“Let It Go” was written by husband and wife team Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez for Disney’s 2013 hit animated film “Frozen”. Idina Menzel, best known for her role as Elzabar in the stage show “Wicked”, lent her vocals to the character of Elsa, Queen of Arendelle and one of the stars of “Frozen”. It’s a song that every parent will probably know by heart and come to hate as their children repeatedly belt its evocative tune loudly and off key. It’s the song that changed the very storyline of the movie once heard by the writers and producers. It’s been covered again and again online in both seriousness and parody. It made it onto the music charts in its own right and is the only time a song upon hearing it for the first time, had the power to change my life completely.
The song appears in the film as Queen Elsa flees her home, afraid of how the people would react when they learned that she could control ice. The beginning of the song focuses on her fear, but quickly escalates to the realisation that she doesn’t have to hide who she is anymore; she’s free from the restrictions she faced throughout her life. It was originally intended for Elsa to be the villain in the story, but upon hearing this song, the writers felt it was pivotal in the character transformation and instead wrote her as one of the main protagonists.
“Let it go” struck me to the bone from the very first cord. I thought it was beautiful. It reminded me of the musicals I would watch with my Oma as a child. It was classic, striking and just so easy to sing along with, but it was not simply the tune that had me hooked. It was the lyrics. When this song was first released, I was in recovery. Earlier that year I had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, encompassing severe depression, anxiety and stress. By the time I heard “Let It Go” I was beginning to learn to live with this diagnosis and myself.
“The snow glows white on the mountain night, not a footprint to be seen. A kingdom of isolation and it looks like I’m the queen.” Depression is an isolating disorder. I had friends and family surrounding me, offering me support and love, but I didn’t realise. I couldn’t. I felt utterly isolated from the world. No one could possibly know what was going on, no one could possibly know how I felt. How could they, when I didn’t even know myself?
“The wind is howling, like this swirling storm inside.” My mind was a mess. Half of my conscious thinking was steeped in tar, black, heavy, dragging me down and half of my mind was my old self, strong, forthright, and unbreakable. The dichotomy of my thoughts was torturous.
“Couldn’t keep it in. Heaven knows I’ve tried.” How I tried. I didn’t want a single person to know. “Don’t let them in, don’t let them see.” I tried my best to carry on as if there wasn’t a part of me that was dying. I was drowning within myself, but no one knew. “Be the good girl you always have to be. Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know.” I felt weak. This wasn’t me. This wasn’t the girl everyone knew, the girl everyone relied on. I refused to show my pain. Until one day. “Well, now they know.” One day I decided to share my struggle with mental health. That was when my recovery really began. How liberating it was to no longer lie, to say I was ok when I wasn’t. How wonderful it felt to know that others knew of my struggles, but did not judge me for them.
“Let it go, let it go.” One day I did just that. I opened up to my friends and family. I opened up my heart and poured out my emotions. “Can’t hold back anymore.” It all became too much and I reached out to the hands that were offered to me. Just the simple act of admitting that I was not okay let me “turn away” from my pain “and slam the door” on it. “I don’t care what they’re going to say” about me anymore. I wanted to like myself again, I didn’t need anyone else to; I just needed support and the chance to lean on others, instead of always offering it.
“Let the storm rage on. The cold never bothered me anyway.” With the support of my family and friends, I began to recover. I began to believe in myself again. I have always handled stress well, I have always been strong, and I simply needed to rediscover this. I need to refine my optimism and innocence. “It’s funny how some distance, makes everything seem small, and the fears that once controlled me, can’t get to me at all.” Once I had put the past behind me, it all seemed so ridiculous. How had I let myself get this far into my own depression? How had I extinguished my own sunshine? Yes the world and actions of some had a great deal to play in my mental state, but in the end, I was letting my fears control me. “It’s time to see what I can do. To test the limits and break through.” I was strong. I am strong. Only the strong can pull through what I had. Only the strong could continue and endure instead of giving in. I had been tested and I had survived. Now it was time to thrive.
“No right, no wrong, no rules for me!” The rules in my life had been changed. It was time to change with them. “I’m free,” because I have accepted myself. I have broken my own bonds and sought that freedom I craved. I “let it go.” “I’m one with the wind and sky!” For the first time in years, I began to feel at peace with myself again. I began to feel like there was a place for me in the world and that I was part of something.
“You’ll never see me cry!” When I was in the grips of my mental health issues, I cried a lot. I cried over insignificant things and I cried constantly, but no one would ever see it. I would hide, I would run, I would keep those tears at bay until I was alone. Then I would cry. Now, I rarely cry. I do not feel the need to cry.
“Here I stand and here I’ll stay!” I am strong. I am healthy and I am recovering. When I begin to backslide or I have a bad day, I know that tomorrow will be better. I know that I control my own destiny. I know that I am strong enough to make it through anything,.
“My power flurries through the air into the ground! My soul is spiralling in frozen fractals all around!” I was flustered, I felt broken. My spirit was not whole. I was pushing my friends away, I was struggling with university, with work, with my life in general. “And one thought crystalizes like an icy blast! I’m never going back.” Slowly, I have collected those broken parts of me. I have glued myself back together. I am restoring myself and moving on with my life. “The past is in the past.” I will never be that fragile again.
“Let it go, let it go, And I’ll rise like the break of dawn!” Once I let my pain go, the healing began. It was a new day, a new beginning. I could do this. I would do this. I would rise, instead of fall. “Let it go, let it go, that perfect girl is gone!” It wasn’t just my pain I needed to leave behind though; it was who I thought I was. I had clung to the old me, the innocent me, the younger me who had never experienced the world, had never failed. I had held tight and refused to let go of her. I had placed her on a pedestal and hated who I had become. It was a struggle to let her go and get to know the person I had become, to accept myself for who I had become. Now, “here I stand in the light of day!” This is me. This is who I am and I like me. “Let the storm rage on, the cold never bothered me anyway.” Now I know I can handle anything the world throws at me. I know I am strong. I know that I will pull through.
When I first heard this song, it struck me at my very core. Here was a woman who didn’t know who she was. She was in pain. She was afraid of hurting those closest to her. She felt isolated, but she created that isolation around herself. She pushed away those who wished to help, but in the end, it was only through the love of her family and friends that she was able to pull through. For me, this song is about my battle with post-traumatic stress disorder, my depression. This song is my power ballad. It reminds me of my struggles and my strength. It is the song I will sing loudly and poorly for many years to come.
Image featuring Quinn of Hearts