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Finding Dory is the newest box office hit in the theater this summer and it is sooo good! If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil the end. Here is a quick video of the trailer:

Today I do want to talk about a theme in the movie that is important for people of all ages to be thinking about: overcoming obstacles in spite of physical disability, worry, and depression. At Legacy Counseling Service in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Dr. Leedy helps people with all of these issues and its helpful to think about how people can cope with these struggles.

The major characters in Finding Dory have some limitation that he or she must work to overcome, some fear that must be faced in order to live the life he or she wants to or to connect with those who are most important to them. Marlin, for example, has a chronic, pessimistic outlook on life and some might even wonder if he struggles with depression. Nemo has a “gimpy” fin and, for the longest time, was told by his well-intentioned Dad that because he has a physical disability he is not able to do certain things and that he shouldn’t even try. Dory, of course, has short-term memory problems and has grown up without a stable support system. Destiny, the shark, has visual impairment, Bailey the beluga whale lacks confidence: he believes he is echo-location impaired because it’s hard for him to effectively use this ability, and other sea creatures “ink” when scared, have a lisp, allergies, etc.

4 Insights from Finding Dory about physical disability, worry, and depression?

  • Finding Dory shows that everyone has value even if they have different physical abilities or struggle with emotions.

    • We tend to believe that our value is based on our body’s ability. We over identify with what our body can or cannot do, or with what it looks like. Having a visible or invisible physical disability may indeed make some aspects of life more challenging. But challenges or differences in what we can do or how we look does not change our inherent worth. Just because someone is different doesn’t mean they are “less than.” We are not our body. We have a body.
  • Finding Dory reminds us that isolating makes depression worse

    • Throughout Finding Dory, and even Finding Nemo, Marlin falls into the habit of trying to isolate himself from others when he is feeling down. When we feel sad for a brief period of time it can be healthy to take some time away for yourself. But when we are depressed isolating from others can increase beliefs of not being good enough or that no one cares. Those thoughts can create a downward spiral of depression. Click here to read more about depression symptoms .
  • In Finding Dory we see that worry or depression keeps you stuck

    • “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…” is a one good way to keep worry and depression from being in charge. When we are worried or depressed we often move into “analysis paralysis.” This is where we spend so much time thinking about how to do something, or the outcome of doing something, that it prevents us from doing anything. Continuing to “swim” gives you an opportunity to take action. Then you will be on your way to success, or at the worst, learning from what didn’t go so well. Check out one of my blogs about this very topic!
  • Finding Dory Reminds Us That Everyone has a Back Story that influences how they act and what they believe

    • Let’s be honest, as humans we tend to quickly judge people based on how they look or how they act. When we do that, we lose compassion for people. If we take time to get to know someone we often find out information that allows us to understand their background. This also helps us think about why they do things. When we get to know people, we can have more compassion for people which allows us to connect with people. Connection with others is a key way to prevent disability, worry, or depression from taking over your life.

5 Tips for dealing with a physical disability, worry, or depression

  • Use “person first” disability language

    1. “Person first” language is where we focus on the person first, and then the disability. For example, “I am a man with an amputation” or “I am a woman with cancer” or “I am a child with a hearing impairment.” Now compare that to “disability first” language in which we focus on the disability first “I am an amputee,” “I’m a cancer patient,” or “I’m a deaf kid.” Focusing on the person first, instead of the disability, changes how you view yourself and how you view others, it’s a way of offering respect to yourself and others. Get into the habit of using “person first” language and you’ll notice changes in how you view your self-worth. I love this video about “person first” language that shows the power of how words can influence attitudes
  • If you have a disability change how you do things

    1. Disability and emotional struggles like worry or depression can make things harder, but that doesn’t mean something can’t be done. Be creative in how you approach things. You don’t have to do it the same way that man does; just because those women do it this way doesn’t mean you have to do it that way also. If you can’t think of a new way to do something, then talk to others who support you and aren’t afraid of helping you try out something new and challenging. Anything worth doing is well is usually hard and requires you to do it in the way that works for you.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again

    1. Rarely do we succeed at things the first time around. Each time we try something we learn more about what we like, what we need, and what didn’t work so we have even more information when we try again. Don’t let your pride get in the way of continuing to try and learn.
  • Check your thinking

    1. We tend to believe what we hear, especially if we hear it over and over again. If you repeatedly have thoughts of “I’m not good enough,” “I can’t do it,” or “No one else has problems like this” then you are going to believe those thoughts. Don’t automatically accept a thought as true just because you have that thought all the time. Question your thinking and then be intentional about telling yourself things that are encouraging and motivating. To see some examples of how to challenge your thinking check out my blog post about how to talk back to your thoughts.
  • Surround yourself with a group of encouraging people who you can trust

    1. We take on the attitudes of people who are around us. Make sure you surround yourself who believe that the glass is half full, or at the least, that the glass can be refilled! Those people will be your cheering section and help you when you ask for it. Be vulnerable with them and you will grow to trust them and they will grow to trust you. When we trust people who encourage us we can do things that we never thought possible!

Finding Dory is not just a superficial animated movie about a bunch of sea creatures. If you look below the surface, you’ll see that Finding Dory, as well as Finding Nemo, has a lot to say about having compassion for others who have disabilities, worry, depression, or are just different than ourselves. There’s a lot you can do on your own to improve your mental health if you are struggling with disability, worry, or depression. Other times, people need the help of a mental health professional. Here is an example of what mental health help might involve.

Screenshot 2015-12-21 10.17.38Dr. Melissa Leedy, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area who helps clients throughout Oklahoma through video counseling. She specializes in helping people who have depression, anxiety, or other mental health problems due to health problems. She also loves animated movies like Finding Dory! Contact Dr. Leedy to find out how she can help you by going to her website at www.legacycounselingservice.com or calling 539-777-1129.

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