Crowds were a lot for 6 year old Salem. He would become overwhelmed by the noise and the movement. All of his senses crashing in on one another like a cacophony of awareness and impressions. Engaging with others was out of the question. A panic would set in. The problem with this, beyond the stress of it all, was that Salem loved going to anime conventions. He loved the costumes, the characters, the community of people who treasured the same fantastical flights of the imagination as himself. It was tragic that the thing he loved the most was also the thing that caused him the most pain.

Slowly though, he began to practice what is known as cosplay, which is the practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game, especially one from the Japanese genres of manga and anime. The costume allowed him to be whatever character he wanted. He could be people he loved and admired. His confidence grew and he began to withstand the crowds. He began to take pictures with people and be in groups. Today he is working to realize his dream of being a professional cosplayer and to be a guest at an anime convention. We all have triggers that set in motion a domino of stress and anxiety. Some people journal to cope with the triggers, some people exercise, and some put on headphones, for Salem, it’s cosplay.