themighty logo

How Cosplay Helps Me Shelve My Anxiety

Cosplay is a combination of the words costume and play. Its textbook definition is as follows: The art or practice of wearing costumes to portray characters from fiction, especially from manga, animation and science fiction.

Defining cosplay is simple; however, explaining how much it has helped me manage my anxiety is anything but. Three years ago, I was diagnosed with  social anxiety disorder (SAD) after having spent my entire life knowing I worried more than most people, but not realizing there were things I could do to cope with it instead of suffering.

I often find myself in awe of the fact that there are people who wake up and just go about their day. They don’t spend the majority of their day anxious. They go out into the world and they just live their lives. I have often found myself wondering what that felt like. I was resigned to the fact that I would never know that feeling.

Then, I found cosplay. Donning a costume, I am no longer the girl who is constantly anxious. I embody the character I have chosen to portray, a character who I love, whether it be sci-fi or from a comic book. Finding cosplay opened a whole new world to me.

I have walked into a panel dressed as the mother of dragons and had a fellow cosplayer gasp and exclaim, “Daenerys, you are beautiful!” I believed it, instead of being anxious that the person was secretly making fun of me.

I have been Harley Quinn and befriended a Poison Ivy and a Catwoman as we waited in line for the doors of the convention center to open. We spent the next three days of the Con going to panels and events together. When it was over, we became friends on Facebook and I realized they are women I would never have tried to approach in any other setting. My anxiety would have told me they were out of my “friendship league”.

I have strolled across a Con floor as Captain America. Upon realizing there was a cosplayer dressed as Falcon, yelled at the top of my lungs, “On your left!” as I ran past him and laughed loudly as he began to jog behind me. My anxiety would have never let me yell or laugh that boisterously without worrying I had drawn too much attention to myself or looked foolish.

I have stood at a microphone dressed as the Eleventh Doctor, in a room filled with more than a hundred people and hands shaking. Yet, my voice was steady and asked the man who played my favorite companion a question. I usually struggle with speaking to a room of more than 10 people.

I have, in many different outfits and several different Cons, allowed my nerd flag to fly. Better yet, I have found myself planting that flag next to thousands of people who love the same things I do. I have met people with a zealousness that matches and at times surpasses my own.

I get anxious going to places with large crowds by myself. I have also been known to be anxious about going to new places with people I do know. Yet, I have strolled into Cons alone, knowing I would not have to worry. Within the first panel or activity, I knew I would find a friend.

Cosplay allows me to put my anxiety on a shelf for a few days. It allows me to take up space in the world. It allows me to revel in it instead of constantly second guessing myself and wondering if I am a little too much for those around me to handle. As someone whose mind is usually racing a mile a minute, I can’t begin to tell you how nice it is to shut the noise off for a few hours and be present in the moment.