Friday, October 10, 2014

Elsa and Anxiety

So last time I talked about how Elsa, while a good character, shouldn’t be held up on a pillar as a role model of independence. But I want to get deeper into why she is relatable as a character. This is a personal post. I know that Elsa’s struggle can be seen as symbolic as many different real life struggles. But I want to focus today on how well Elsa personifies dealing with anxiety.
I’ve written a post before on my anxiety and also why I want to see it more in fiction (Right here). Elsa, to me, really captured what dealing with anxiety is like. Especially in this scene.

She's literally attacking herself.
Elsa is pacing around, speaking to herself. “Keep it together. Control it. Don’t feel, don’t feel.” And I was struck as I watched this movie for the first time how many times I muttered the same things to myself in the dark when my panic attacks were at their worst. But no matter how many times I said them, the panic only got worse.

Elsa is plagued by fear from an early age which causes her to isolate herself. Fear of herself only makes the power worse, not better. The harder she tries to suppress it, the more it seems to claw its way out. The way she holds herself, hands close to her body, closed off from everyone, is characteristic of a person who just wants to disappear. And that stance was familiar to me.

She tries running away from the issue, which helps for a while. I remember how good a change of scenery was for me when I left for college. I had the longest period without anxiety attacks I’d ever had. But when another one hit me after six months of silence, I felt the supposed strength I’d built up crumble immediately. I hadn’t confronted the problems. I had only stepped away from them and they had lay in wait, watching for an opportunity to strike.

People try telling her to stop the winter (another metaphor for her anxiety) but since she doesn't know how, that only makes it worse. She can't just turn it off. Similar to anxiety.

Yeah... Can't do that so easily
But I had to start looking for other ways to calm myself. I had to look for the hope of the situation. Find things that were in my power and hold onto them to calm my fears of things that weren’t. It was only when I started facing my issues with optimism instead of fear that they started to improve.

Admittedly, my anxiety disorder is mild compared to many. I don’t have to take medication for it. And I’ve gone almost eight months now without a full-fledged anxiety attack. Four months without a close call.

Elsa found her happy ending. I think I’m on my way to mine. Characters like Elsa, while not nessasarily perfect role models, are important for people who are struggling and see no light at the end of the tunnel. It might be just a Disney movie, but it is full of hope.

And hope, I still believe, is the most powerful thing in the universe.

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