I was diagnosed with clinical depression in my 20’s. It was the first time anyone had ever been willing to acknowledge that it was a real problem, with a real course of treatment. Anyone that has ever had to take medication for a mental health problem knows, all too well, the shaming that goes along with it, from those that cause the problem, to begin with. Yes, my depression was partly caused by a chemical imbalance, but it was also situational, which is what a doctor and a therapist both said, in the presence of one of my abusers. Prior to a diagnosis, I was just blamed for being “crazy.” After being diagnosis, it just became more ammunition that could be used against me, to destroy my credibility, by those that needed to feel powerful, in control, superior to me, on every level, at all costs. Throughout my life, I have found that shame seems to be weapon of choice by those that don’t want to admit that life happens, and that we are all wired differently. What works for me, may not work in the same way for others. But one thing does remain. We do need the same things to make life livable. That, of course, leads to the desire and need for authentic community. I have often wondered how much of our mental health issues would actually decrease in severity if we were just given the things that we need, instead of having to endure the never-ending power issues of human ego. I got into the whole cosplay convention scene a couple of years ago, and I have learned so much, just in that time, that I could have been taught my whole life, but wasn’t. I learned more in one year of cosplay, than I learned in 40 years of having religious ideology forced into places, that it didn’t belong in. Everything that I wasn’t allowed to matter in, get credit for, or get any kind of recognition for, was immediately on display, and being noticed by my new environment. This scared me at first, because of how predatory people had always been, when they saw who I am, and what I am capable of. Whatever I was passionate about, and showed real love for, seemed to be what was most targeted for destruction, for whatever reason. It seems that it was always my values were being chopped down, which was ironic, since it was always people that were trying to give the appearance of value within themselves, that was superficial and/or nonexistent. Have unique gifts and talents? ….not anymore among the toxic, jealous, and covertly narcissistic. I was careful to tread lightly for a while, until I saw that the honor, comfort, respect, and connection that was being made possible was actually real for once, with those that had been put through the same nightmare I had known. I had spent a lifetime being manipulated for being intelligent, creative, imaginative, intuitive, and empathetic. This ALWAYS invited criticism, isolation, rejection, and abuse, by the religiously entitled. So I didn’t understand why it all of sudden was worth something to people, that I figured were just tolerating me, because they liked the way I made them feel, because I was useful to them. I was drawn into pop culture and nerd conventions, because of a new fandom. But in the process of meeting new people, that are much younger than me, I started noticing that I was being brought back to that season of my own life, and being given the opportunity to reconnect to what had once brought me joy, in it’s own way. I didn’t realize how much of my life had been stolen, and how much of my heart and soul had been crushed under the constant condemnation of those that only wanted compliance, rather than any kind of real life with me, until I met people that wanted connection as much as me. I had never understood why people were so easy to silence with shame, that wasn’t theirs to carry, until I had an interesting revelation one day about one of my favorite fictional characters. My cosplay character is Black Widow. I admit that she is a product of my obsession with Loki. Men like him scare me in ways that I have never known how to really handle. I just knew that there was something unconscious within me, that would always be drawn into that kind of chaos. It was like it had become my favorite flavor of poison. I love Black Widow from the first time I saw her. It wasn’t until later, that I realized just how much I personally identify with her. She was the only female Avenger, that had the courage and the ability to confront Loki, and to play him at his own game. What I wanted and needed was to feel empowered in ways that I had always been demoralized and made to feel hopeless in. Cosplay brought me so much confidence, that I had never known, or had been allowed to know the reality of. Someone was always slapping my hands away from it, and shoving me back into yet another corner, so that I would never know enough to even have a sense of personal identity. After a season of serious introspection, where I was feeling a bit defeated, I noticed something interesting. Loki is a complex character, that feels disenfranchised, because he is caught between worlds, which give him different identities. Whenever he makes his first appearance in the first Avengers, he introduces himself in a specific and direct way. “I am Loki of Asgard, and I am burdened with glorious purpose.” The only time he ever refers to being Loki of Jotenheim, is when he is trying to deceive an opponent, that he is playing his mind games with. I also speculate that he was under the influence of the mind stone staff that he was given by the Chitauri, when he first appeared in the Avengers. He felt the weight of the mission that he was on, and knew that it did carry a certain amount of glory, if he succeeded. He knew his purpose in that moment, which wasn’t something he had ever really been allowed to know. Fans of this series, know about why he would feel this way, after a lifetime of being denied his rightful place in his father’s kingdom. I took it in a more personal and spiritual direction, because of my own experience. More often than not, it is not what you say and/or do that is perceived as shameful, disgraceful, or even wrong. It is the glory attached to the purpose of what you are doing. Once I realized this, some many things started to fall into focus. Spiritual warfare is very real, but is not usually seen as empowering or evidence of anything positive. It is usually just used as an excuse to whine and blame. I see spiritual warfare as the price you pay for passage, which is what Loki saw as worthy of the trouble he was going to get into. Yeah, he may have been blinded by the power he held, and might have been only focused on winning. But at the same time, it is spiritual warfare that teaches you how to win, and to maintain victory in your life. The key to this seems to be in having conviction, which is a reminder of what is true, regardless of how things go, that threaten to obstruct and defeat your efforts. Condemnation is the direct opposite of conviction, but most people don’t know that, because they haven’t been taught what is true, to begin with. So they have been programmed to react to being condemned. So basically, everything that someone tries to rectify after that, will be viewed through a lens of condemnation, rather than conviction. I have found that this right here is the source of most of the despair that we feel in our lives. It is like self-sabotage, when we don’t recognize all the ways we are being controlled by external influences, that promise us power, without also taking responsibility for the consequences of it. Those of us that are fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, know that Loki got locked up in his own prison, more than once. And that is usually what happens when we operate out of condemnation, rather than conviction. We end up trying to do the same to others, sometimes, without even consciously realizing it, because we are afraid of being left alone by those that we do care about. Even after years of study, research, and introspection, I still don’t know the answers to some things, but I do know this. Friendship is the one thing that will make all the difference in a life, that has been made feel alone in the darkness of their own personal reality. Can you imagine for a moment, what Loki must have felt, before he was found as a baby? He was born on a cold, dark planet, that was desolated by war, and left to die without hope. When he was found by a king, he became an heir to that kingdom, regardless of his past, or his birthplace. That king also became his father, that raised him as his own, even if some injustices still ruled over the life he was given. This is one of the greatest spiritual parallels I have ever seen, and it was written by an atheist. Sometimes, it takes an “outsider” to understand what the rest of us only feel the influence of.