DIS & Dreams Event - Disneyland Resort in California
August 4 - 5, 2023

How Disney Helps Us Heal

There is no better distraction or relief from life’s stress than Disney. Whether you are facing difficult times at work or with family, Disney offers an outlet of entertainment and engagement in a fantasy. A fantasy that allows you to believe that everything is going to be okay, even if it is just for a little while.

My husband and I decided to return to Walt Disney World as adults last year, and I could not help but wonder, “Is this going to be as fun as I remember? What if it is too hot or too crowded? I cannot spend my one vacation this year not relaxing!” Little did I know that Disney World was about to provide me with the best relaxation possible: distraction. My mind could not wander because it was experiencing too much excitement. Constant fun and joy that did not allow for anything other than positivity. All I could find myself asking was “how do I make this feeling last?”

It was not until we returned home that I realized that something felt different about this vacation. I thought I would be exhausted from the non-stop adventure and miles of walking, but all I felt was complete relief. Before I knew it, I was back to work. Back to coping with the recent loss of my grandmother and other life stressors. This, coupled with what I now understand is a standard Disney withdrawal, made being home that much harder. My husband had a brilliant solution to these Disney blues: more Disney!

We spent the next few weeks, and then months, watching every Disney vlog we could, and we read everything Disney we could find. It became routine to watch our favorite vlogs and listen to our favorite podcasts. We absorbed every bit of information that Disney experts could offer in an attempt to keep the excitement from our trip alive.

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Not long after making an effort to become our own experts on all things Disney, we received some very shocking news. I was diagnosed with metastatic thyroid cancer. I am a 31-year-old Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has worked with cancer patients throughout my entire career. I have seen some of the most tragic moments a person can face happen right before my eyes. I did not think it was possible to appreciate each moment of every day more than I already did. My profession made me acutely aware that life was not always fair. I could not help but ask myself, “How do I get through this?”

I soon realized that, even with a multitude of professional experiences to help guide me through the process, I was still a human being who was scared. I was naïve enough to think that my job and my education made me uniquely qualified to be prepared for this. The truth is that all you can do when faced with a situation like this is find a way to get through it, and, hopefully, it’s a healthy one.

I am not sure how long it took me to realize this, but Disney went from being a pleasant distraction to an actual coping mechanism. It did not take long (or much convincing) to get my husband to agree to plan another trip together. We both agreed that we needed something positive to look forward to. We needed something to help us get through this.

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My husband and I decided to plan a trip one year out from completing my radiation treatment, November 2020. It was also a date conveniently close to our three-year wedding anniversary. Getting there with so much to plan and to be excited for is what helps me get up every morning, and gives me the strength to get through some of my toughest days. We were even able to squeeze in a plan for a Disney cruise in 2021! After all, how else are we going to recover from the next trip withdrawal if another is not already in the works?

Every day, we watch a new vlog and see a new treat or experience that we add to our list. For now, we live through other people’s experiences until we can get to Disney World to make those cherished memories for ourselves.

I am looking forward to this trip for so many reasons, but what I really cannot wait for is that feeling. The feeling of being completely distracted from the burdens of life while excitement and joy fill my heart. This trip, I am going to soak up every single second of that feeling. I will stop to appreciate the moments when some of my favorite memories are being made in a way I never have before.

People sometimes think that Disney magic refers to amusement and fairytales, but it is much deeper than that. I can speak from experience that Disney’s real magic is in its ability to help us heal.


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