The 2 Tim Burton Characters That Help Me Cope With My Pain


One of the biggest challenges of my life was growing up with fibromyalgia. The pain affected every aspect of my life. Most of my grade school years were spent in medical offices, and homeschooling. When I was able to be at school, I was happy to be around people my own age, but being out of the social loop, I struggled to maintain peer friendships.

My 6th grade teacher also has fibromyalgia. She knew how difficult it could be. Not only did she helped me to feel a part of the class, but she also introduced me to “The Nightmare Before Christmas” at the class holiday party. Little did she know how much that film and Tim Burton’s other film, “Corpse Bride,” would impact, inspire and comfort me for the rest of my life.

“The Nightmare Before Christmas”

I was captivated by the film’s music, imagery and Sally. Sally, the leading lady, is a living rag doll from Halloween Town. She was the first film character I could completely relate to. I saw Sally as shy, smart, caring and willing to go against the grain. More than anything, she wanted to be a part of life. But, being a rag doll, Sally had physical challenges, just like me. Sally did not have a steady walk, would often fall apart and limited who she interacted with.

Living with fibromyalgia, I have suffered from chronic joint pain that affects my walking. During times of severe pain, I could only walk with the help of braces and walk aids, like canes and walkers. At times I had to use a wheelchair. The severe pain was so devastating, it made me felt like I was falling apart. But every time Sally fell apart, she always managed to either sew herself up or had her creator, Dr. Finkelstein, sew her up.

Dr. Finkelstein is Sally’s overprotective father figure. He tries to shelter Sally from the world, but by keeping her under lock in key. His overbearing behavior makes Sally resentful. My life seemed to parallel with Sally’s. Being a pre-teen with fibromyalgia, I was beginning my teenage rebellion. I also viewed my parents as being overprotective and overbearing. But what I didn’t take into consideration was Mom’s experience. She also has back problems as a result of multiple accidents throughout her life. She was just trying to protect me so I wouldn’t suffer more.

The most important lesson Sally taught me was that her physical limitations led to other abilities.  Through Sally’s determination to help those she cared for, including her love interest, Jack Skellington, she didn’t let her physical limitations hold her back. In fact, Sally used her unique knowledge gathered from her experiences to do a variety of things, including being Jack’s voice of reason, sewing, using herbs, and detaching her limbs to save Santa Claus.

“Corpse Bride”

At 16 years old, I was suffering from oropharyngeal dysphagia. Oropharyngeal dysphagia is the inability to swallow solid food and pass it into the esophagus. With my health rapidly deteriorating, doctors gave me six months to live. I was a filled with so many emotions, from resentful to sad to scared. With each passing day, I could feel my body shutting down. I felt there was nothing I could do but wait and die.

In the film, Emily, who is the corpse bride, was a murder victim. She was resentful, from being murdered, and also hoped her “one true love” would marry her and set her free from her suffering. Through her love for Victor, the male lead, Emily learned that only she could set herself free. She had to let go of her resentment and accept the reality that certain dreams could never come true.

Most of my resentment came from the doctors, who hurt me more than they helped me. I also had to acknowledge that because of my fibromyalgia, there were dreams I had to let go of. As much as I wanted to serve in the Air Force, be a Drug Enforcement Administration agent and continue dancing ballet, I couldn’t. By letting go of those dreams, I was freed for to create more fulfilling dreams. Now, I have a passion for writing, history, music, film and sociology. With all the joy and knowledge these passions have given me, I can’t imagine my life without them.

At 16, I was afraid to die. But Emily and the land of the dead helped comfort my fear. They showed me how people are so afraid of dying, they only start to live when they’re dead. Although I am not afraid of death or of facing a life with physical limitations, at the same time I do feel overwhelmed. But with heroines like Sally and Emily, who continue to inspire me, I keep fighting.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a scene or line from a movie, show, or song that’s stuck with you through your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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