Words to Live and Write by

I am willing to fall Because I have learned how to rise.

I craft Love from heartbreak, Compassion from shame, Grace from disappointment, Courage from failure.

I am among the brave and brokenhearted, and I am rising strong.

(credit to Brene Brown)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How "Frozen" Is my Depression Story

 Chances are you already know the story of Frozen. For the sake of analogy, here's a summary. And - spoiler alert! - I will ruin everything about the storyline for you.

  Elsa has something unique about her - an ability to create ice. When her parents fear her ability will harm those around her, they determine to teach her she must control and hide it, this thing that comes naturally to her. Meaning well, they teach her that she should fear it, because they fear it. So she spends her life in fear of being herself, learning to be "the good girl" she's supposed to be.The problem is, the harder she tries not to feel, the more she feels.
  THEN, there's this Incident. Suddenly, everyone knows what she is. Most just gasp and back away. The Duke of Weaseltown (and yes, I know it's "Weselton," but I think Weaseltown fits him better) gets very afraid and lets his fear become anger, hatred, and harsh accusations. Elsa, herself, doesn't know what to do, so she runs away. On her own, she realizes this power she has is actually something beautiful. She has a duckling-to-swan transformation when she believes she is beautiful. She decides it is better to live "alone and free" than captive to society's fears.
  However, Elsa has a sister, Anna - a sister who loves Elsa exactly the same before and after the Incident. Elsa can cut herself off from receiving peoples' love, but they will still give it. Anna seeks out Elsa with love and tries to reconcile. This is the point when Elsa learns she isn't a human island. What she does still affects others - she's unwittingly frozen an entire kingdom, which tortures her further. In the end, the most important thing to her is her sister's love, and what makes her most beautiful is embracing that love and being seen as her whole, fearless self.

  Okay, so not the best summary, I know. Watch the movie - it's got great songs. If you're a mom, you probably get to watch Frozen several times a week, so you know the story better than my pathetic description.
  Now for the analogy:

  I am Elsa. I have something society has taught me to fear - namely, depression, or as I like to think of it: I FEEL a LOT. That means when I feel badly, I feel really, really badly. And I turn that feeling inward. Society seems to be afraid of too much feeling or, put simply, vulnerability. We are supposed to be strong and in control of ourselves. So we are taught, from the time we are young and usually by well-meaning people, how to be "in control" of whatever makes us feel too much. Even when that something is beautiful, like dance or art or creativity, these things usually must conform to a "social norm" or form that people are comfortable with. Otherwise, well, it makes most people uncomfortable. (Think of how you love that painting of beautiful scenery, but sort of don't know what to make of that one "abstract" art piece.)
  So, you see, when I say "you don't know me" or "what you see in public is a lie," what I MEAN IS: I am like Elsa before the Incident. I'm struggling to "be the good girl" I'm supposed to be. I'm afraid you wouldn't love me if you saw what I'm hiding. But the more I try not to feel the more I FEEL.

  THEN, there's this Incident. My Incident was of my own creation: I simply came out and TOLD people, "This is what I've been hiding." And the reactions I got were a lot like the reactions Elsa got. Most people just sort of backed away from me, whether because they were afraid of what I said or they simply didn't know what to do with it. They distanced themselves from this whole messy Feeling business. One or two people displayed a lot of anger, I can only assume because they were afraid. Fear that I was destroying the image society needed me to preserve and that that was damaging me; fear that "losing control" of this thing would hurt those around me.

  With reactions like that, I wasn't sure I'd done the right thing at all. All these faces looking at me with apparent horror - I couldn't see poor Anna in the back, frantically waving her hands trying to get my attention. So, figuratively, I just ran away. I looked closely at myself and what I had just done. My emotions are truly best expressed in that overplayed (because let's face it, everyone relates to it) song, "Let It Go."

  Yes, here was this thing I'd been trying to hide. And "now they know." But I was tired of living in hiding, in fear of myself. I wanted to "turn away and slam the door" on all the naysayers. Because looking at this thing, this vulnerability of mine, I couldn't help seeing it was actually something worth keeping. I know that's a hard concept to grasp. WHY would I want to be depressed? Well, I don't like feeling depressed, but I DO like feeling, and with the good always comes the bad. Whenever I come back from feeling badly, feeling good always feels a hundred times better. I mean, how would I even know what good felt like if I didn't know what bad felt like? And how can I know what true JOY feels like if I can't endure what true absence of it feels like? It's okay if you can't wrap your head around it. I've begun to, and that's what counts. Focus, here. Let's get back to ME (said in Kuzco's voice, so you laugh instead of taking that the wrong way).

  So here's this thing I've decided makes me beautiful. But as far as I know, society thinks it makes me wrong. Therefore, isn't it better to be "alone and free" than be a slave to what society thinks forever? Wouldn't you rather be alone and loving yourself than accepted by a crowd and afraid of yourself? Well, I would.
  The problem with that philosophy is exactly what Elsa learned: I cannot be a human island. I can cut myself off emotionally, but my actions, even the action of cutting myself off, still affects others. Now I'm afraid again. Everything I do is wrong. Damned if I do, damned if I don't. Lost again.

  However, just like Elsa, I've found that I, too, have an Anna. More than one, in fact. People who love me exactly the same whether I struggle with depression or not, whether other people say it's okay or not. They don't care what other people say, they love me. And they understand, "Nobody wants to be alone." The trolls get it, too. "His isolation is confirmation of his desperation for healing hugs! ... Everyone's a bit of a fixer-upper; that's what it's all about! We need each other to raise us up and round us out."
  You mean, people can love me just the way I am, flaws and all? Yes, yes that's exactly what I mean. Wow. How do people do that? I don't know where that capacity to love comes from; it comes from people who've known me a long time as well as people who've just met me (same goes for the anger and fear), so it doesn't follow that ONLY my closest of friends can understand or deserve to see all of me.
  Now, I am like Elsa confronted with Anna's true love. Which sort of feels like being forced to rethink my entire existence. "Wait a minute... what I've been told is wrong? You actually agree with me about being vulnerable and beautiful? I can display all of me and that's OKAY? Well, WHAT DO I DO NOW?!"
  The answer, I think, is right there in the movie: accept the love, embrace my messy beautiful self, and let the rest go. So the Duke of Weaseltown and Hans want to destroy this new me? Fine, they can go back to their comfortable homes and ways of thinking; their problem, not mine. I can choose not to let them invade my personal space. All those other people, who don't know what to think? Well, they can either back away or choose to skate with me. If they back away, that's okay, I understand their fear because I was afraid of myself for a very long time. If they choose to skate - just imagine how beautiful that would be.
  Either way, what really matters is that I've found myself and my Anna. And by accepting that I am good and loved, I become the most beautiful I have ever been.
  The End. Well, of that particular story, at least.
  Ooh, there's a LOT more symbolism in the whole of the movie. For me and for others. Disney really hit a resounding note with this one.

Leave your thoughts and comments please!