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Here I Stand by by Ashayla Webster 【Essay Competition】

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Here I Stand

by Ashayla Webster(facebook.com/AshaylaWebster.cosplay)

I’m sure it’s been heard a million times before, cosplay is an expression of self. Cosplay encourages creativity, learning and practicing skills that were once dying art forms and coming out of one’s shell. It is an expression of oneself, despite it being the act of dressing of another. Like many cosplayers, I’ve always loved to dress up and, like many others, I have suffered from mental health issues. A number of years ago I was diagnosed with P.T.S.D., Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, encompassing depression, anxiety and stress. I suffered constant nightmares, heart palpitations, panic attacks when in crowded places, fear when in dark or around those I did not know. I quit the career I had been working on building for many years, any passion for the paramedical field lost as I retreated into myself. I was in a dark place and uncertain if I would ever return from it. Every day was a struggle, a battle with myself to get up, get out and live some semblance of a life. Eventually, because of sheer stubbornness and determination, I began to turn my life around. With the assistance of a phycologist, a balanced diet, an obsession with weight lifting and the support of my partner, I began to understand and control my mental health, instead of it controlling me. It was at this stage when I was beginning to come back, that the movie Frozen was released.

I’ve often been dubbed an Ice Queen by friends and men. I had little interest in relationships and one hell of a resting bitch face I utilized on many occasions in the outside world to avoid or negate attentions from men. I had dry eyes in many a sad movie and I was never one quick to react in an emotional way. I am logical, a planner, an analyzer, an Ice Queen was an apt description for me, but that is not the reason I fell in love with Froze n’s Queen Elsa. Upon hearing “Let It Go” for the very first time, I am not ashamed to admit that I cried. It was a release. Somewhere deep within my soul, I felt a switch flipped. Here was a kindred spirit. Here was a woman so clearly trapped within her own mind that she was unable to see the beauty of the world or in herself, a girl living in constant fear and a deep unhappiness, someone just like me, but things changed for her, as they were changing for me. “Let It Go” became an anthem of sorts for me. If I was in a low mood, struggling for self-confidence or in need of a pick-me-up, it was to this song I turned. As I sang those words, I would feel the release of the tension inside of me. As snow poured from her hands, sorrow and pain poured from mine. As the crescendo built, as the song rose, my heart did so too, my confidence following. Here I would stand and here I would stay. Let the storm rage on. I can handle it. I am strong.

My love for this movie and for this character encouraged me to return to the real world, to rebuild myself as she had done, with the help and love of others. In this costume, I felt far more myself than I did in my regular attire of jeans and graphic t. My sister and I repaired our fractured relationship, my very own Princess Anna, and soon we would spread that joy to all. As Queen Elsa, I make visits to the local children’s hospital and attend events in order to raise funds for various charities. I greet the people of my city with cheer, love and a little magic. It has become an aim of mine to reduce the pain of others, especially children. Sometimes my sister joins me. Dressed as the Frozen sisters we grant hugs, make people smile and spread joy.

Away from Elsa, my cosplay costume choices centre upon strong women, women I admire or have traits I aspire to possess. The sheer badassery of Black Canary, the strength of Batgirl, the gentleness of Cinderella, the sensuality of Starfire. There’s also that romance of cosplaying with my partner, choosing characters in love or with a fun dynamic. He was the one who introduced me to Xcoser and, whilst I have yet to purchase anything for myself, there are a few items in boxes tucked away in my home meant for his birthday and Christmas presents.

Cosplay is the hobby that drew me from my dark place, that assisted me back into the light. Frozen is the film that solidified that journey. Without both of these, without the love and support of my partner, of my family and the friends I have made because of cosplay, I am not sure where I would be now. If I would still be here…but here I stand. And here I’ll stay.
Article by Ashayla Webster

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