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How Disneyland's 'Gay Days' Support My Mental Health

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I recently visited Disneyland with my partner J.V. for “Gay Days,” an annual LGBTQ+ pride celebration at the parks.

I originally signed up for Disneyland’s annual pass holder program in 2018 as a birthday gift to myself. After Disneyland sunsetted the program (I am now considered a Disneyland legacy pass holder), I quickly joined their new magic key program, a revamped version of the park’s membership program.

Despite the significant investment associated with these memberships, I repeatedly prioritize my investment in Disneyland’s membership program. As someone living with multiple mental health challenges (generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder), Disneyland is invaluable to my mental health journey and recovery.

Here are three ways Disneyland supports my mental health and recovery:

1. Disneyland empowers me to be myself.

I am thankful to have parents who relentlessly encourage me to be my full, authentic self — in work and in life. Yet, I still find it difficult at times to find spaces where I feel 100 percent accepted and embraced. Disneyland is one of those few places where I feel a true sense of belonging and pride.

The park is magical because the cast members (employees) inspire you to show up to the parks as your true self. This commitment to authenticity reveals itself in both large and small ways, from receiving a standing ovation when I proposed to J.V. at Disneyland’s Carnation Cafe on my birthday, to cast members spending extra time taking our photos in front of Cinderella Castle.

2. Disneyland inspires me to keep growing.

I am also an entrepreneur. I run a career coaching business helping Silicon Valley’s top talent find jobs they love. My role as a career coach is to help my clients get unstuck, own their fabulousness, and achieve what they never imagined possible.

Subsequently, I regularly reflect on this quote from Walt Disney, the park’s inventor, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”

Walt’s energy is still felt throughout the parks and refuels me. I use this energy as inspiration for myself — and my coaching clients — to continually imagine, reinvent and grow.

3. Disneyland allows me to step away from work.

Despite how much I love my work as a high tech career coach, I am a recovering workaholic. While I took significant strides over the last few years to practice self-care and embrace work/life blend, I still struggle with completely detaching from my work and business. Working from home makes compartmentalizing my work particularly challenging. I recently learned, through therapy, physical separation helps me in this area.

I now regularly schedule time away from home. Last year, J.V. and I began a practice of No Work Saturdays. We take the off each Saturday for an adventure. Disneyland is one of our favorite ways to spend No Work Saturdays — and sometimes No Work Sundays — as the park helps me truly forget about my work.

Disneyland really is the “Happiest Place on Earth.” If you are struggling with your mental health, consider a trip to the parks. It may be just what you need. You’ve got this!

Originally published: September 22, 2021
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