On angst and cosplay

I was supposed to do a write up of my trip to LFCC and Torucon, but this has been wiggling around in my head since I first read the sad news about Robin Williams earlier this week.
I find it’s hard to write about my angst and other problems without sounding like I’m throwing a pity party so let me just preface this with that I am not looking for pity or anything similar. Writing about it is merely an outlet (and for me it’s just stating facts, not necessarily feelings), and if anyone has any feedback or if I can just get someone thinking it’s just a happy byproduct for me.
So, here goes.

As a bit of background for those who don’t necessarily know me very well, I grew up being bullied verbally my entire school career, from preschool to the start of university (I was fat, ugly, weird, whateverthehellwouldhurt). My dad basically told me my entire life that I’m useless and can never do anything right and my mom couldn’t quite help alleviate it due to her going through a rough time in her own right. Now, nearing 30 I have recently gotten diagnosed with social angst/phobia, something I’ve basically known that I have for at least some 10 years (and told the poor psychiatrist on day one).
So, I’m struggling with a lot of baggage and I don’t necessarily have any strategies for handling all this other than “keep your head high and keep swimming, it’ll all work out somehow”. And thanks to a few choice friends and my boyfriend I’ve started to get somewhere. It’s still going painfully slow for an impatient soul like me and I have a long way to go yet, but at least I’m heading in the right direction.

One of the things that has helped me (and every now and again had me crying in a corner) is cosplay. I wish I had actually started this hobby when I first discovered it way back when. I basically discovered it when Yaya Han was just starting out, I think her Kyo from Dir En Grey was one of the first costumes I saw back in the early 2000-somewhere. Oh and Adella’s Aeris. I kept looking around and finding these wonderful ladies doing wonderful costumes and dreaming of being able to dress up as my favorite characters. But at the time I was still very much stuck in the mindset that I was way too fat and ugly to be doing any of that and was basically hiding away in whatever goth inspired clothing I could find. I’ve always been a bit of a fashion-disaster. *cough*

Fast forward some 10 years. I had gone through a couple of heartbreaks, recently gotten together with a new guy that had suddenly swept me off my feet despite me vowing that I’d be on my lonesome for a while. And he had gotten me into something else that I briefly touched upon when I were younger; martial arts. In my teenage years I wanted to do martial arts because it seemed fun, but already then my social angst had set in and I wasn’t capable to combating it so I only took a couple of sessions of Ju-Jutsu before claiming sickness and never returned. But this new boyfriend brought me with him to try out some of the local clubs where we lived and I got to try Shotokan Karate, Muay Thai and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts). And I loved it once I started to get over my shyness a little bit. I mean, there’s not a whole lot of room for shyness when you’re training with other people who are intent on getting a good training session and a small, muscly, Irish guy for a trainer yelling at you to keep going when you feel like you’re going to die. And it was amazing. I still have a lot of trouble training with others, and there are days I’ll nearly start crying if someone mentions I have to spar or train with someone else. But it’s gotten better.
That combined with a few looks into the cosplay world that thrives where I live through my job gave me the courage to slowly start building myself a costume. At first I just wanted to do something cool for Halloween as the friends we used to live with throws awesome Halloween parties. Then I figured I’d wear the costume for Free Comic Book Day the year after. And so it rolled on, I ended up going to my first “proper” convention (I don’t quite count going to Fantastika in 2001 just to meet Robin Hobb as a proper convention visit) that same summer, basically knowing no one, just to see if it was as awesome as I imagined it to be.
I ended up meeting an acquaintance from work in line and got to hang out with them. And people loved my fairly badly put together Toph costume.
So yes, it was rather awesome in the end.

That’s now a little over a year ago. I still struggle a lot with my social angst when it comes to conventions, especially walking the con floor. I can get quite jittery when there’s a lot of people and if I manage to avoid the jitters and panic I end up drained of energy at the end of the day. But it’s alleviated somewhat by that it’s just so damn inspiring to see all these lovely folk in their awesome costumes.
In general there are a lot of things that stress me and I struggle with when it comes to cosplay, but it’s the “good” kind of stress and struggling. It may trigger my angst from time to time, I may sit in a corner crying over whatever won’t come together but in the end it’s given me so much more inspiration than I had before.
And to top it off, it’s given me back something I thought I’d lost when I started feeling angsty about drawing, the joy of creating.
Plus it feeds into my poor little non-existent ego whenever I see that someone likes what I’ve done.
And I’ve found an absolutely amazing gang of friends through cosplay. I would never have gotten to know these guys if I hadn’t taken a leap of faith and gone for it.

I guess the point that I want to get across is that if you’re feeling down, or struggling with some anxiety, find that something, no matter how big or small that gives you energy and inspiration.
Had I told my teenage self that I would end up standing on stage, talking to a crowd without feeling like bolting I never would’ve believed it. But that’s what I did only a week ago. I got up on a stage, without a prepared speech or performance, and just improvised. And I didn’t run from it or feel like the world was ending.

Before I wrap up this rambling I’d like to give a huge thank you to Trine, Tina, Martine, Eirin, Elise, Ida, Erica and Ramona for letting me in on their amazing cosplay group for Torucon and for making me feel a bit more safe on the con floor. <3
And a bonus thank you to my boyfriend Remi and Trine’s beau Erlend for being around and always making me laugh. =D

1 Response

  1. Kiki says:

    I am really surprised to hear this. I’ve only hung out with you a bit during Desucon, but I thought you seemed very relaxed and easy-going. Or maybe it was the fact that we have this in common that made me feel relaxed around you because I unconsciously realised we are alike. I don’t have real social anxiety, I think, but I did a serious test once and got a score around 60% I think. Which they stated were above normal. And I have many of the “symptoms”. I’m also quite a bit introverted.
    I was never bullied, just ingored. I’m not sure what’s worst since I havent’ experienced both. But it left scars, and to this day I have problems believing that people like me and actually want me to come to parties etc.
    My change came around the age of 23, when I started Uni. Everyone was suddenly nice and interested in talking, and I just took a chance and talked to people too and after that I’ve been much better at talking to people I don’t know. But I still have problems talking in large groups, speaking first, going on stage etc.
    I have only been cosplaying for less than a year, but already I’ve met so many people with similar problems to yours and mine. People who feel they aren’t good enough, who use cons as a practice area for being social. Even some “normal” people (outgoing, not shy) have said they are completely drained after so much social interaction and need time alone afterwards. It has made me feel so much more normal (if that’s a word that should be used).
    In addition, cosplayers are very understanding, I feel. It’s easier to be myself around them and not be so scared that they’ll think I’m too weird to hang with. I constantly fear that things I say will be misunderstood as something rude, and I overthink everything. Which I have been told on many occations 😛
    I’m really glad you wrote this post. I think it’s good for people who doesn’t have it to learn about it. That way, in the ideal future, we can just say that we have it without being embarassed and people will be more patient and understanding when we say or do something weird, or say we need to just be alone for a while!

    Kiki, the girl who you helped to fly 😉

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