I’m now a month into my Disney College Program in Orlando, and things could not be more magical. I get to work right behind Cinderella Castle and go to the parks whenever I want. Both on and off the clock I experience magical moments, for other guests and myself as well. Every time I go to Magic Kingdom as a guest, I always find myself at the same place… the Kingdom’s Courtyard, aka, the Tangled bathrooms. It’s my favorite place to watch the fireworks, favorite spot to take pictures, favorite atmosphere to just.. be in.
Everything about Tangled speaks to me. Not only is it my favorite movie, and Rapunzel is my favorite princess, but I relate to her story. It inspires me, and continues to encourage me to stay far away from my own tower.
Rapunzel is an innocent, trusting girl, much like myself. She is kidnapped by Mother Gothel, who keeps her locked away from the real world. She tells her how scary the “real world” is, and makes her believe that staying in the tower is what’s best for her. Gothel tears her down and makes her think that she isn’t strong or brave enough to leave the tower or face the outside world. She keeps her trapped, both physically and mentally.
I have my own tower, and my own Mother Gothel.
For me, my eating disorder locked me up and convinced me that I was safest and happiest there.
It made me believe that I wasn’t brave enough or strong enough to leave, and every time I even thought about recovery- leaving my tower- my eating disorder got mad, more angry.
Mother Gothel is my eating disorder personified. The song “Mother Knows Best” kills me because I recognize those lies all too well- insisting that staying with my eating disorder will keep me safe, happy, and out of harm’s way, when really, staying up in that tower was destroying me.
Rapunzel’s bravery to leave, despite her “loving mother’s” stern instructions, inspires me. The scene where Rapunzel finally leaves is my favorite scene from any movie ever. It makes me feel warm inside. Leading up to my decision to recover, I spent hours listening to that song, wishing I could be as brave and strong as Rapunzel, dreaming that one day I would be able to leave my own tower.
“I could go running, and racing, and dancing, and chasing, and leaping, and bounding, hair flying, heart pounding. Splashing and reeling and finally feeling, that’s when my life begins!”
In the scene right after Rapunzel leaves, she keeps going back and forth about whether her leaving was a good idea or not. She goes from “Best day ever!” to thinking she’s the worst person ever. She can’t decide if she’s glad she left her tower or if she wants to go back to it. Almost three years into recovery, I still experience this. I know in my heart that leaving my tower was the best thing I could have done, but sometimes I still long for it.
Soon after going out into the unknown, Rapunzel faces her biggest fears- the evil ruffians and thugs Mother Gothel had told her about. They were scary, and could kill her in an instant. There was no doubt about it that they would kill her- Gothel had said so. The world is an awful place and would destroy Rapunzel; the tower was the only safe place.
Just like Rapunzel soon learned, the world my eating disorder had painted in my head was a lie. The foods I was terrified of, the social events that made me want to die, the therapy and recovery that made my skin crawl- it wasn’t bad and evil. Those things were good. Those things seemed scary at first, but the more I allowed myself to be around them, the more I was able to open up and really appreciate them. It wasn’t recovery that was bad and that would hurt me- it was my eating disorder, my tower.
For Rapunzel, leaving her tower opened up a whole new world of possibilities. She grew, she discovered, and she realized her own strength. She was told the tower was meant to keep her safe, but what it really did was trap her. It hindered her, and hurt her. She would have stayed there her whole life if she hadn’t taken her chance and mustered up courage to leave.
Rapunzel inspires me. I have to remind myself daily that my eating disorder is nothing but a tower, which would keep me locked up forever if I let it. I won’t let it. I have the whole world in front of me, and I am brave enough to say no to Mother Gothel and fight back. I am stronger.