Disclaimer: As always, if you’re dealing with sensitive mental or emotional issues, please talk to someone or seek help from a professional.
Even though finding a sense of belonging in a fandom helped me, I found help elsewhere, too.
Low self-esteem. Berating, critical thoughts. Crippling depression.
These are just a few of the phrases I use to describe my time in middle school. Like many other teenagers, handling the many changes and emotions that happen naturally was incredibly difficult. I was super self-conscious, had low self-worth and found that most days, it was hard to just get out of bed. I had negative thoughts about anything and everything. I couldn’t relate to people my age and even grew anxious at the thought of friends.
Even though I was a straight-A student, I felt that I had no one to turn to, even my closest family members.
I was depressed and to me, things weren’t ever going to get better.
So I did what I knew best. I buried myself in books, movies and writing to find some solace. Little did I know, my writing would take me to a place where I could simply be me.
One of the very first fandoms that I considered to be a part of was the Star Wars community. I grew up watching the original trilogy on VHS. Playing with lightsabers and pretending to use the Force happened more often than not in my house. When “The Phantom Menace” restarted the saga, I experienced an expansion of the story during some very formative years of my life.
I was blown away by the number of people on these sites, the wide array of topics being discussed and how welcoming they all were. Plus, I had been writing some Star Wars fan fiction (no shame) and Jedi Council Forums gave me a place to publish freely, without fear of other users only disliking the stories because they knew me personally.
By regularly talking with people who were as passionate as me, it made me realize that I wasn’t weird. I just loved things to the extreme. I obsessed over movies, characters and writing, and that was perfectly fine. I enjoyed being a part of a fandom that proudly declared their love of stories, characters and each other.
Posting in these communities boosted my self-confidence and helped me understand that my personality was to be celebrated, not hidden.
By the time I started high school, I had a more concrete sense of who I was and never felt the need to hide what I loved to do. I never felt the need to act a certain way or pretend to be someone I wasn’t (all the time). I broke out of my shell and became friends with people that I still consider my best friends today.
And although I don’t spend nearly as much time in forums and online communities now – thanks adulthood! – I owe so much to all to the people I met online during that time. Because they encouraged my love of Star Wars and other fandoms through fan fiction and discussions on how we related to the stories and characters, I was able to find a safe haven when I felt vulnerable.
I still deal with negative thoughts and depression today, but I couldn’t imagine where I would be if it wasn’t for those who helped me during this extremely trying time.
So when people scoff at your love of movies, TV shows, anime, novels, etc., remember that these passions, hobbies and yes, even obsessions, can be a part of conquering our personal demons.
And the people who understand you best can sometimes be thousands of miles away.