When you get the flu, it’s easy to know what to do: get tested at the Dr’s office, pick up your Tamiflu prescription, and give yourself some extra TLC. Physical illness is easy to manage. Mental illness is…not always so clear. Many find it hard to discuss, especially with such stigma still surrounding it. We do what we can to cope.
For a lot of people, that includes Disney Parks. I often hear, “don’t you get tired of going to the same place over and over?” They mean well, but they don’t quite get it. It’s not about the place, it’s about the state of mind.
“Here you leave the today And enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.”
Walt Disney World is, for many, an escape from a world that is all too often cruel. As one person so eloquently put it, “‘it’s my happy place’ means something very different when you’re struggling mentally.” Walking through the tunnel at Magic Kingdom and coming out on Main Street, you can feel your load lighten. It’s freeing.
This is why the story of Casey Clark is so powerful. She recognized this and took the plunge and moved 10 minutes from Disney World so that she could be in her happy place to ease some of life’s troubles. “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve dreamed of living in Disney World — not in a “I want to be a princess” kind of way but because it was a place where I always felt free to be my most authentic self,” she writes, “It was at Disney World where I could leave my anxieties at home for the day and just exist as a normal person.”
Anyone who has ever battled depression or anxiety can relate to that. For me, it was my way to cope with PTSD. When my infant daughter died, I felt like I’d never feel joy again. It was Cinderella who brought me out of that and helped me see that there is hope. That’s why the sight of Cinderella Castle always makes me cry and why I wear a castle pendant around my neck. It’s to remind myself, “No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, a dream that you wish will come true.”
Casey Clark bravely told the world her story in an article on Insider. In her honest post she says, “I’m not saying that it’s all magic and pixie dust — though it is a lot of the time. I still have rough days, with depression leaving me stuck in bed as I go days without showers and my apartment falls into utter disarray. But when I can gather the energy to get out of bed, having the parks to go to makes me keen on going outside, socializing, and relaxing, which I’ve found has been very beneficial for my mental health.”
She went on to discuss the benefits of being in a Disney Park that many of us enjoy but rarely recognize. “When I can gather the energy to get out of bed, having the parks to go to makes me keen on going outside, socializing, and relaxing, which I’ve found has been very beneficial for my mental health,” she said. Mental health experts agree that Sunshine (vitamin D) is essential for mental health, so Clark may be onto something here.
Additionally, so-called Disney Adults get a bad rap, but few realize that we go to Disney Parks not because we never grew up, but because the world forced us to grow up much too much. At Disney World, that inner child has a chance to be free. This is what keeps so many Disney guests coming back and keeps the passion alive.
Disney masterfully creates an artificial world and tells a story in such detail that, while yiure there, it’s easy to get kost in it. When I’m at Walt Disney World Resort, I don’t have to worry. I call it my “Disney Bubble.” Once I pass through those iconic gates, nothing exists outside of the Disney Bubble.
While some may argue that this suspension of disbelief isn’t healthy, I’d argue that it is vital. Think about it, when you sprain your ankle, what is the recommended treatment? Stay off of it and rest.
Why would it be any different for mental health? I leave Disney refreshed and ready to productively rejoin a world that just days before stressed me out to the point of mental paralysis. I’d say that is absolutely healthy.
No, I don’t honestly believe the fictional world around me is reality, nor do I believe I am a princess in her kingdom– but it’s sure fun to pretend for a bit and if that helps me become a more balanced human in the process…I call that a win-win!