People always ask how Disneyland and my chronic illness life fit together.
Mickey Mouse and Disneyland were an important part of my life before chronic illness.
Mickey and pals provided an emotional escape since childhood. Not a let’s ignore the issue kind of escape, but the kind where you could breathe and just be, even if just for 30 minutes you were safe.
My 1st visit to Disneyland took place in my early teens. Except for one or two rides, most amusement parks terrified me. But not Disneyland. I felt safe and at home. I returned approximately a decade later and have been returning regularly since.
However, the impact Disneyland had after my chronic illness life officially began was something I could have never predicted.
Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission to fund my coffee drinking habit if you use these links to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, and you’ll keep me supplied with caffeine. It’s a win for everyone. I am not a medical professional, and nothing stated in this article should be mistaken for medical advice…
Disneyland and My Chronic Illness Life
Here’s a fun fact, in 2005, I had an emergency appendectomy on the 2nd day of a 5 day Disneyland vacation. That was my first time experiencing the park with a wheelchair. And being the die-hard Disney fan that I am, we ended up extending our stay to make up for missing the day I was in surgery.
Becoming passholders after moving to Southern California was a dream come true. My chronic illnesses had progressed to the point where I could no longer function in full-on Disney vacation mode. Having a pass allows me to leave as early or late as my body desires.
Some days, mostly when we bring friends or family, we go bell to bell. There’s a thrill in opening and closing the park, but it comes with a cost. When I pull one of these visits off, it typically takes one or two days to recover.
Most visits range from 4-10 hours. It really depends on how I am feeling and fairing.
My favorite visit is a weekly date night with my husband. We enjoy a relaxing dinner and go on a ride or two. Now that entertainment is returning to the theme park, we will also have parades and shows to watch!
While I no longer think of Disneyland as a place I escape, it provides some much-needed therapy.
Theme Park Physical Therapy
I try things I might not otherwise. My time in the park has also helped me define my physical limits. Plus, understand the importance of not exceeding them.
Attractions like Web-Slingers, Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters, and Toy Story Mania work my arm muscles.
While rides with a track that has a portion that moves slowly downhill while facing backward, like in the Haunted Mansion and The Little Mermaid, take pressure off of my spine. It is common to feel a tension-relieving pop or two while riding those attractions.
There are a total of 45 attractions throughout the Disneyland parks that are wheelchair accessible and do not require disabled guests to transfer from their mobility aid.
Wheelchair Accessible Attractions at Disneyland
More accessibility videos will be added to my Youtube channel soon!
Disneyland and My Mental Health
Chronic illness has taken a toll on my mental health. Pain can lead to prolonged bouts of depression when out of control.
Entertainment and attractions provide a distraction from pain. But the effects go much deeper than that.
Mental health care takes place the moment I roll onto the property. It’s a place where, despite my disabilities, I feel safe and valued.
Could they improve their accessibility? Most definitely, but there’s a reason my husband and I spend our time and money there. No other place compares.
Sometimes a character, attraction, song, or show triggers something and helps me deal with trauma, including medical trauma.
Disneyland has helped me recognize my strengths and weaknesses. It forces me to socialize. But most of all, it allows me to just be me.
Every visit is different. Even when I visit weekly. I’m always learning something new, which keeps my mind busy. Disneyland is constantly changing. And even if it stopped, there are so many details; who knows how long it takes to discover them all.
Disneyland visits help me keep a mental map of my health.
For example, ill never forget that my daughter’s 1st visit was when my appendix burst.
My abilities while in the park paint a picture of where I stood with each chronic illness. For example, I can look back and say I was using the blue wheelchair during that time because I remember my knees would swell after a few steps, and my abdominal pain was so bad that I couldn’t sit up straight.
Disneyland Improves My Chronic Illness Life
The time I spend at the Disneyland resort parks ignites my creativity which helps create content for my writing and advocacy work. It also helps me think of ways to improve accessibility at home and everywhere.
After twelve years of requiring a wheelchair in the park, my body responded well to a new treatment, and the result was being able to walk with less pain. That event prompted the decision to downgrade from a wheelchair to a rollator-transport chair combo.
It was acknowledged that I was beginning to spend most of our visits being pushed in the combo device two years later. This signaled that it was time to start using a wheelchair again.
Unable to propel a manual wheelchair myself, it was decided that a power wheelchair was the best fit. I’ll never be able to walk enough to visit Disneyland without assistance. There’s just too much wrong with my body to fix in this lifetime.
My Air Hawk power wheelchair has given me more than mobility. It allows me to play longer in the park and decreases my recovery time. My folding-power wheelchair gives me the independence to do what I want while others in my party enjoy attractions I cannot or won’t. But most importantly, it gave me back my identity. People talk to me instead of the person pushing me.
My husband and I joke that our Magic Keys should be tax-deductible because Disneyland has provided better health care than my HMO.
We all need someplace where we feel safe, valued, and entertained. For me, that place is Disneyland.