I’ve have been asked many times why I love Disney so much. The explanation is hard but I’m going to try. Walt Disney World is my happy place. That may sound strange coming from an adult and I’ve gotten looks when I have said it before. But honestly, when I walk into the parks it’s like the world doesn’t exist and I’m just purely happy and full of joy. To understand this we need to go back to 2005.
Summer of 2005 was the absolute worse summer of my life thus far. In June that year my dad died of a sudden heart attack. Fast Forward to August and Hurricane Katrina hit the New Orleans area. We thankfully were able to evacuate and in a split second turned east instead of west to Texas. Which landed us in Orlando at my sister in law’s house to ride out the storm. rom the moment I stepped foot in Orlando I was looking for Disney tickets. This was before I knew the devastation that was unfolding at home and thought oh we’ll be here for a week so we should go to Disney a few days while we are here. I figured it would be a great way to get my then three year old out of the house and away from constant news coverage.
Then the unthinkable happened. Our house was on the 17th St Canal, our backyard backed up to the levee, we were 3 houses from the breech. In a moment everything we owned was gone. Just gone. So here we were stuck in Orlando with just a few weeks worth of clothes and a few toys and homeless. I guess that’s the right word because we had no home to go back to.
After a few days of trying o figure out our next move we decided to say in Orlando for at least a year. As renters we had no home to go back to and we wouldn’t be allowed back into the city until at least mid to late October. Thankfully we had my inheritance to keep us afloat and a lot of goodwill from strangers and friends to help get us set up until my husband and mom could find jobs. So we did just that, we rented a house and started rebuilding our lives.
If you have never had to rebuild your life. Let me tell you it’s hard and stressful. It’s even more so with a three year who just lost his grandpa aka his best friend, his school, his toys, and his home. It’s even more so when you haven’t gotten over the first major lost of the summer and now you have to deal with a second major loss. Sure people will say it is just stuff, but it was my stuff and my memories. It hurts and it sucks.
In the back of my mind as we were going through the process of setting up our new life, there was Disney. We were 45 minutes door to door from the House of Mouse. FORTY FIVE MINUTES… It was practically like we were next door. I just knew we needed to get annual passes to Disney. Somehow, someway. People thought I was nuts. “You just lost everything, you shouldn’t spend your money on that”. I also got told those same things when we got cable and internet in our new house so…
Maybe it was nuts. Maybe I was crazy but in my heart I knew I needed to find a way. I researched annual pass prices and realized there was a nice discount for Florida Residents. We were getting a refund from the three year old’s school for PreK-3 that we paid in full for the year. He wasn’t going to school in Florida so we would take some of that refund and put it towards passes. It was probably the best decision I made that year.
I didn’t know it at the time but looking back I can say that Disney saved me that year. It saved my mental health. I know you’re probably sitting there like what? She’s crazy but hear me out. I was in a bad place mentally. Grief and stress of everything that happened led to depression. I needed something to get me out of the house and off the couch or I would sit and do nothing. Remember I also had a three year that was grieving too. Sitting at home, doing nothing was not good for either of us.
In October 2005 we got annual passes to Walt Disney World. We went almost weekly that year. I needed those weekly visits to the Mickey’s house. Oh how my soul needed them. Stepping inside those magic gates it felt like the world disappeared. Nothing mattered but the magic and the fun. The stress, the grief – gone. It gave me a place where I didn’t have to think about Katrina or my dad just dying. An escape of sorts. It was where my heart found joy and happiness after the summer of pain and heartache. It’s where my mind and soul was able to heal itself after a summer of stress and grief. It was where a three year old boy got to be a three year old boy and just have fun without the weight of stress, grief and depression that was over out entire house. It’s where he got a happy mom not the sad, stressed mom he had been dealing with.
Disney saved me that year. I’m not sure where I would be without those weekly visits to it’s happiness and magic. Would I have found something else that made me happy and helped me heal? Maybe but I’m not sure. I do know for sure that Walt Disney World did just that. The magic is real and the magic helped me survive a year of heartache, stress and pain. That year is now full of happy magical memories instead of dark sad ones.
Even now when I walk into the parks I feel the same. The stress of real life melts away. The Disney bubble surrounds me and I feel pure joy and happiness. Walt Disney World is my happy place, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. Disney saved me that year, it’s just as simple as that.