Where I came from, and why I was inspired to develop a practice in Costume Therapy…
Greetings world! My name is Danielle I. Diamond, born Danielle Barnes, in March of 1988 in the bible-belt farming town of Abbotsford, BC. I was a shy & sensitive soul who spent a lot of time alone, but absolutely came ALIVE on the stage! My dear mother had me in dance classes by the age of 3.
My father was a genius. He was a major influence on my love for music & the dramatic arts, but was also an addict & an emotionally manipulative parental figure who required years of emotional labour from me. While remaining the absolute apple of my eye, his addict behaviours started when I was around 4 years old & our home life became a well managed albeit destabilizing combination of secrets, fights, disappearances, substance abuse, fear, and sadness.
My Mother has always been incredibly independent, witty to a fault, & profoundly innovative in areas of problem solving, and making something FABULOUS out of nothing. She did her absolute best to support my sister and I while we were growing up, managing an abusive relationship that created emotional & financial distress in every area of our lives that finally ended in divorce.
Her and I found solace in the Christian church, & from a young age I became obsessed with following it’s doctrine. Church was safe, consistent and reliably regulated…it fed my spiritual appetite which was surprisingly strong for such a young person. On the flip side, this religious belief system filled me with a deep & complex fear of ‘God vs the Devil’, resulting in a serious childhood paranoia that no one could see.
I quickly developed an unhealthy self-image, deeply hating myself, believing I was incredibly ugly, unloveable and a loser. This mindset started very early for me, maybe 5th grade?
I was the kid that was made fun of in elementary school for trying so hard on all her projects. I was afraid of the ball in gym class & was the first to raise my hand when the teacher asked a question, Sometimes the leader of wild imaginary games on the playground, other times a target for bullies, as a highly empathic kid, I took the bullying to heart, never developing the backbone to stand up for myself & lacking the personal confidence to laugh it off.
It was this inconsistent peer engagement that triggered my first experience with ‘aspect-splitting.’ The summer before going into high school I designed a new & improved version of myself, showing up for my first day of class with a faux bad attitude, a new pushup bra, eyeline, swear words, and a steely determination to BECOME one of the popular kids, in order to gain access to their world & escape their taunts.
Early high school was a wild ride. Between fighting for freedom from my highly over-protective mother (I had to sneak watch Spice World at my friend Caitlyn’s house), and reckoning with the profound religious experiences I was having in the church, I quickly lost sight of who I really was. In 10th grade I changed schools for a fresh start, got baptized, and became very deeply committed to repressive biblical teachings & cultivating a ‘relationship with Jesus’.
I went on multiple missions trips, spoke the gospel to addicts in the street (my Father was long gone by these days), taught Sunday school, sang on the worship team, and was saving myself for my future husband. Yes, you can laugh here!
After graduating high school I spent one year enrolled in a cult-like dormitory style bible college, then completed two semesters toward a degree in psychology when I pivoted sharply & moved to Vancouver to pursue acting. It was in my first year film school that I began my elegant ‘fall from grace.’
A massive awakening began with a sexual assault on my virginity. This coupled with my discovery that I could escape my paranoia by drinking, I began what would be a decade long identity crisis & broke from the Christian church. My entire world view crumbled…taking my community, my family & my sense of belonging along with it.
I dropped out of film school after being victim blamed in my assault case (perpetrator was a fellow student), and shapeshifter into an after hours party girl. I let go of my dreams to become a professional actor & started go-go dancing, modelling & living a fashion-scene socialite lifestyle with a ‘give no fucks anymore attitude,’ and a taste for designer drugs.
I lived lavishly on little, and spent all my time performing, partying, & making elaborate art with some of the underground art scene’s most eccentric club kids. I began to question my sexual orientation & my gender identity while in this phase which lead me to spending 6 years living as a fairly radical lesbian.
I was quickly spiralling into depression, showing symptoms of mood disorders, anxiety, drug & alcohol abuse, & questionable lifestyle choices.
Though I was actively digging into my psyche for answers & relief, I had meltdowns in-front of my closet on a weekly basis, was losing control over my anxiety, and failing to stay sober even after moved to the North Shore to get away from the city.
As a young person I had learned that ‘being not okay’ was not okay, and so I faced this crisis without any professional help or emotional support of any kind. I was desperate for a solution but I didn’t know how to name what was happening to me OR how to ask for help.
I experienced many failed attempts at finding new spiritual truths, supportive communities, or mentors that could see how sick I was and help lift me into the light.
What happened instead of professional help was a twisted, damaging & experimental path towards harmony. I hurt many people in attempt to sort out just who I was and how I wanted to appear in the world.
In late 2016, having come to what felt like a dead end in my creative/personal/wellness aspirations, I made a dramatic move, shocking! I sold all my belongings & left the country catching a flight to Guatemala after deciding that the heat, sand and sun would heal me. I stripped myself of my creative identity, (another aspect shift) and showed up in hostel town as a tomboy with a bad hair cut, a serious drinking problem, and no flight home.
The sand, sun, and heat were marvellous but Central America turned out to be overwhelming, exhausting, & drained me of what little life force I had left. Nevertheless, it was the beginning of my return ‘home.’ I found my way as a nomad, reunited with Nature and began working with herbal medicine. A few years later I went through religious trauma therapy, started seeing a clinical therapist, & developed my own unique Spiritual practices.
Today I look back and marvel at the protective forces that must have kept me alive all those years I was gambling with my life. I have a deep gratitude for all the guardian angels along the way, who whether in word or deed, helped push me along the path to where I am now. Though I still have my moments of confusion, for the most part my identity has stabilized. I am learning how to work with my unique brain function, am happily sober & hearing Life tell me that it’s time to share my medicine.
The practice of Costume Therapy is essentially a space I am creating that can provide one with the tools that I would have loved to encounter when I was deep in my process. By naming it Costume Therapy, I mean to convey an image of a healing practice that one can use on one’s own. The practice itself is the medicine, not the practitioner. I offer guidance. Clients, with the aim of achieving an aspirational level of wellness & inner harmony, can maintain it on their own when they feel ready.
I still continue to use this practice with myself & probably always will. It’s part of my regular wellness routine alongside with the usual suspects of meditation, healthy diet, & fresh air. Costume Therapy helps me maintain a grounded mental state, a secure attachment with self, and a deep connection with the abundant humor and light-ness of our muti-dimensional creative reality.
-D I. Diamond.
PS If you got a kick out of these few pics documenting some of the major shifts I went through you can check out my full personal & costume therapy transformations here!