Last week, Cathy wrote about Disney’s Frozen. More specifically, about how Elsa, the [sort of] main character, and how she had to overcome shame and fear about her unusual abilities.
It was a wonderful post. If you haven’t read it, you should probably stop reading this and go check it out. But then, you know, come back and read this one too.
(Obviously, anything below this point is full of spoilers for Frozen. So, if you haven’t seen it, stop reading here. Also, if you haven’t seen Frozen, I’m not sure what you’re doing with your life.)
As I sat and thought about Cathy’s post, about Frozen, and about Elsa, I had a disquiet growing slowly inside me. I began to become uncomfortable, not with Elsa, but with her parents. More specifically, with the way they reacted to her gifts and the incident in the beginning of the film that left younger sister Anna injured.
As someone who cares for another person with a mental illness and a set of extenuating circumstances that society doesn’t necessarily understand, I’ve done a lot of things in the name of taking care of my wife. They haven’t all been wise decisions and some of them have been downright bad.
So, I recognized the bad decision Elsa’s parents made and even, with more thought, was able to see where they went wrong. See, when they were told that things were worse than they knew, that things could go extraordinarily wrong if they weren’t careful, they panicked.
Just plain, simple panic.
And their decisions following that panic set their daughters up for a lifetime of isolation, pain, and ultimately failure. For Elsa, it was her gift that she was unable to conquer and for both of them, Anna included, understanding of others was severely compromised.
It’s hard to be a caregiver, I understand this. It can be one of the most difficult jobs on the planet, just ask any parent. You have to make split second decisions with little to no help in the moment and definitely no guide-book to go off of. So, I understand the panic Elsa’s parents faced and the easy pit-fall of giving in to that panic.
But that doesn’t make what they did okay. Their decision to isolate Elsa is the truest villain in the movie.
So, what does that mean for us? What take-away is there for the care-givers? Should we be panicked about panicking? By no means!
My advice, and the best advice I can give to any one suffering from mental illness, or anyone taking care of someone suffering from mental illness is this:
When things get hairy, take a step back, breathe deep, and remember everything is going to be okay.
Sometimes it will feel like that all will be lost if you don’t act fast, but, most of the time, acting fast is the worst thing you can do. So just breathe and think before you act.
It’s all going to be okay.