I loved the Winnie the Pooh franchise as a kid, and I readily consumed any toys, clothes and VHS tapes I could get my hands on. When my family and I visited Disney World for the first time, I dragged them over to the Winnie the Pooh-themed ride. I instantly became fascinated with the talking animatronics and heaps of fluorescent honey that decorated every corner of the attraction.
I think out of all of Disney’s properties, I found comfort in the fantasy of Winnie the Pooh because, to me, it seemed like all of the characters could actually exist. When I played with my own stuffed animals, I transported the Hundred Acre Wood into my backyard. When the weather was pleasant enough, I became Christopher Robin, exploring the forest near my house with my tiny companions. I considered the anthropomorphic residents of Christopher Robin’s imagination my close friends. They each latched onto their own ambitions, fears and life philosophies, allowing them to possess a certain humanity I still find intriguing years later.
So imagine my delight when, while lazily searching for online quizzes, I found the Pooh Pathology Test. I immediately thought, “Wow, what an opportunity to effectively ruin my childhood!”
The quiz was based on a study identifying the psychiatric diagnoses each Winnie the Pooh character embodied. Pooh was ADD, Tigger was ADHD, Rabbit was OCD, Roo was autism, Eeyore was depression and Christopher Robin was schizophrenia. When I scored overwhelmingly high for Piglet (90%), I was unsurprised. He represented the mental health issue I already see in myself every day: anxiety.
I understand why he fits that label. Piglet fears making the wrong decisions, so he freezes up in indecisiveness. Although he has a good heart, he doubts his abilities to save the day. These are worries that, as a young adult, I particularly relate to. Like Piglet, my personal anxiety comes from self-interest. I want to achieve the best possible outcome for myself, but then I end up putting detrimental amounts of pressure on myself to do well, which stifles my initiative. I worry that, at any given moment, something could go wrong. The happy moments I experience are undermined by a sinking feeling inside that they won’t work out. My thoughts jump from topic to topic with no control, and I end up making decisions off of what everyone else wants. It sabotages my efforts to move forward – or in any direction, for that matter.
Every once in a while, I am reminded of this mental struggle when I look at myself in the mirror. For a split second, my reflection flashes back, but it’s me from the past. I appear content with a bright-eyed grin, still a child playing with their stuffed animals in the backyard. When the image reverts back, I see my eyes sullen, nose wrinkled. What was once a smile is a frown. I fail to notice myself minutely changing day by day, but looking at it as an aggregate, the differences become obvious. I’ve realized that life isn’t a series of discrete events, but rather, a mushy compilation of slightly overlapping memories. That scares me.
I’ve discovered that we, as humans, are rarely ever born in the place where we end up lying on our deathbed. Most of us find ourselves seeking something more than what we already possess, whether we pursue material gain, the prospects of true love, or some semblance of spirituality. We try to make sense of our disparate experiences, then, by consolidating these thoughts into a single linear narrative. We pretend that every event leads to the next, but we reach a certain point where we have to ask ourselves:
What if I’m supposed to be doing something else? What if the best possible outcome for me has already expired because I made a wrong decision in the past?
There are days when my mind resists all attempts to make any kind of decision and my mind cycles around these questions. My logic is that if I’m paralyzed in bed, staring dead straight into my computer, waiting for a notification to snap me out of my slumber, I’ll finally figure something out. But when a few hours pass and I realize what has happened, dread starts to set in. I can try to overcome the anxiety that inevitably comes my way, but who says I won’t revert back into a Piglet?
When I was younger, I retreated into my own imagination, housing my social anxieties into the personas of my stuffed animals. I look back and remember how lonely a child I was, but I also realize that Winnie the Pooh taught me how to create genuine relationships. I look forward to finally being at peace with myself and my relationship with the outside world.
Courtney Dantzler is a Trinity first-year and Recess staff columnist.
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