Why I REALLY Left My Job at Disney World
Nearly ten years ago, my dream to work for the Walt Disney World Resort began to grow as my cousin, Brynna, had begun the Disney College Program; an “experience of a lifetime.” The Disney College Program is an internship where you work for three, six or twelve months in the Walt Disney World Resort in any of their parks, hotels, or other amenities. While you live in Orlando, you live on Disney Property with other CP’s (college participants) in a very small, weird bubble of hormones, drama, and “fun.” There are lots of rules that you need to abide by, one of which Disney Housing claims I broke.
There are a few things you need to know before I tell you my story… I believe in transparency but I also believe in protecting my integrity.
1. PTSD creates a monster inside of you that says things or does things you wouldn’t necessarily do or say.
2. PTSD is a mental illness that stems from a traumatic event that has happened (in my case, my sexual assault).
3. My mental illness is MY story to tell and nobody else’s.
I arrived in Orlando excited and ready to start my summer with the International College Program at Disney World. It was day one and I already had friendships ready for me to start as I had spent months getting to know a group of girls on Facebook that I would spend my summer with. During these months, I opened up to these girls (Elizabeth*, Lara*, and Alison*) and shared my life experiences including my PTSD, my depression and anxiety, and my recovering eating disorder. I opened up to these people about the deepest depths of my life, trusting that these girls would protect my heart in times of need… Hoping that these girls understood mental illness.
I should have distanced myself when Lara and Alison started trash-talking other girls but I got caught up in it. They painted a picture for me and I fed into the drama.
Day Two is when I began to feel a shift in the girls I knew on Facebook and the girls in front of my face. Elizabeth and I got along really well but something seemed a little bit off with Alison and Lara. The first red flag (and what should’ve been the last) was when I expressed how I wanted to go to Senor Frogs for a night of dancing and Alison turned to me and said “Oh my god, I got RAPED the last time I went. Like honestly, sexually assaulted and harassed by every guy in there. Only girls with no self-respect go to Senor Frogs.” She said all of this while laughing. She said all of this knowing my past and history with sexual assault.
The jabs, jokes, and comments didn’t stop there though. After day two, Alison made the same series of sexual assault remarks again. After that, came jokes about what I was eating including making fun of me for enjoying my favorite Disney snack (the Mickey pretzel) several times. She made these jokes to make herself feel better. She made these jokes because she’s a bully.
The last time she made a joke about my diet was on a Monday night and that was the last straw for me. I immediately threw away my half-eaten pretzel and began to have an anxiety attack. The final joke brought everything into plain sight and I realized that I was getting bullied. It set me back so far that I wanted to run to a bathroom and throw up everything I had eaten that day. I began to remember the insensitive comments about sexual assault and my mind became a blur. I texted Lara and Elizabeth and told them I needed to go to Disney Housing and that I wasn’t okay. Their immediate reaction was that it wasn’t Alison’s fault and that she isn’t a bully. This sent me even further into my anxiety attack, sending me into panic mode. I began texting them that I was having a panic attack and that I couldn’t breathe and that I needed their help, believing that these were the girls I opened up to on Facebook months before my program… But they didn’t understand. They couldn’t grasp the gravity of her comments and my panic attack. So I went further into my mind and texted something to Lara that I never would’ve texted in my right mind.
“I feel like hurting myself right now.”
Many of you reading this would look at that and say, “oh my goodness, this girl needs help. She needs a doctor,” but any other person who suffers from a mental illness knows that you say things sometimes that you don’t necessarily believe. This is even more true with post-traumatic stress disorder. At the moment, this text was a cry for help because I needed my friend. I needed someone to hold my hand and tell me things would get better. I had no idea that this single text would end my program with Walt Disney World Resort.
The next day I was approached by Lara at 5:00am. She demanded I tell her what I was going to do. But it was 5:00am and I had no idea what I wanted to do except that I had to be at work soon. A few hours into my shift I received multiple texts from Lara and Elizabeth which sent me into another series of anxiety attacks. Elizabeth told me that Lara told her I forced our friends to take my side and that I was going to report all three of them (none of which was true) and that because of that, she was going to self-term. Self-terming is essentially when you resign at Disney World but it means that you are a “no rehire” status meaning you will never work for Disney again. Heavy shit. Lara gave me an ultimatum. She said “either you go to housing and move out, or I go to security with your text.” My decision seemed pretty clear to me at this point.
After work, I pulled myself together and went to Disney Housing. They finally validated me. They told me I was getting bullied. They assured me I would be relocated to another apartment. I finally felt a sense of relief so I decided to go to Epcot and enjoy a night with some friends. But as soon as I pulled into my housing complex at 11:00pm, I could sense something was off. I was pulled into the security office and they told me a girl had reported me. They told me she told them that I was going to hurt myself. After this, they called the police on me which was one of the most embarrassing and horrifying things I have ever gone through. For an hour and a half I was questioned by the police, EMT’s, and the sheriff about my mental illness and why I would send a text saying that. At 1:00am, I was finally able to go to my temporary apartment and cry until I fell asleep.
Before I continue my story, I would like to explain why this all happened. Disney Housing has a “community code” set in place that treats self-harm as serious as harming another person. As Lara had previously explained to me, the violation of this community code results in immediate termination. Even if someone verbally reports a roommate, Disney will put this code into affect. This means if someone shows security a text, the code will be put into affect.
The next day I found out Lara did it. I also found out she did it out of revenge and spite. There isn’t much more to my story except that I was terminated. All because of one girl and her agenda. I still remember what the housing leaders told me… They said “we believe you aren’t mentally fit to be here and that at a later date, you will be able to return much happier and less of a danger to yourself.” They also told me I had no legal grounds to sue.
That was the day that the story of my mental illness was told for me. For someone that struggles immensely, I don’t feel like I have much of anything. I don’t feel like I have a lot of friends. I don’t feel like I’m that smart or capable. But I do have my mental illness which has been a burden for years and to have that of all things taken away from me… It’s sick.
Someone once explained to me the difference between Disney Housing and the Walt Disney World Company. The difference all boils down to values. The Walt Disney World Company believes in four key values: safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency. Disney Housing should believe the same values but in my opinion, they don’t. Disney Housing might have been looking out for my safety in the termination of my program but in no way was what they did courteous, Disney show, or efficient.
In the aftermath of my termination, I made a Facebook post about what happened and the supportive responses I got were endless. Many people also commented to share their own stories. One guy was terminated just because his roommate verbally told security he was going to hurt himself. Another girl commented and said her roommate told Disney Housing she was raped and she was terminated for that. That last story made me cry. All of these stories and still no change from Disney but why? With everything going on in social media, you would assume Disney would be spearheading mental illness with supportive, loving arms. But they don’t because all Disney Housing is concerned about is liability, legality and lawsuits.
I still love Disney because I will love the company no matter what… But Walt would’ve never approved of this. There is a door in Disney World for cast members that displays a quote from Walt himself… “It takes people to make the dream a reality.” Where were the people to help my dream become a reality? Walt supported and loved his cast members. He is the reason I still believe in the company.
*Some of the names in this post have been changed