Life is anything but a fairy tale…

Sorry for the recent lack of updates on the blog.  Despite still being active on my social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, I, however, have struggled to find the time or energy to write a post for the blog.  I had been experiencing good days during the last posts that I published, but unfortunately as many of you living with chronic illness will relate to, these good days do not last, and so my health has slowly regressed back and therefore bad days have replaced the good days.

During my break from writing, I have found the time to watch some of the films that I had been wanting to see for some time.  I cried during ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ and was particularly enthralled with ‘Maleficient’. I was captivated by the story of the villain depicted in the classic Disney film ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and even more so by the wonderful performance by Angelina Jolie.

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I was particularly impressed by how Maleficient was not simply a retelling of the fairytale Sleeping Beauty.  Don’t get me wrong, I love fairy tales, my favourite being Beauty and the Beast, but let’s face it, they are all highly unrealistic.  They portray everything as being black or white; characters being either good or evil for example.  What I loved about Maleficient, therefore, was the portrayal of the eponymous character as being both good and evil.  Unlike with classic fairy tales, the story of Maleficient portrayed various shades of grey.

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This then got me thinking of life with chronic illness.  If we were in a fairy tale, our illnesses would be portrayed as an evil beast, much like Maleficient in Sleeping Beauty or Ursula from The Little Mermaid as examples.  Our lives would be darkened and ruined by the beast that is inside of us.  Each and every day would be bad with no room for happiness, sunshine or joy.

However, just as real life is not simply black and white; I choose to believe that life with chronic illness is more like the portrayal of Maleficient; there is no good or evil.  I believe that even living with something as difficult as chronic illness, there are a lot of different shades of grey.  There are good times despite living with chronic illness, even though the bad days heavily outweigh the good ones.

I also choose to believe that during our lives with chronic illness, it can be portrayed as both a hero and villain just like Maleficient in the film of the same name.  It may sound strange to describe a chronic illness as a hero, given the severe and debilitating symptoms we have to live with because of it.  However chronic illness can also have a positive impact on our lives as it can teach us things about ourselves that we might never have known.  Chronic illness can also give us strength and resilience to overcome many obstacles and limitations that our conditions can place in our path to our goals and dreams.  Furthermore, we can also become more empathetic and understanding as a result of our struggles with illness.  Living with a long-term health condition can teach us some invaluable life lessons that we may never have learnt if it wasn’t for illness, such as the importance of learning to slow down, and learning to appreciate the small things in life.   It is for these reasons, therefore, that although due to severe and debilitating symptoms, illness can play the role of a villain in our lives, it can also learn to play the role of a heroine.

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The classic fairy tales such as Snow White and Sleeping Beauty have also stereotypically portrayed us females as rather feeble and fragile and thus needs to be rescued by a handsome and strong Prince.  Modern Disney films, such as Mulan and Frozen, for example, have shattered these archetypes and have shown that females have the strength and power to rescue themselves from whatever trials and tribulations that life has thrown at them.  My experience of living with a permanent neurological condition has also taught me that we all have the power to rescue ourselves from our own battles in whatever form that they take.  Doctors, medications and other treatments for me and many others can only do so much, and it is often down to us as individuals to self-manage our conditions and find the little ways which ease our symptoms or makes us feel better emotionally.  It is up to us to save ourselves from the depression and emotional pain that can result from living with a long-term chronic illness.   It is our own responsibility to make sure we are happy and live the best life we can regardless of the limitations that are placed upon us due to chronic illness.

Classic fairy tales and Disney films are renowned for their ‘happily ever after’ and as we are all aware, in real-life, and especially a life with chronic illness happily ever after simply does not exist.  It does not mean that we cannot be happy, however, we need to find our own idea of happiness, whatever that may entail.  Happy endings can be difficult to find as a result of chronic illness, but I would like to think that they can still be found, but perhaps it just means that we have to look that little bit more to find the rainbow through our personal storms.

Happy endings can be found despite chronic illness!
Happy endings can be found despite chronic illness!
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7 thoughts on “Life is anything but a fairy tale…

  1. I highly suggest reading the original written fairytales, especially those of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. After taking a wonderful childrens literature class, I learned that Disney movies came centuries after the original, classic tales were written. For instance, in Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”, life does not end happily ever after for the little mermaid. She still has stabbing pains in her legs and is voiceless. The Sea-Witch, who does not go by “Ursula” or any other name, is neither good nor evil. What’s very interesting is the Grimm tale Aschenputtel, the original Cinderella, had small feet because she was the runt of the family. But she was beautiful on the inside and plain on the outside whereas her step-sisters were ugly in their hearts and considered beautiful in their physical appearence. These fairytales really do contain nuances and lessons and truths about how cruel the world can be.

    • Hi Tami

      Thank you for adding the insights into what you have learnt through taking a class in children’s literature. What you have discussed in your comment to my blog post is so interesting and will definitely try and read the original classic tales of the popular fairy tales. When I wrote this blog post, I did write in relation to Disney’s interpretation of the popular fairy tales, which perhaps I should have made more clear. But it is interesting and reassuring that the classics portray a less stereotypical representation of females as well as portraying a more realistic view of the world.

      I hope you enjoyed the blog post regardless.

      Take care

      Rhiann x

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post, especially today when I’m feeling limited by symptoms I can’t find solutions for at the moment. It’s important to be reminded about the life lessons that we gain from encountering the challenges of chronic illness. To me life is all about self-growth, so even if I don’t have a normal job, social life or daily routine, I can still live a meaningful life by reflecting on situations I face and evolving as a person. I loved the part in your post on learning that you can rescue yourself. I never thought about it that way, but it’s so true! We are all our own heroines! xx

  3. I love this post! I am a huge fairy tale fan. I both love the original dark morality tales and the Disney, both the classics and the wonderful Disney girl power Renaissance on. I even had a Disney themed wedding and will be soon celebrating 4 years of marriage! I also totally agree with your wise metaphor. Chronic illness has taught me things I never imagined it could, and lessons I would never, ever trade. Honestly, I wouldn’t give back my chronic illness even if offered–im serious!–Because there’s too much of a risk that I would also change the journey I’ve taken and the person it has made me. I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without chronic illness. God has been with me writing my story every step of the way.

    This is honestly one of my favorite blog posts I’ve ever read! Bookmarking it!

  4. […] What can fairy tales teach us about living with chronic illness? That we have to be our own heroes, for one.  Rhiann, from My Brain Lesion and Me, writes:  “My experience of living with a permanent neurological condition has also taught me that we all have the power to rescue ourselves from our own battles in whatever form that they take.” Read more at Life is Anything But a Fairy Tale.  […]

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