Personal stories of reclaiming life from mental ill health

Sarah: Creativity is life

People’s imagination, when it come to cosplay, there is no limit.  If you can do it, why not?

I’ve been doing cosplay, which is costume play, for about 10 years and everyone said when I was expecting Julia, “You’re not going to be able to do cosplay any more.” I wasn’t going to let that stop me. It’s such a passion for me and I’m glad that, now Julia’s a bit older, shes really interested in the cosplay as well.  I’ve taken her to Comic Cons since she was a month old *laughs.* Shes been to about five of them already!  Even at a young age she was looking around at all the colours and she was really, really interested. At Expo you get movie, comic and media cosplayers so of course that will cover Manga, Anime, games, films, adverts… we’ve seen a green giant cosplayer complete with sweetcorn! There’s always everything and anything there and you can see loads of people have fun with that.

You always get the odd person at a Comic Con going, “Why are they bringing their kid? It’s not right”, but you know, something that’s a big part of my life, I want to share that with her so that keeps me happy. Over the last few years, there’s been so much more children and everything, the costumes are so adorable. It is a family event so kids are always welcome, you always see the cosplay couples with their little children, its like, “Ooooh, that’s cute!”

Now we’ve got our own flat, I’ve sort of got a corner dedicated to all my cosplay. Well Richie said, “I want a corner for all my computer stuff,” so I thought, “If you’re having a corner for that, I’m having a corner for my stuff” *laughs. It’s got to be fair!

In the last few years, I’ve stepped up the game with my cosplay, I’ve got my own sewing machine and my own bodies, a tailor’s dummy and that. I had stitching from quite a young age, my mum used to be interested in cross-stitching and I took that on and my mum taught me how to knit.  Then I got into fabrics, at a young age as well. And then, when I started cosplaying, it was like getting the clothes and then altering them, adding bits and pieces on. Other bits of fabric, and stuff like that and making small accessories.  Then just learning it, onwards and onwards and onwards. But the best thing about that is there are always cosplayers you can go to to learn different bits of pieces and there’s loads of tutorials online. Forums too, there’s always a place where you can learn new things because cosplay is such a worldwide thing. There are so many different websites for different countries worldwide.

Personally, I’ve developed a massive cosplay list over the last 10 years.  Usually, I start looking for reference pictures and sketch out bits that I might have trouble with, just in case, to write down notes. I’m always picking out ideas, I have to write them down.  I’m constantly, even for cosplays I know I’m not doing for ages, I’m constantly drawing out stuff. I’m constantly drawing out blueprints and notes, just to learn things, just to keep it on paper somewhere. I’m constantly sketching and everything.  I’ve only got 6 months to my next Expo, *laughs* I’m already there! I’m already working on it. I’ve already purchased a wig, and some performance fans. Basically its this character from the game Final Fantasy 8. It’s sort of like a dragon that you can summon in a fight and it’s sort of blue and green. I’m really into cosplay and Final Fantasy creatures because I can just take it and do my own design of it, it’s really fun.

It’s quite widespread as to what you can actually do and I like that there’s room for doing your own original characters as well.  Things like Steampunk which has sort of come out of the woodwork in the past few years. You get people in the whole Steampunk wear and doing their original characters. I mean, you think of zeppelins with the goggles and  flat caps and everything like that, some people just take it and run away with it.  [I saw] a wind up doll with a moving key, she actually had the full face paint, a grey wig and a  Victorian style dress with a bustle and a clockwork key in her back which you could actually wind up.  People’s imagination when it come to cosplay, there is no limit.  If you can do it, why not?

Richie goes with me to the conventions and stuff as he’s still quite interested in it.  We go to Expo usually because the bigger conventions you get  are 18+ and over a weekend so, with the little one, that’s quite tricky. When you go to Expo it’s not just cosplay, you’ve got a whole load of gaming, you’ve got all the artists and illustrators from the comics as well. Richie’s a massive gamer so it’s that side for him. We’ve cosplayed together once, which was nice.

[At last Expo] I was Levy McGarden from Fairy Tail  I’ve recently got into it  and I absolutely adore this character. It’s quite a mainstream anime at the moment.  When I told my friends they were like, “You, girly? Really?” Actually I think I surprised them all! *laughs*  I was  really happy with the outfit as well. If I sort of mushed all the hours together I spent on it. I’d say [it took] about 10 hours.



I’ve suffered with depression in the past, in teenage years which I managed to get through it  sort of lasted six months.  Unfortunately the depression I’ve got now is the prolonged effect of postnatal depression. I’ve never had depression that’s lasted this long. It’s quite weird really because I know you have the first massive bout of depression and it’s kind of piling down on you. I’ve had to start with medication, it was becoming hard for me to take care of myself, take care of my daughter so I thought, “Right, got to do something.” So I started on the medication, been on that for about two years,

I don’t want to be on it for ever, so I’m trying to go down in steps because I can’t exactly go cold turkey. You end up worse off, you’ve got to go down in stages, that’s the annoying thing.   I’m still suffering from the anxiety which came along with the depression as well.  I’ve spoken to a lot of people who’ve got depression and anxiety.  They definitely, do go hand in hand, there definitely has to be something that connects the two together in the mind.

If I feel some anxiety coming on, or I’m actually going through and anxiety attack, I’ve got this thing called Bark Remedy. It’s a natural solution, people can use it for stuff like exams, driving lessons, tests, whatever and it’s supposed to just calm you naturally.  I find that’s actually really effective.  It comes in quite a few different forms, which is quite good because, you know, not everything is for everyone. I find that that’s very helpful when I’m suffering from anxiety, that helps quite a bit. I like to have something like that so I’m not always depending on the medicine, you know?

It’s quite stressful being a new mum, I was struggling quite a bit,  and then, it must have been about six months in, when I had a massive anxiety attack and I thought, “I can’t go through this.” I  saw the doctor, he gave me a bit of paper and I marked off questions like they do with basic depression. He said, “You are suffering from post natal depression and anxiety and we need to get you sort of onto this.”

The first stage was referring to [a local NHS centre] that specialises in counselling and everything. I went to them for three sessions so they could  see if the doctor was correct  and if there was anything that they could do to help me and then, sort of like, what medication to put me on. I said to them, and I still say now, I don’t want to go to counselling because the thing is with me is, I close myself up when I don’t wanna be interrogated.  It would literally be like them talking to a brick wall,whether I could help it or not, they’d be wasting their time- “Hi, bye” walk out. *laughs*. I said that to the doctor and they were like, “Yep, that’s fine, don’t worry about it, we’ll try and help you in other ways, that’s absolutely fine.”

Both my parents are on medication.  My brother’s been through depression before as well. I’ve seen what the medicine’s done to affect other people and I haven’t liked it. I was like, “No, I’m not going on it, I’m not going on it, I’m not going on it.” So I sort of  sat down and actually saw myself, saw [my daughter] and thought, “I have to do something, I can’t carry on like this. You know, I can’t…  my partner’s working and everything, I’ve got to do something.  I’ve got to take control.” If that’s the way to do it, you know, I don’t really have a choice.

I started making bags and stuff, which kept me occupied and I could integrate my own designs and that. So I started doing my own bag designs and taking on commissions, I find that’s a good outlet.  I know it doesn’t bring much money but it’s something for me to do and it’s a way to be creative.

I absolutely love creativity. I don’t lie when I say I’m absolutely obsessed, I always have to be creative otherwise it’s, “What am I doing?” I feel lost. I think, for my Levy McGarden costume, I’m actually quite daring. It’s gonna be sort of belly dance inspired. Two straps over the front and at the back and a long skirt with a tail at the back. I’m gonna have two performance fans which I’ll  swish about as well because I do my poi spinning which is pretty much the same thing.  The best way to describe poi is a  ball on a string that you hold.  It’s not juggling, you can spin them around and do movements and everything. I’ve been doing that for about 8 years. You always see people spinning poi at the conventions and stuff as well, which is quite fun, so I get to meet poi spinners as well.

I’ve made so many friends from cosplay. My best friend got me into cosplay, and is my partner in crime. There’s such a sense of wellbeing. Whenever I step into Expo, even the grounds it’s like a massive energy force,  “Aaaaah, I’m home. My second home.” I’m so happy and everything when I’m there because there’s so much energy and creativity just rushing around.  It keeps me going, even when I’m swearing at my fabric, it keeps me going.

Sarah: Creativity is life