I’m probably one of very few gay men who openly admits hating 1939’s The Wizard of Oz film.
This hate comes from someone who once trained in dance, was partial at one point to the odd jazz hand, and can confidently launch a pinkie-finger while sipping out of a martini glass. My point is – the hate doesn’t come from some internalised homophobia or refusal to conform to gay culture.
Now Return To Oz, that’s my kinda film. That’s the Dorothy I can tolerate, and relate to. The sequel is considerably much darker; Dorothy being taken for shock therapy to cure her nonsensical Oz talk, the creepy wheelers, the headless dancing girls, Princess Mombi and the chicken hating Nome King. Wow!
As I got older, I started to look at whether there were darker, subliminal, messages in the first film, the realisation that there were came when I found myself comparing my own mental health journey to the pathway of Dorothy Gale…
I’ve suffered with anxiety and depression for most of my life, but last year is when the tornado really hit home. The destruction came without warning and with it came carnage.
I tried to kill myself.
I was treated in hospital for a week and then transferred to a psychiatric hospital where I remained for three weeks.
A year on in recovery isn’t very far, especially when you’re climbing back from the kind of depths of despair that suicide attempts bring.
Recovery, for me, would be like meeting the actual Wizard of Oz, not the person – more the metaphor of the wizard himself. That one thing that’s going to take me back to how I was. Back home. Back to ‘normal.’
Along the broken pathway of recovery, I’ve found myself having to re-identify what it is that I need to do to get to the ‘wizard,’ and to get better.
Rational thinking: “How did I get so low?” “What was and is making me so unhappy?” And understanding my clinical diagnoses. Without this type of new thinking, I would just be a scatterbrain. I would just be a scarecrow.
Courage. Personal demons are scary. No one wants to face them because they are a gang who fight dirty – They call regrets in for back up. The only thing that enables their power is denial, and not facing them. To defeat those demons I need the courage of a lion.
Kindness, compassion and forgiveness – We’re so hard on ourselves, and others too. As humans we fundamentally have the capacity to love freely, but when we don’t understand certain things, we dismiss them and can react negatively. When we’ve endured any significant loss, sadness or hurt we need to remember that even the smallest heart can radiate a love to remedy pain. Without heart we may as well just be made of tin.
Possibly my biggest hate of the original film were those damn munchkins. In comparison to my mental health – they do play an integral role like my medication. They are small, colourful and at first they scared the shit out of me.
I’m 34 years old and it’s only been in the last 14 months that I’ve started to take medication. Now that I have, I’m as shocked as a flying monkey that I survived so long without their help. Truly, like the movie’s multi-coloured little helpers, they have helped me along the way.
I’m about to embark on an 18 month intensive treatment and recovery programme where I’ll work in groups and have individual therapy. And I’m going to continue taking my little munchkins. I’ll keep my Scarecrow, Lion and Tin Man close to me.
We know the actual Wizard of Oz was all smoke and mirrors, and much the same can be said about recovery. Recovery isn’t a magical cure or miracle. It’s not a final destination, nor is it just a one way ticket back to where you were. It’s a hope to make things right.
By pure coincidence the suicide notes I left on my bed were written on different coloured bits of paper with matching envelopes. Not much care was taken with the particular selection of colour, but to each addressed loved one there were two sentences and an “I Love you.”
It’s taken me nearly a year to read the notes I left: Reds, yellows, pink and greens.
As part of letting go of that horrible day I’ve bought coloured paper, and I’m going to re-write those notes telling each person that I’m grateful and happy to be alive, and that I really do love them.
These will serve to be my very own little “somewhere over the rainbow.”
If Gaz’s story affected you in any way, or if you’re suffering from depression, there is always someone available to talk things through and help you out.
mentalhealth.org.uk is a great place to start.