in recovery though. I am realizing that it does not mean I will not get better. I am better than I was and I will become better than I am. It is simply a process and I must have patience with myself.

Anyway, back to Frozen, thinking about the movie I realized something about myself. Elsa’s gift was beautiful and amazing. It brought people joy and made life more fun. It was only dangerous when she forgot how to love and open herself up. It was dangerous because she concealed the beauty in the process of trying to protect others from getting hurt. Suicidal thoughts are not my gift, but maybe feeling so much is a gift. I empathize with others. I understand things on a level that most people do not. I feel with everything in me. When I love, I love so completely that it hurts sometimes. Maybe this gift of mine is beautiful, maybe it makes being my friend better and more fun, maybe it is a good thing.

My therapist counseled me to not label my suicidal thoughts as bad, but simply to recognize them as thoughts and move on. I do not have to be afraid of my thoughts. I do not have to fear thinking about self harm or suicide or other thoughts that have been reinforced in my head as harmful. I can simply recognize them as part of my thought processes that have been shaped through years of reinforcement, but I do not have to hold onto those thoughts. I do not have to judge myself for those thoughts. My thoughts do not define me, but what I choose to do with those thoughts can define me if I allow it to.

So here’s to the beauty of mental differences. Here’s to the emotional breakdowns because that means I have powerful feelings. Here’s to the thoughts that I do not have to harbor because there are other thoughts I would rather dwell on. Here’s to seeing the beauty instead of the danger of my mind. Here’s to this beautiful, wonderful, crazy life and all that comes with it.

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16 thoughts on ““Frozen” and Mental Illness

  1. What a great therapist you have! And now I want to see Frozen! The way you communicate your feelings is remarkable. I would bet that most people who read this can say, “I have felt that, too!” Some of us are so much harder on ourselves than anyone else ever would be.

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  2. Yes your feelings are so intense and that’s good!!! Your love too is infinite! I have a friend just lile you. I can say I love him for his way he feels and loves universe! But sometimes he needs to stay alone when world is too much. I just can wait for him and i pray a lot for him….

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  3. “ When I love, I love so completely that it hurts sometimes. Maybe this gift of mine is beautiful, maybe it makes being my friend better and more fun, maybe it is a good thing.” I like that you realize this about yourself and you are accepting this…my son I feel is like this. He will try to hide his tears and say he’s okay but then I will look over and he’s completely melting and erupting in tears because of what someone has said or something that has happened. I think he is too hard on himself and always expects the best of everyone. Its hard for him to handle when people disappoint him or if someone else is sad. Glad to hear that you are learning to be self aware and seeking out your therapist when you need it.

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      • Do you think that it’s a matter of finding ways to cope with the intensity now? My son REALLY found himself and identifying with the song “Let It Go”. The whole idea that you can’t show who you really are to everyone and you have to hold all of that in and you just have to be who you are and just let it go… I know that he finds that at school he tries to live up to all the expectations of the teachers and I worry that he holds it all in and that’s why he’s like a champagne bottle when he comes home. He’s only eight and I feel like he’s has the soul of A teenager trying to fit in already.

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      • Yeah, I think you just have to find what works for you. I think most people hold it all in and then let it out in the places they feel safer. Some of us just have more to let out, but hopefully we find ways to cope to let a little more out so that it doesn’t explode quite as much later.

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