What I Want

I want to be okay. That’s all. I want to be healthy, happy, unconcerned. I want to wake up in the morning and be excited to get out of bed.

I want friends. I want people who like me and understand me. Not a lot of them, maybe – just one or two would be nice. One or two who stay. One or two who don’t move away or find other people or just stop talking to me all of a sudden. I want to sit in a group of people and not feel like the outsider for once. I want to be with them and not feel like I have to keep trying for them to like me.

I want to fall in love. I want to meet someone who is attracted to me and who I am attracted to as well. I want a relationship that goes beyond an exchange of phone numbers and maybe an awkward kiss or handshake. I want someone who understands me.

I want a job that I enjoy. I want to spend the majority of my day doing something that makes the time go by, and yet I still make money nonetheless, at least enough money to survive. I want a stress-free place to stay in and depend on. I want the opportunity to feel free, like I can grow and change and become who I was meant to be. I want to be in the light and the earth, growing tall and new and green like a vine, rather than stunted and ugly like a weed.

I want a mind that remains calm in the storm. I want to face difficulty with a carefree smile and a shrug, rather than the question of whether or not this is it, the thing that breaks me for good. I want confidence in my ability to weather the hurricane, rather than the fear that I will be drowned in it. I want arms that are clear and soft and free of cuts or claw marks. I want hope and thrill and contentedness.

I want little, I think. I just want to be the way people say I should be – a happy, beautiful, well-adjusted young woman with my whole life ahead of me. That’s what I want. That’s all.

The Beast’s Depression in Beauty and the Beast

So I pretty much think of Disney’s 1991 Beauty and the Beast as a pretty perfect movie. It’s got a remarkably strong and proactive heroine who I, as a lover of books and stories, always saw myself in very strongly. It’s got some of Disney’s best animation of all time. It’s got a loveable and diverse cast of characters. And it seems like every time I watch it, I can find something new to be in awe of in the film.

Like the last time that I watched it, when I was struck by just how much the Beast suffers from depression throughout the entire film.

I think I always knew this was true to some extent, but I didn’t realize how strongly it was until my most recent viewing, when some of the Beast’s behaviour began to tie together in ways that it hadn’t before. And, I know, I know, some of you are going to be rolling your eyes and telling me that “it’s just a kid’s movie, there’s no way that they put something like that in there intentionally” – but think about it. It’s too consistent for it not to be intentional.

Think about how willing the Beast is, in multiple scenes, to just let himself give up or die. From the moment that he meets Belle, he assumes that the situation is hopeless, that she’ll never love him enough to break the spell. It’s his servants who have to talk him into actually trying. And when Gaston shows up at his castle with the clear intention of killing the Beast, he doesn’t even raise a hand to defend himself until Belle shows up and gives him reason to. He doesn’t personally care if he lives, dies, or stays a Beast forever – he only cares if other people are involved, and then he cares for them.

Think about how low the Beast’s self-esteem is. I mean, yes, I assume that low self-esteem would be common side effect of being cursed by a sorceress with the express intention of making it difficult for people to like you, but the Beast constantly refers to himself as a monster throughout the film. He doesn’t even try to be likeable for Belle at first, because he just assumes she wouldn’t like him anyway.

And I know that we’re getting into metaphor territory here, but think about the way that the characters talk about their years spent cursed. They’re described as doing nothing, as just staying in this dark and secluded castle without any hope for years at a time. On my last viewing of the film, I couldn’t help but think, “wow, what a shame that is, to lose years of your life like that”, and it was then that I realized how much it reflected the way that I tend to think about the years I spent depressed. Those years that I lost doing nothing, feeling unmotivated and disconnected from people. Those years that I spent feeling like I was an unlikable monster.

The more that I thought about it, the more that I realized just how significant the Beast’s depression is for his character. And the interesting thing about it is, I don’t think that any real resolution is reached for it.

I mean, yes, Belle confesses her love for the Beast, and he transforms into a prince and everyone lives happily ever after, but at the same time, the last time that we get any substantial dialogue from the Beast, just a few seconds before his transformation, he implies that it might be better for everyone if he did just die. “Maybe it’s better this way,” he groans through the knife wound in his back, and that makes me think that, as much as the story promises a happily ever after shortly after those words are uttered, maybe the Beast’s depression didn’t just go away with his claws and fur. I’m sure that not being a beast anymore and falling in love certainly helped, and I like to think that the happy ending promises that he’s at least on the road to recovery, but years spent in such a low mental state doesn’t just go away. It’s not as easy as all that.

And maybe I’m over-thinking it. Maybe his depression was magically cured along with his curse and his knife wound, but I sort of like the idea that it wasn’t. I like to think that the movie ends with the Beast, not completely cured, but certainly improving. I like to think that the happily-ever-after wasn’t meant for right now, right this minute, but it’ll come, and he’ll be happy and everything will turn out the way that it’s supposed to. I like to think that there are still obstacles on his path toward that happiness, but he’ll get through them, because despite what he might think, he deserves to. And if he ever forgets that, he has people by his side to remind him.

I like to think of that as the ending, because it states that there is no easy or magical cure for depression, but all the same, happiness is still possible, even for those who cannot currently imagine it.

How Anxiety Has Made Me Stronger

Some days are better than others.

I can’t really say what distinguishes the bad days from the good. Sometimes, it’ll just seem like a thought strikes me when I’m in a bad mood or when I’m hungry, and then my mind will refuse to let it go, clinging tight to it.

You’re directionless, and you’ll never amount to anything unless you change that.

Oh my god, you’re right, I realize, and suddenly the next few weeks are spent in a mad rush to get things done – even if there really isn’t much to get done. Especially when there isn’t much to get done.

Then, sometimes, I can go for days, weeks, even months without even remembering that I have anxiety. I’ll be relaxed, happy, driven but not to the point that I’m causing myself stress over it. I’ll think hopefully to myself, I’m cured! but even at the time, I’ll know it won’t be true.

Because at the end of the day, I know what I am; I am a person with anxiety, whether I like it or not.

I first discovered that I had anxiety when I was about nineteen years old, though I know that I had it long before that. I simply hadn’t attached a name to it yet, because I was still frantically Googling “why am I stressed all the time” to figure out what was wrong with me. Putting a name to the problem was a huge relief, but even still, I elected not to use medication. I wasn’t entirely opposed to the idea, but I wanted to find out if I could learn to control it on my own first.

After reading about the problem and coming to understand it a bit better, my first attempt at controlling it was through diet and exercise. I tried to eat healthier, tried to keep myself active, and with time, I did find that it made a bit of a difference. I was less prone to stress when I ate a good, healthy meal every two to three hours. The only problem with it was whenever I couldn’t depend on that level of regularity, whenever the third hour drifted by and my stomach was left empty and yearning, I got just as bad as I had been before. I have been known to go into panic attacks simply because the person in line behind me at Shoppers Drug Mart was just a tiny bit rude. So, yes, eating healthy and keeping active most certainly helped, but in no way did it cure me.

My second attempt at controlling my anxiety was through a simple change in thought. I tried to be more mindful of my condition and take things slower, recognize when I was getting bad. If I felt myself going into a panic attack, I’d try to talk to myself, remind myself that I was alright and that it was only my anxiety. If I felt like I was going to fast, hurdling toward a brick wall that I knew would break me, I’d remind myself that I needed to slow down. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes I simply forgot about it.

My attempts at controlling anxiety have, as you can see here, been flawed – but effective nonetheless. Regardless of their moments of failure, they have, nonetheless, made me a much stronger person. When I discovered that I had anxiety, it was only because I was crippled by it – I had no other choice than to confront it. That most certainly is not the case anymore. I’m a functioning, self-aware person who is striving to meet my goals – not despite my anxiety, but regardless of it.

My anxiety will always be a part of me – I will never be cured of it entirely, but maybe I don’t have to be. Maybe my anxiety is less a disorder, something that stands in my way and mars me somehow, and more just a part of me – a character trait. Just like some people have to learn how to function in this world regardless of the fact that they’re abrupt or stubborn or self-absorbed, I have to learn how to function regardless of being frequently anxious. I’m a person with anxiety in the same way that I’m a person with red hair, and a person with an affinity for pop culture.

It is nothing for me to be ashamed of, and it is not something that holds me back. It is something that I have learned how to control and live with. It is something that makes me stronger, not weaker.

Slow Down

Hey, you.

Yeah, you, the beautiful, unique, and loved person reading this right now.

Slow down.

Our society tends to run at a rapid rate, and this time of year seems to get particularly bad for that. Students are preparing to hand in their final papers and write their exams. Work has gotten to be busier and more demanding as the holiday season draws near. And despite that, life itself never stops – there’s always something extra that we need to tend to, whether that be our families, an illness, some sort of passion we might be pursuing. Either way, whatever it is, it piles up, and it’s far too easy to get caught up in it all.

But you need to slow down.

I know that when things get hectic for me, I find myself tempted to just get it all over and done with, rip it all off like a band-aid and maybe once I’m finished, I’ll be happier for it. And while I’m not advocating procrastination here, sometimes the opposite isn’t all that great either. It’s the difference between a race and a sprint – you can either work hard, get through it, but still leave yourself a bit of energy to move forward and face whatever challenges life has next, or you can burn yourself out, break down getting as much done as possible in a short amount of time.

And when the break down comes, as it’s inevitably going to when I’ve been working so hard at something, I’m always left feeling angry and disappointed – not more fulfilled. I still feel like I didn’t do enough – I wasn’t working long enough. I’m so accustomed to the speed of the sprint that slowing down, even the tiniest bit, feels like a crawl. I’m charged, ambitious, ready to work, but every time I face that work it fills me with dread, and I find myself too exhausted to do it.

So I’m here to tell you to slow down.

Getting your work done is not the most important thing in life. It’s important, don’t get to wrong, but above that, more important than anything at all, is your happiness. If it’s getting in the way of your happiness (whether that be short-term or long-term happiness – the way that writing an essay makes me sad in the present, but relieved in the aftermath), then it just isn’t worth it. And I’m not saying give up on it altogether – if we all gave up on the things that didn’t give us joy, where would we be? All that I’m saying is that you need to find ways to do it that doesn’t rob you of your happiness, that doesn’t exhaust you or leave you feeling unsatisfied.

You need to slow down.

So take some time for yourself today, whatever that might mean. Maybe its time to dig out that video game you’ve been meaning to play for a while. Maybe you need to take a nice, slow walk and notice the way that the air feels on your skin, the ways in which the winter season is slowly taking place of fall. Maybe all you need to do is back away from your work and listen to some music, or talk to a loved one, or meditate for a bit. Whatever you need to do, do it, and then get back to your work when you feel prepared to. It will still be there when you’re done, and it does not do you any good to sacrifice yourself, mind, body, and soul to it.

And when it comes to getting your work done, find a pace that works for you, and don’t worry if it doesn’t match someone else’s. We’re all different, each and every one of us unique and strong in our own ways. One person might be able to power through five essays and six exams (while working full time) no problem, while someone else might need a good, long break after just one essay – and that’s totally fine. If that’s what you need, then that’s what you need, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Our society is often so fast-paced, so obsessed with results, that it’s easy to start measuring yourself against other people and wonder what you’re doing wrong. But the only thing you’re doing wrong is comparing yourself to other people – people who are not you, who do not know your experiences or the way your mind works. We’re all different, and we all need different things. You’ll get a lot more done, and be a whole lot happier, if you find a pace that suits you.