Wednesday, November 7, 2012

On psychopharmacology and Walt Disney's "Dumbo"

Dumbo with both Timothy Q. Mouse and the magic feather in tow
We've all seen Dumbo, right? It's a 1941 Disney animated film in which a circus elephant is mocked and shunned for his oversize ears but eventually becomes a great star because those ears act as wings, making him the world's only "flying elephant." The late (and sorely missed) cartoon historian Donald J. Markstein adroitly compared this narrative to that of the song "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," in that both characters are ostracized for physical "deformities" but both eventually earn success for those very same deformities. Like Rudolph, who is redeemed by Santa Claus, Dumbo needs another character to make him recognize his own greatness. In this case, it is a fast-talking, uniform-wearing rodent named Timothy Q. Mouse, who convinces the elephant that it is a "magic feather" which allows the large creature to defy gravity. By the end of the movie, Dumbo has ditched the feather and is flying solo

Here's a relevant clip from the movie. Try your best to ignore the possibly-racist depiction of the crows in the film. I'm trying to make an analogy here.

Dumbo's famous magic feather has become a symbol over the ensuing decades for any crutch we think we require in order to succeed, when all along the success has been residing within ourselves. If an athlete has a pair of "lucky socks," for instance, that's one kind of magic feather.

This issue is on my mind because today's a big day for me. I'm attending both an appointment with my MD and a session with my therapist. The last couple of weeks since I've been home have been relatively incident-free. Work remains hectic and stressful -- and, yes, I was secretly freaking out about the election all the while -- but I've gotten through it with only a few minor crises of conscience. Not that the people around me have noticed, but I've been on my best behavior lately.

How much of that is due to me and how much is due to Xanax and Celexa? At what point do these pills become magic feathers? I guess we'll find out as time passes. Meanwhile, wish me luck on getting to these appointments on time and in one piece.


  1. Lots of luck, and I look forward to a hopefully positive update.

    But I do not look forward to rewatching Dumbo ever. I am too fragile for such sadness.

  2. I sympathize and chose a deliberately chose an easy-to watch scene. I am currently between appointments. Finished one and have one more to go. I'll probably write up my experience when I have time. With everything else, work has ALSO been hectic this week.