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How Frozen 2 Helped Me Get Through My Election Anxiety

Just do the next right thing.

Anna and Elsa prepare for another adventure in Frozen 2.

I would like to tell you a story about last week, and how a movie that’s supposedly for children helped me to not spiral into an anxious breakdown.

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I am a person who lives with anxiety and depression. I’m not ashamed of it, and I talk about it openly because there’s nothing sad or shameful about it. It’s something that’s been true for most of my life. I also have ADHD, which very often doesn’t play well with the anxiety. ADHD (which is terribly named and needs to be better understood) means that, at times, my brain will go into hyperfocus mode on one thing, not letting me refocus my attention or rest. Usually, this is just annoying, but when the thing my brain is hyperfocused on is my anxiety and/or the thing causing my anxiety … it gets worse. When that triggering focus is something that’s caused past emotional and mental trauma—like, say, an election—it gets really bad.

So, it goes without saying that last week was a hard week for me, mental health-wise. My anxiety spiraled in the worst ways, with physical symptoms galore. As I had to explain to my family, who didn’t quite get why I was hiding and hanging out with my five-year-old daughter rather than watching the news on election night, this was not something in my control. There’s a lot that people with anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses can do to cope, but at a certain point, asking us things like “Why are you so scared? Why is this affecting you so badly?” is the same as asking a person with asthma “Why aren’t you just breathing more deeply?”

But I really was trying to get through, even so. I didn’t want to end up crying in an empty bathtub like I did in 2016. And the thing that helped me came thanks to my daughter telling Alexa to play Frozen 2 songs. It was Anna, singing at the darkest moment in her life, about putting one foot in front of the other and doing the next right thing.

Both Frozen and Frozen 2 have powerful subtext when it comes to mental health. I know I’m not the only one who saw Elsa’s inability to control her powers in the first movie as a great metaphor for anxiety and depression. The more scared she was, the worse it seemed to be. It was isolating and scary, and sure, there are moments of freedom when you realize it’s okay to be you … but it is still work to live with that difference. And you need support and love to do it.

But it wasn’t “Let It Go” that got me through on election week. It was Anna singing of grief with “a gravity that pulls me down.” She was the tiny voice in my mind telling me that even if the very worst happened, even if every disaster my asshole my brain was telling me might occur hid hit … that I would make it. That I just had to keep going. “You are lost, hope is gone. But you must go on and do the next right thing.”

When Anna sings in her darkest moment about not looking too far ahead because it’s just too much, I felt that. I feel that. I think a lot of people do. It’s so tempting to give up and just let the dark and the fear and the worst possibilities crush us. But what that song asks us to do is take the next breath and step and just keep going, keep making the choice to go on. And I did that. I literally kept moving during parts of last week singing this song to myself and doing my next right thing.

I made it because each time my anxiety screamed, “What if he wins again?” I heard Anna sing, “And with the dawn, what comes then? When it’s clear that everything will never be the same again?” And I remembered that she just made the choice to keep going and do her best, and sometimes that’s all any of us can do.

And sure, this may sound silly to some people, but … isn’t this the very point of art? Stories and songs exist to unite us and inspire us and get us through the toughest days, not just as a distraction, but as a guide—as the thing that gives voice to hope. We all cope however we can. I got through my worst anxiety week in a long time with help from Anna and Elsa, from the Winchesters and White Christmas. I managed to keep going and do my job and be a mom and generally function as a human, even when my body and brain had other plans for me. And I’m proud that I did. And I’m proud that I will.

Make that choice, and hear that voice. And do the next right thing.

(image: Disney)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.