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How I Relate to Princess Ariel as a Chronically Ill Woman

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“I wanna be where the people are
I wanna see, wanna see them dancing”

the little mermaid, princess ariel

If you’re unfamiliar with Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” which is likely very few of you (and if you are, you should watch it!), it’s about a mermaid who dreams of being part of the real world, above the sea. She watches the real world from afar in her underwater kingdom, constantly daydreaming of growing legs, leaving the sea and experiencing what seems like true life to her.

If you’re living with a debilitating chronic illness, doesn’t this sound a little familiar to you? I don’t know about you, but since becoming ill in a life-changing way, I tend to feel like I’m living in some sort of bubble, or rather outside of some sort of bubble while the real world continues around me while I look at it through a glass wall.


I watch my friends grow up and their careers take off. I see pictures of beautiful smiles on their faces while they’re out having adventures with their friends. I’m watching them graduate and begin living out their dreams. I’m watching them experience some of the pure joy and the priceless memories that are supposed to come with life.

princess ariel sitting on a rock with the moon behind her

“Up where they walk, up where they run
Up where they stay all day in the sun
Wanderin’ free – wish I could be
Part of that world”

Sound even more familiar now? We dream of being part of their world.  A world without pain, a world where our bodies function the way they should, allowing us to do all the things we dream of doing. Now that’s not to say there’s anything wrong with living a life with illness. We can thrive exceptionally. But until you find your perfect place in the community, it can really feel like you’re a ghost watching everyone do the great things in life you’re waiting for your chance to do. Also knowing those exact things may never be possible.

“When’s it my turn?
Wouldn’t I love, love to explore that shore up above?
Out of the sea
Wish I could be
Part of that world…”

But just because those exact same things they do may not be possible for us, we have our own set of opportunities. We do things people expect us not to be able to do every day. We get to live under the sea, and above the sea, and see things from vantage points most people never get to see. We appreciate the good that much more. We know life is short. We watch our friends do the seemingly impossible. We gain compassion, understanding and gratitude for the little things in life. We see a whole different side of the ocean.

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Originally published: May 26, 2017
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