A Curveball, a Rollercoaster, a Paradigm Shift

20170816_150524I think it’s safe to say that, at one point or another, we’ve been there: on a course or path that we’ve chosen and with full confidence in where we’re headed. The mile-markers (or would kilometer markers be more appropriate?) have been tacked and, not to belabor the metaphor, the destination in mind. There’s a particular comfort in a certainty in this idea. A kind of determination that helps keep the darker days more manageable and give credit to the idea that I am moving forward in life as opposed to stagnation.

As a brief aside, a small note about the feeling of stagnation to those not acclimatized to depression or those who suffer it. We live in a world where there are very clearly defined parameters of what we should be doing and by when. If you think on it for a moment or two, I’m sure you can do up your own little list: go to school, go to high school, work a crappy part-time job, go to post-secondary, meet someone there and fall into step with them, work a crappy full time job, start a family, begin career, reproduce, then watch your offspring repeat your steps. This is heavily ingrained into our culture and reflects every aspect of western life.

When you live with depression, everything takes more effort and takes longer, it would seem. I’m a ripping 27 years old, and I’m still far from where I thought I would be ten years ago. Is ripping a good descriptive word to use before age? I dunno, but we’ll stick with it for now. On multiple occasions over my life, especially in these past three or four years, I’ve felt a particular unease about where I am in life. The lack of going somewhere or being something by this age is something I’m acutely aware of, and reminders of how far “behind” I am are everywhere.

In moments, I’ll begin resuming what most would consider “forward momentum” in my life: either attending to some form of education or settling into what I would expect to be a long-term job. Hells, this blog started as an effort to start hammering together something of a long-term career for myself as a self-made author. Before that, I was settling into that aforementioned long-term job in an environment I seemed to do well in. Before that, I was attending courses at the Adult Learning Center nearby (this last point is quite relevant).

Once again, I was at this ALC trying to get my high school mark upgraded. I had survived my first two terms, passing three courses (one of which was the source of a great deal of grief in years past when I was at this center before) and was saddling up for my last three courses. Beyond the half-way point, let’s do this thing.

I was hesitant and apprehensive, as these last three courses I was being faced with were math classes. Math and I have a very specific understanding of one another: mutual distrust and hatred, among other things. Well, if I want to go to university for psychology, I need to do this thing: let’s do the thing!

That was the beginning of January. As of a week and a half ago now, I had dropped out of the program and was, once again, stuck in stagnation. My mental health had collapsed (as it has done many times before and will invariably do many times again in my life), I was thoroughly disheartened with how poorly I was doing in the only course I had this term (university level, grade 11 Functions), and I was struggling with reconciling who I was trying to be and what I was trying to accomplish.

Now, when you’re faced with an impasse, it’s important to carefully plan your next move. I could stay in math and try to bludgeon out something resembling a passing mark: it wouldn’t be a great mark, but it’d earn me the credit. The problem with this was that I barely, if at all, understood the material, and the two courses I had to take next were much more advanced and required a complete understanding of these “basics”. Odds were not in my favour there.

I could drop out of the course. Not a great plan, as I had already dropped a few hundred dollars on university applications and was pulling in very close to deadlines for re-applying to programs; but it would save me a great deal of stress and alleviate a lot of burden from my mind. From there, it would be a matter of deciding where to go from there: pursue different education avenues or re-evaluate life direction.

Sufficed to say, dropping the course was simply the better choice. True, it screwed me out of many opportunities I had struggled to achieve for the four months prior, but I was very likely setting myself up for brutal failure or disappointment with my current trajectory. Don’t misunderstand, though: it was still a hard, and very upsetting decision. I was defeated, once again, by the education system that I needed in order to accomplish my goals in life.

Then, cue the follow-up punch to the jab I had just been served: I was summarily laid off my job. Recent economic changes in our province’s employment policies has created a great deal of uncertainty in business owners about viability, and I’d heard a statistic on the radio that the month of January had seen the largest increase in unemployment in over three decades (I’ll not claim this as fact as I do not recall the source cited by the report, so take this with a grain of salt. Or several). More importantly, I had failed in the courses I was taking, I had lost my job, and was being met with a plethora of mixed emotions with other news.

Many of my closest friends have been in stable relationships for a long time, and of them, perhaps close to half are presently or shortly to be engaged/married. Try to suspend your disbelief, but I am shockingly single, and haven’t been on anything resembling a date in the past two or three years. And as anyone who contends with depression can attest: it’s easy to feel alone when your brain is working against you; doubly so when you see things you wish you could have but, for one reason or another, cannot attain.

In fairly nearly everything I had been pursuing these past several months, everything had failed. I was, once again, locked in a state of stagnation: not moving forward, not moving backward. Simply not moving.

An odd thing has transpired, though. Despite all these set-backs, these severe blows to my confidence and life direction, I’m not broken by it. Not irreparably so, at least. In fact, I still trudge forward. The feeling is queer to me, I promise you that: logically speaking these set-backs should almost cripple my ability to do very nearly anything, but this time has not.

I’d share my secret if I knew it, but there are still too many x-variables I need to mull through. Perhaps it’s a change in medication on my end, perhaps it’s the rolling of the calendar and re-focusing on direction, perhaps something in my brain has finally started to tick properly. I don’t know.

But if anything, I’m still moving. Perhaps not forward, and not in the same direction that our western culture has dictated I should, but its motion. I haven’t the foggiest where my future is going to be, but I plan on getting there one way or another.

Preferably with a slightly more consistent upload schedule. Sorry again about not keeping to that :/


“More Than Just a Pretty Face” – Cosplayer Profile: Anniechie Designs

20170913_110023_HDRMy never ending journey to fully, or even marginally, fathom the exact nature of mental health issues leads me through many retrospectives. There is, after all, no shortage of things to ponder: what specific events lead me to this point? Why does it seem that chronic anxiety tends to affect particular demographics more visibly than others? Of the frequent thoughts I have, are they unique to my own mind or do others experience similar?

Sufficed to say, many of these questions are some that I certainly cannot answer just by puzzling it out on my own. Cue sudden idea: I’ll talk to someone else about it. Truly, I am a genius of untold proportions, eh?

But, more-over, I had this particular thought while breezing through my Facebook feed, as one is prone to doing when they’ve nothing better going on (or whatever social media app it is people use these days; I can’t be bothered to keep up with the changes). This is when I scrolled over another of the plentiful photos of cosplayers I follow online. In particular, an otherwise anonymous figure by name of Annie.

Now, for those who don’t know who Anniechie is (to specify, pronounced Annie-ch-ee; you’d not believe how much time I spent figuring that out before I just came out and asked her), she’s an Ontario-based cosplayer who predominantly focuses on video game characters for her creations, even more specifically from the Legend of Zelda universe. I’ve been following her work for some odd two years now, I think, and only have communication with her because she made the mistake of commenting on one of my sister’s old vlogs she made.


Lissa photo courtesy of Soulfood Photography

For starters, most of us are accustomed to a certain degree of professional distance that online personas don when interacting with their fans. I can’t blame them either: these are people who we don’t know and their motives can be suspect at best of times (for further proof, just search online for stories of web-based harassment for those in the cosplay community from anonymous/near-anonymous fans). But, Annie isn’t quite like that.

No, she possesses a very small-community mindset when talking with her fan base (because I find it impossible to believe that I’m the only one she talks to like this). We’d communicated once or twice, at the very least, to coordinate marking her social media link to the aforementioned vlog to give credit where credit is due. Not only was she very polite, but she seemed uncannily cheerful as well.

Getting back a few paragraphs now, I got wondering about my present conundrum about those who suffer anxiety and what their experiences are like. Sure enough, there’s one of Anniechie’s photos and I thought, “I wonder…”

I reached out and she responded. Indeed, she does suffer from some nasty anxiety issues, and furthermore, was more than happy to share some of her experiences with as many people as possible: “I am really happy it’s a topic that more people are covering since the more it is talked about, the more people will be able to face their anxiety or depression problems since they may not be as scared too.” It also takes a great deal of strength and emotional fortitude to come forward about these issues, especially for those who are in the world of cosplay.

Think on it this way: many people turn to their idols for strength, compassion, or escapism from their issues. It can severely tarnish a fan’s faith in those they look up to if you find out that they, too, suffer from similar issues. However, the converse may be true as well; in an online world where simply smiling and looking perfect is what people flock to the most, opening up yourself to that potential judgement can be daunting.

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Symphony and Silk Cosplay LITERALLY lifting me up” -Anniechie

As you might have guessed with Annie, this isn’t the case. A Master-level cosplayer who not only shares her photos about her various projects, but she’s also earnest and open about her anxiety issues. It’s something that’s been a part of her life for quite a long time now, earliest recollections going back to the “sweet sixteen” part of adolescence. Most curiously, however, Annie (not sure if she’d be okay with my just calling her Ann… or An… or A…), it took her some time to realize what, exactly, it was she was experiencing.

It’s about that time when, for most teenagers in North America, you’re in high school. Certainly, there is a great deal to be anxious about: classes, futures, social life, work life, talking to that cutie you’ve had a crush on since forever, etc. And Annie thought this was very much the case for her: just a normal experience for a high schooler to be going through. And besides, other people have it far worse, so just suck it up, right?

For about a year, this was her mentality: I don’t have it that bad, so I shouldn’t feel this way. In hindsight, she’s thankful that she finally came forward and sought help, where she was diagnosed with chronic anxiety and started to receive proper treatment for it.

Now, every professional who’s worth the degree on their wall will tell you that simply medication alone will not solve the problem. It’s also about lifestyle: finding means to combat those nervous landslides that envelope their unfortunate victim. Surprisingly to me, but perhaps not to others: cosplay itself was a great source of strength for Annie.


“Myself as Esmeralda with Tsuki No Star Dust and Mae-Gwyn at a local cosplay meet up” – Anniechie

I mean, I was (and to a lesser extent, am still) very impressed to hear that not only her personal cosplay page, but the community by large is the source of a great deal of positivity in her life. After all, we’ve all heard the horror stories of cosplayers, especially those of the female variety, who are harassed by people with poor senses of boundaries, or the petty fights over misunderstandings that can result in some very bad publicity for the community on the whole.

Think the Logan/Jack Paul YouTube debacle, but for a community that already gets a bad enough rap as is. Lookin’ at you, Heroes of Cosplay: you were bad and you should feel bad!

“Oh those types of horror stories have occurred to me, just not on the same level as other cosplayers or even some of my friends,” she confessed “I’ve never had a situation where it got dangerous, it’s always just been annoying things online, never a situation in person as far as I can remember. Some online apparently associate female cosplayers with the wrong idea- as you and I both know, cosplayer does not equal “nerdy prostitute” as some may think it does.”

“If anything my cosplaying has a VERY positive impact on my anxiety problems. Sewing, crafting, and usually most things that keep my hands busy help me to calm down, and creating things really helps me keep my mind off of small things that could eventually develop into anxiety. The most positive thing about cosplay though is the confidence it gives me.”

And when you really think about it, it makes a great deal of sense: I’m not a cosplayer myself, but I can certainly imagine how amazing it’d feel to put hours and hours and hours and hours and then a few more hours into a project, assemble it, then just enjoy yourself while in costume. I’ve been to nerd conventions, I know how a well made cosplay can make me excited just as the person looking at it. It shows a sense of community that’s hard to create outside of the cosplay world itself.

Even if the cosplay isn’t Hollywood level, even seeing someone put something together from a game/show/book you love hits a special little place that says “WHAT? YOU LOVE THAT THING?! I ALSO LOVE THAT THING! THAT’S AMAZING!”

Capitals represented appropriately.


Mae-Gwyn Cosplay giving me a surprise hug while I’m dressed as Tetra, photo by Jason Setnyk Photography” -Anniechie

When it comes to the specifics of what Annie chooses to cosplay, I made an observation that turned out to be quite accurate. Amongst her repertoire of various characters (all of which you should go check out and appreciate as soon as you’re done here) are characters like Zelda, Merida, Lissa, and Sakura. Those familiar with those characters and where they’re from: congratulations, you may stay. All these characters are powerfully minded, confident in their goals, and much more than just another pretty face. It’s facts like that that draws Annie to her particular creations, “A character’s personality can make or break my decision to cosplay as them, so I won’t usually just cosplay something solely because it’s pretty. I would consider myself a bit of a feminist so a strong female character can really stand out to me. I really just have a strong admiration for strong female characters as when I was younger and felt quite weak mentally they had something I wished I had- confidence.”

“And you’d be surprised how confident one can feel dressed as these characters, it’s actually pretty awesome.”

And isn’t that the point of our idols? To represent that which we aspire to be and want to see more of in ourselves? Speaking as someone who also lack confidence in himself, Annie’s work and her ability to bring these characters to life is astounding and fills me with a sense of awe that’s hard to express in words properly. What I see standing there is someone who is bursting with a degree of confidence that I wish I possessed.

Perhaps that’s the biggest take-away from all this? Annie’s various works all look like they’re of someone who is un-phased in the face of adversary, of one who knows precisely what they want and how to obtain it, and never second-guesses their ideals. Beneath that, however, is someone very human, very real. Annie, not unlike countless others all around the world, battles her own internal war against anxiety. She was fortunate: family and friends who support her during her bad times, the ability to receive help and treatment to make her mental health livable, and an outlet that gives her the support and positivity to keep doing what she loves most.

Based on what she’s said to me in the past, she’ll be finishing her post-secondary program and venturing into the world of design to bring her unique values and views to a larger audience. To reflect this, her Facebook page was renamed Anniechie Designs, and I for one very much look forward to what sort of world she helps to create.

Before we go, though, I’d like to offer one last story she shared with me. It speaks volumes to those who are debating getting into the world of cosplay and have their own self-doubts. I’ve not yet the pleasure to see Annie performing on the Cosplay Contest stage myself, but based on the video clips I’ve encountered, she seems completely comfortable and at home before an audience.


“Myself as Zelda and several friends of mine all being goofs at a masquerade award ceremony” -Anniechie

Spoiler alert: this was not always the case: “I entered my first masquerade when I was nearly 17 years old, basically at the peak of my anxiety problems. At this time I would cry and become a mental little mess with just the idea of doing skits in front of my small class of 20; yet I decided to enter a masquerade because I wanted to push myself and I had always dreamed of entering one since I was a kid. And, even though I was a shaky nervous mess backstage during the green room and judging periods, I ended up enjoying myself a LOT! Once I got on stage I just felt so wonderful and enjoyed myself so much. Even today it’s the same. Entering masquerades and performing on stage is almost like a confidence boost or a type of “high” for me, I’m rather addicted to it because I enjoy the atmosphere of performing, hanging out backstage and meeting a bunch of new people and the like.”

“So yes, cosplay has helped me tremendously, and a good part of that is because masquerades push me hard to improve myself in more ways than just improving my costumes”


Check out Annie’s Various pages to give her your support:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnniechieDesigns/
Website/Weebly Site: https://anniechie.weebly.com/
Instagram: @anniechiedesigns

Another Soul, Another Controversy

20170807_004837This brooches the subject of outdated news by all traditional schools of thought, and very nearly all current schools of thought. Indeed, one of the lessons taught to prospective students in radio broadcast: if it happened more than a day ago, it’s dead news and time to move on. Our media engines move quickly and, as a result, we consume this information much more rapidly to keep up with the ever incessant onslaught of new stories or, sometimes, just a rehashing of something we’ve heard before.

My brain simply doesn’t move that quickly, especially on more sensitive topics. I’ll very likely never be able to compete with modern news sources on my own because it takes too long for me to rationalize what I’ve heard, then turn it over in my head some two dozen times and think it through. And while I certainly consider this to be an important process for me as a method of mitigating hasty (and, need I say, almost exclusively ignorant) opinions on matters, it means that when I finally have something to say about a topic, everyone has already moved on to the next thing.

And for some conversations, this is fine. Some topics will come and go and people will either learn from it or discard the information, as is their want. For other topics, though: this can be acidic to the nature of the ongoing conversation that we, as a peoples, need to have about certain issues that plague our society or world. Some pieces of information we learn needs to be remembered, or at least discussed more deeply than our fast-moving world will allow. And I’m not the first to say this; it has been said more eloquently by better minds or more learned people.

Without beating any further around the bush, this is another discussion about the ongoing crisis that is our Mental Health Awareness in North America, or at the very least Canada. And yes, much like many people, this point was, again, reinforced by another celebrity taking their life due to unsustainable depression. But this point was not a reminder for me; I live with depression on a daily basis. As a person diagnosed with Clinical Depression, I’ve yielded to the fact that this is something that I’ll be fighting with for the rest of my life.

There are countless others who are in similar situations, and most certainly a good majority have it far worse than I ever will. And much like everyone else (to my working knowledge) who lives with depression, or knows someone very close to them who is afflicted, the ongoing fight to keep a healthy mentality is never far from our minds. But, where I do differ from some of these people is my understanding of the natures of these issues.

20170308_225340_10272_972071Not terribly long ago now, the lead singer (and some would say, the very soul of) Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, terminated his life quite prematurely. There was a massive outpouring of sympathy and sadness from the music community and fans the world over. But what surprised me was a small voice that was buried in the crowd. It was anger. Not at the late Mr. Bennington or Linkin Park; it was anger at the world around them.

“How many more people need to kill themselves before everyone really begins to care?” These were, in essence, the messages these groups were shouting. “You only care about depression and suicide when someone famous dies! Why don’t you care all the time?!”

In all honesty, this is a point very near and dear to me. Again, as said earlier: I live with depression and battle it on a daily basis. Many of angry voices that demanded this were either in similar boats themselves, or very likely people who have lost loved ones to suicide. And while, at first, I was a little put off by their sentiments, as time wore on I started thinking about it more and more. I didn’t want to be angry at the anonymous masses who would forget about mental health in a few days; I am a strong believer that anger is a poor medium to enact constructive change.

I am also, deep down inside, an angry person myself. In general, anyway: I have a bit of a temper. #gingerproblems

But I also didn’t want to be frustrated, much like these many angry voices were. After all, everyone is more than willing to show their support for mental health awareness when someone famous dies, so why can’t they care about it all the time?

There are many, many, many reasons why, as I see it. For starters, it’s entirely hard for someone who has not had experience with depression to understand the depth of detriment it does to someone’s well being. And for many who do experience depression, it is something they either are cured of, or find methods to cope with so that it does not become exceedingly prominent in their life. With this in mind, it’s very easy to understand why many people have a hard time empathizing with this issue, or even sympathizing.

As well as the other issue mentioned at the very beginning of this blog: things move fast in our world now. News and media aside; everything about our lives are quite frantic and harried when you really think about it. The concept of ‘a long time’ has changed drastically through the generations and, even now, changed exponentially within the years. No longer is ‘a long time’ generally agreed upon by months or even years; now ‘a long time’ could be a few hours to a couple of days.

And when things move this fast, especially in our connected world where the internet has allowed us to cultivate massive networks of people whose lives we closely follow: the information we receive is less news and more bombardment. And that’s not even including things that happen in our personal lives. If you really stopped and thought about it, a great deal happens to the average and not-so-average Canadian’s daily routine.

And of course, the biggest hurdle I see with everyone taking a zealous interest in conquering mental health issues is: energy. Because, for the worst case scenarios, depression isn’t something that’s really ever fixed. Unlike a cold, or a building project: there’s no real end in sight. And, as is contrary to the very progression-based mentalities that have become so centric to western societies, it’s very easy for someone living with depression to relapse due to factors outside of their control.

I can understand how it is frustrating for people who try to keep close relations to me when I suddenly go silent for months at a time because I’m locked in my own head. It takes a shocking about of energy to interact, on a consistent basis, someone who suffers from depression or similar. And energy is a very limited commodity we, as a human race, have. Energy to be spent on other pursuits: travel, work, family, friends, hobbies, interests, passive or active activities, stories, education and the list could go on for quite a long time.

And with all these things that we, as individuals, value and prioritize, I can very much understand why keeping close relations to anyone who requires a lot of time, patience and energy to interact with and care for, is a trying process. It is not for everyone, and that’s quite alright. It is stressful and draining, to say the least. I get that, I can sympathize with that.

When I see mass posting about people crying out for better mental health treatments or options when someone famous commits suicide, I don’t get upset at them. I will not deny that I would be more pleased to see them give the same attention to this issue all the time, but that is simply not reasonable nor realistic.

After all, there are many issues in our world that people champion and fight for that I, myself, have forgotten about as time wears on. As shocking as it is to hear: cancer has not greatly impacted my life as it has many others’. Cancer research and better treatments are, as a result, not something I often remember or take notice of. And that fact may shock you. After all, cancer is one of the leading killers in the western world, and is often referenced in the news or in general discussion.

It is not to say I do not care about cancer research though. To think that it is something I do not care about would be a grave misunderstanding of things. I would love, as much as the next person, to hear that there has been a cure for cancer and that no one needs to suffer that fate ever again. However, it is simply not the fight I have chosen to focus my efforts and energy into. And the same could be said for any other hundreds of issues that groups have dedicated themselves to.

I was toying around with the idea of making a small list here of other topics, but it was getting excessively long and a bit distracting: I wanted to keep researching more points to make the list even longer.

So when I see posting occasionally pop up about mental health awareness as a result of recent news, I will not become angry. I’d rather capitalize on the brief attention of these people and engage in discussion. Much like all great things, this is an ongoing effort that will take no shortage of time, understanding and compassion to conquer. And with every conversation we have on these matters, a greater understanding is achieved. And when society has a greater understanding of things, it is an inarguable victory, regardless of how small it is.

suicide prevention imageIn the meantime, I will continue to dedicate myself to this fight; so long as all the other battles are being fought by others as dedicated to theirs as I am to mine. If mental health awareness or treatment isn’t your particular battle, I will not think less of you for it. If it is not something you spend your energy upon often to learn more about, and the only time you think to involve yourself in the discussion is after tragedy, to you I promise:

I will always be willing to have a conversation with you about it.