When I was two years old, I went to Disney World for the first time with my family. Since my sister and I were both young, my parents took us on the Winnie the Pooh ride. This ride, however, consists of Heffalumps and Woozles jumping in front of the car. The pastel colors swirled in front of my face, startling me into a pitiful clump clinging onto my mother. Around every turn, I anticipated the frightening faces of these creatures, yet I still winced and braced myself with clenched fists and eyes glued shut. My reactions, however, made neither the Heffalumps nor the Woozles cease to appear. Instead, I was more tense and hysterical than ever.
As I have grown up a bit, there are no literal Heffalumps and Woozles waiting to taunt me at every corner, yet I still find myself tense and at times even hysterical. The Heffalumps and Woozles no longer reside in Disney World, but rather in my mind and body. Noone can see or touch them; they are intangible, nevertheless, they exist.
In the One Hundred Acre woods, Heffalumps are pastel-colored elephants, but I have never seen a real pastel-colored elephant. The Heffalumps in my life are unpleasant feelings such as anger, sadness, anxiety, loneliness, insecurity, and depression. These are the feelings I have tried to swallow for my entire life. These are feelings that have made me hurt myself with eating disorder behaviors and have caused me to act irrationally; they have caused me to isolate from friends, and even say hurtful things.
The Woozles, however, are my fears like abandonment, failure, inadequacy, imperfection, heartbreak, and causing others pain. They tend to emerge when my life is going well. This may seem contradictory, but my fears come out when I have many reasons to be happy. Stemming from a deep-rooted belief that I must “earn” all forms of happiness I developed from multiple experiences at a young age, these fears have prevented me from enjoying all of the beautiful aspects of life. For instance, if I make a new friend, the Woozles love reminding me that noone can possibly be my friend, and so this person will eventually turn on me. They make me believe that because I was not the “perfect friend” in the past, I do not deserve any friendship.
Heffalumps and Woozles are persistent and clever–they sense fear and gain strength from people’s reactions. I have found that the more I tense up, shut my eyes, or ignore their very existence, the more they hurt me longterm. My pent-up emotions, for instance, have supported the development and continuation of my eating disorder because I wanted to feel numb and did not know how to “stop” my emotions. My fears also fed my eating disorder and my insecurity. They never failed to alert me that I was not “strong enough.”
Currently, I am in the process of coping with the Heffalumps and Woozles. I cannot control them, run away from them, or ignore them. Instead I must acknowledge them and then let them pass. If I understand the Heffalumps and Woozles, they no longer hold so much power over me and I can be free.