They call it the Happiest Place on Earth for a reason. Within the span of a week, I have found myself in a psychiatric hospital after a suicide attempt for five days, then a few days later five days at Disneyland, in Anaheim California.
This is not the first time this sequence of events has happened. When I was a teenager in 1987 I went from a psychiatric hospital to Disneyland in a span of days.
During my medicine respite in 2014, I self-medicated with pixie-dust. My fiancee and I made frequent trips to the theme park which we jokingly called Disney Therapy.
I have had my medicine adjusted recently during my hospital stay, and am no longer suicidal, however suicidal ideation (and attempts) are just one of many symptoms of my mental illness of bipolar disorder. The fact of the matter is, I have had a malaise of depression during this visit which has put a bit of a grey haze over what should be one of the most enjoyable things I can do in public.
I’m not exactly sad, though it seems to present as sadness. What I really feel is frustration. Frustration that I cannot seem to have a genuine emotional response to something, but rather have to filter things through the symptoms of my illness. Now there have been times approaching joy here at Disneyland, but it seems in general happiness is being held in reserve for something. I don’t know what that would be, and I am sure that this articulation of my emotional landscape falls short of the actual experience.
A trip to Disneyland should not be an exercise in perseverance, pushing myself forward, and working hard to not give in to depression and just retreat. Now as far as environments go, it is one that is easier than most to persevere in the face of depression, but no amount of Pixie Dust actually negates a mood swing. We have been leaving the park early — often before or during the fireworks display, and my partner has taken pride in how well we are pacing ourselves — not pushing ourselves too hard. Thing is, most of the time, I am pushing through an undefined malaise and the desire to just retreat.
I don’t want to make it sound like a Disneyland vacation is a chore — it is certainly not, but neither is it really the escape that the planning video claims it will be. There is nowhere I can go where I will not be mentally ill. There is no amount of fun that will mitigate my limiting neurochemistry. Rather than escaping my mental illness for a few hours, this trip just puts it in sharp relief.
I sincerely believe that Disneyland really is the Happiest Place on Earth. I am not at all unhappy, I am just ill.