Generally speaking, modelling one’s life on Disney films is a bad idea: they present unrealistic virtues, relationships and body images. It is therefore with slight trepidation that I channel the sentiment of the most recent – and magnificent – Disney hit, Let it go.
It is an unlikely, but actually very appropriate, anthem for recovery. Society often overlooks the fact that mental illness can be massively debilitating. When I was suffering from anorexia and depression, there were things I just couldn’t do: I couldn’t go swimming because I was so uncomfortable with displaying that much of my body; I couldn’t go clothes shopping because that meant staring at myself in endless mirrors; I spent hours making infinite lists in an attempt to get a hold on my life; there were mornings when I could barely bring myself to get out of bed.
Clothes shopping can be unbearable for those who have issues with their body image Credit: Magnus D
Some people think that recovering from mental illness is all about self-control. I would argue the opposite. Mental illness is highly oppressive; recovery should be liberating. It shouldn’t begin with the repression of symptoms. Instead, sufferers need to come to terms with them. Only then can they be battled – or let go, if you will.
This is incredibly scary at first. Disorders such as depression, anorexia and OCD are caused in part by a conscious sense of losing your grip on life. Letting things go might seem counterproductive, but you don’t have to lose control – you just have to fight some inhibitions.
Elsa quite literally throws caution to the wind Credit: YouTube
Of course, there’ll always be things you find hard. I’m still not a fan of bikinis. I find it difficult to reread the literature I associate with the worst weeks of my illness. I can’t really eat pancakes because they remind me of a time I yelled at my lovely mum for preparing some for me unannounced, making me feel like I had to eat them.
But as you only live once – carpe diem. And that is why we should never stop fighting the limitary effects of mental illness. I hope that, in the not too distant future, I will be able to say, as Elsa booms from the mountaintops in Frozen: “The fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all”.