This story starts with my childhood. From the outside, I had great parents and a difficult time at school due to ADHD. Frankly, it was hell. From the start of school until fifth grade, I was subject to the continuous emotional abuse and gaslighting of teachers and school “counselors”. But it didn’t end at school. My emotional problems caused a lot of acting out at home, which I was punished for.
I was suicidal by fourth grade and by the time I was 18, I was carrying a lot of hate in my heart. I knew this was wrong but I didn’t see a way forward. So, when I had the chance, I went on a 3-day spiritual retreat with my dad and a number of other men from my parent’s church. Even if I didn’t get anything out of it, it would be a welcome break from stress at home.
For the first two days, none of us were allowed to speak to each other unless it was absolutely necessary. It was a lot of reading the bible, worship music, a few lectures about how to search inside ourselves and find things that are holding us back. Most of it was basic Cognitive Behavior Therapy with some guidance on prayer and how to meditate on scripture.
All of us had a lot of time alone to reflect on what we had learned and read. I remember being in the middle of the woods, not really sure what do to when something happened I can’t explain.
I was lost in the pain I had been feeling for so long and how much I hated the people who had hurt me so badly. I wanted to pray for their deaths. Then in an instant, I knew how to forgive and let go. The hate I’d carried for so many years was gone. The pain was still there but without hate, it was a far lighter burden.
There was no revelation, nothing I can point to. There was no gradual learning to forgive people. I wasn’t able to forgive and then the next moment, I had the ability to forgive unconditionally.
This is not something that happens in a rational world. And as a logical person I absolutely hate that. It doesn’t compute. People don’t change like that. I’ve had a lot of things happen to me, I’ve gone completely insane and recovered. There is nothing I’ve experienced in my life that is even close.
The only thing I can call it is divine revelation. For a moment, the Divine touched my heart and bless me in ways I can’t understand. Since then, unconditional forgiveness has matured into unconditional love. And I can say for certainty there is nothing more sacred in this world than love.
Because of this, my faith in God is unshakable. I will forever carry his blessing in my heart and treasure it as my mission in life.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Someone asked me how psychosis can feel “normal”. It’s not an easy thing to explain but this my best attempt. As horrifying as my story may sound, I don’t see it that way. For me, this is just a fascinating story about the amazing power of the human mind.
For my entire life, I remember feeling like I was on a rowboat in the ocean. Suicidal thoughts, paranoia, and all kinds of madness were sharks lurking beneath the surface of my mind. They were always present, always ravenous.
I learned at an early age to keep the sharks away. My feelings and perceptions were not reliable but the false thoughts were distinctly different from reality. To compensate, I taught myself to use the rational part of my brain to handle everything.
My parents reinforced this by talking about Satan putting thoughts into people’s heads and that we shouldn’t act on those. Little did they know they were telling me my psychosis was normal. Talking about any unreal thoughts became taboo and I did everything in my power to appear normal to avoid being punished for listening to Satan.
I carried this compulsion into adulthood, where it worked well to keep me appearing relatively normal, with a few paranoid thoughts accidentally escaping in odd places.
During my first two jobs, I thought job interviews were routinely recorded with hidden cameras. Something I saw on TV helped feed that paranoid thought. Then one day I mentioned it in passing and the shocked responses told me I needed to remove that idea from my head.
Things continued fine for a few years, until I ended up under a great deal of stress. My first psychotic break happened. At the time, my boss and I had already been butting heads. I still managed to keep a lid on the paranoia long enough to get fired for calling my boss an idiot in an email instead of being obviously crazy. Fortunately, the relief from being fired reduced the stress enough to allow me to regain control.
Why didn’t I quit? My dad had told me many times to never quit a job before you had a better one lined up. Advice I’d since decided to stop listening to.
After that job, I moved to Ohio and discovered the Furry fandom. It wasn’t long before I found myself on staff at the local convention. Over several years, I took on more and more responsibility. By the time I was 30, I was on the board of directors and throwing my heart into what effectively became a second full time job.
Then in August 2018, at age 32, something snapped. A moment of stress broke the barrier I had in my mind and the sharks came out to play. The stress increased as the date of the convention got closer. My grip on sanity was slipping.
Sometime before the convention, I had an absolutely devastating psychotic break. My imagination merged with reality to such a point, I thought I was a wolf. I’d look at my hands and see paws. I could feel wind in my fur and the weight of my tail. Literally every sensory input was from a different body than my own. My childhood memories were replaced with the wolf’s memories.
This lasted for four months, many weeks after the convention. During this process, everything that was me shattered into a million pieces. My mind was a vase thrown against a wall. This shattering was so traumatic it may have actually caused physical brain damage.
The thing is… I was still functional. I managed to keep going. The rational thinking kicked in and told me to pretend I was human at any cost. My paranoia took that to mean that if anyone found out I was a wolf, I’d be killed. Every day, I went to work having panic attacks over being discovered.
I managed to hide this. I kept my job as a programmer and went to church. People knew I was under stress but they attributed it to other things going on in my life.
During the end of my four months of psychosis, I managed to convince a doctor to prescribe me ADHD meds for three months, before I had to see a psychiatrist.
Being the diligent person I was, when I went to see a psychiatrist, I had my entire life history ready and was able to explain the feeling of sharks in my head. I was immediately diagnosed bipolar, but no one had suspected how severe I was. When this story came out in therapy, I was immediately diagnosed as both severe and high functioning.
In the end, things I have turned out well. Medication has brought me a measure of peace. The sharks aren’t in my head anymore. Unfortunately, stabilizing on medication and no longer needing to constantly fight for sanity completed the shattering of my mind.
At 33, I was left without any self-identity to cling to. I didn’t know who I was or where I was going. But I still had my job and some resemblance of sanity. But it doesn’t end here.
I was aimless for a while until I talked to an old and very wise friend. He told me I wouldn’t know who I was until I had walked in my new life. From what he told me, I realized I had an opportunity most people never get, the chance to completely remake myself as a new person.
Deliberately, I sifted through the pieces of my shattered mind and pulled out my best qualities. I took my internal strength, my confidence in my own abilities, and my ability to heal and forgive. With that as a starting point, I cultivated the kindness my grandmother showed to everyone.
Today, at 34, I’m at the start of a new journey. My old self has died and in it’s ashes, I’ve become Kayode Lycaon. Hopefully a much better person that I used to be.
As a side note… I probably should have chosen a phoenix as my “fursona” but I’d rather not go through with that again. Instead, I choose a painted wolf (aka African wild dog) to be my guide into my new, better life. They are the most selfless of canids, taking care for everyone, and at the same time, the best hunters of all mammal species. A fitting mix for who I’ve become. My kindness is defended with sharp eyes and savage teeth.
I’d like to welcome everyone that’s reading this. Kayode Lycaon is a new name for me. This new name symbolizes one of the biggest changes in my life and I’m happy to have you along for the ride. But if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to tell you how I got here.
I attended a furry convention in October 2013 out of curiosity. I had seen the CSI episode on furries but I’d been interested in furry artwork since I’d discovered the internet some ten years earlier.
How does it feel to be furry?
You belong to a community of people who share your interests. In a lot of ways it’s easier to make friends. It’s a rather gregarious group with a different set of social rules. As one news station said, a hug is the furry shake hand. As a tactile person, it fills a void I feel living in the rest of society.
What type of joy does it bring you?
I remember being six and feeling a “spiritual” connection with wolves. This connection has stayed with my entire life. I find beauty in anthropomorphic artwork. Humanity, with all its flaws does not appeal to me but in The Other, I found a more complete existence. Properly done, the blend of animal and human in artwork feels real to me, alive. To imagine myself being that brings a fulfillment I don’t fully understand. It tells a story I want to engage with.
This feeling deeply inspires my writing. However, this isn’t something that consumes my life. There is a stark separation between this ideal and reality.
When I go to a convention put on a costume, I am still firmly in reality. All I am doing is hiding myself behind a character so I can connect with others in a way I can’t connect with them in person. My costume is far more attractive and interesting than I am. While I play that character, it brings joy and happiness to myself and others around me. It is the most real thing I do. It is the feeling of being right, belonging, and sharing a deep connection. If you’ve ever shared grief at a funeral, this is that feeling, only with a depth of joy instead of sorrow.
This post is summarizing my first furry convention. It originally appeared on my previous website.
I just attended my first furry convention: Fur Reality. I found out about it only a week before it started from a random user on Reddit. Since it was a mere 15 minutes from my apartment in Cincinnati, I jumped at the chance even though there were some complications. My grandparents had already planned on staying at my apartment for Friday night on their annual drive to escape Wisconsin winters by going to Florida. I was going to miss some of the evening sessions. I also had to work Friday so I had to make up some hours on Sunday for leaving early.
I got to the convention in time for the “So this is your first Fur Con?” session. The fursuiters terrified me. I’d seen photos of them before but I wasn’t prepared to see them walking in real life. The panelist explained some basic rules: don’t tackle the fursuiters, don’t touch people without permission, and fursuiters don’t have any peripheral vision so look out for them.
I’m really glad I got to the convention early so I could find out right away there are a couple different types of fursuiters. Some of them don’t talk so they’ll only communicate in gestures or animal noises. Others don’t want to be touched. It took me a while to recognize which was which and figure out how to interact with them.
I stayed around for the next session (Tri-State Meet and Greet) and then hung out in the hotel lobby for half an hour. I ended up talking about Scuba diving and some WWII trivia with one of the other attendees. Then I had to leave to be with my grandparents.
I missed the writing session much to my disappointment but I also missed the movie night turned drinking game turned mass alcohol poisoning. I don’t drink and being the only sober person in a room of drunk furries would not have been good.
Saturday was a blast. I got up a little earlier than usual and drank coffee with my grandparents before seeing them off to Florida. Thanks to my experiences on Friday, I packed a backpack with some water, food, and a notepad. I had a light breakfast at home then drove to the hotel and arrived just before 10am.
The first session was “Intro to Fursuiting”. I wanted to know more about the people that wore animal costumes so I figured it would be interesting. It was pretty much a crash course in etiquette, role playing, and staying healthy. At the end of the session, there were four fursuiters that decided to goof around. That was pretty entertaining and enlightening for me. After watching them role play with eachother, I finally understood what they were doing and how to interact with them.
So I invited one of the fursuiters to hug and scritch like had seen them do earlier. In this context, scritching is basically the same motions as petting a dog. Only the dog is petting you. And the dog is actually a guy (or gal) in an animal suit. If you like hugs and physical contact, it’s actually really nice. That is unless you’re ticklish and the fursuiter has claws on their handpaws.
That ended up being kind of funny. Once the dingo accidentally tickled me, he started doing it on purpose, and chased me when I backed away. It turned into a game for a bit. When I finally ask him to stop, he did. Then he patted me on the back to reassure me it was all in fun. I returned the pat and offered him a hug which he accepted.
This is why I enjoyed the convention so much. It’s a bunch of adults playing. The barrier for physical contact is extremely low. As adults, this kind of close contact is considered inappropriate unless you’re very close friends with the person. This aspect of furry conventions is like a weird version of a cuddle party where half of the people are in animal costumes.
After the “Intro to Fursuiting” session I had a quick break for lunch and then I came back for “Furries in Mainstream Comics”. It was interesting to see the difference in comics from America and those from Europe. In short, I’m disappointed that “funny animals” are limited to kids. I grew up with reading Jack London and Calvin and Hobbes and watching stuff like Disney’s Robin Hood. Why can’t we have more adult-oriented funny animals?
When the comics session wrapped up, I headed over to Pandora Con (a science fiction/steampunk convention Fur Reality partnered with) for the Costume Parade. By the time of the parade I was perfectly comfortable with the fursuiters and really enjoyed watching all of them walking around.
Once the parade wrapped up, I was able to get a photo taken of myself with two fursuiters I had been hanging around with in the morning. I also ended up talking to a teenage boy in a cute and pink mouse costume. He was really excited about Doctor Who which was the Pandora Con theme. I’m going to have to actually watch Doctor Who to make sense of half of the stuff he said. Then I mingled a bit more and took some photos.
Since I had some time to kill before the next Fur Reality session, I headed into the theater where Jason Carter (Played Marcus Cole on Babylon 5) had been talking for an hour and a half to a bored audience. It was painful to watch him completely bomb for the next thirty minutes but I didn’t have anything else more interesting to do.
Finally 4pm rolled around and half of the furry convention and more than a few Pandora Con attendees flooded the theater for “Who’s Lion is it Anyway!”, a variation on “Whose Line is it Anyway?”. It turned out pretty well. The audience played all of the parts and most of the jokes were funny and the ones that weren’t were still amusing in how badly they failed. Doctor Who’s regeneration as a furry blue dragon was rather hilarious with the companion saying “What the fuck are you!?” and the fursuiter replying with shrug, “I have no idea.” It finished with the organizer being quite pleased that the first time he had tried the show both furries and non-furries was one of the funniest he had done. Apparently furries and non-furries don’t always do well in mixed company.
I finished up the night with “Dragget Show Live”. The same guy who did “Who’s Lion is it Anyway?” does a furry podcast with his boyfriend. I’ve listened to the first fourteen episodes and wouldn’t recommend it to my friends. It’s offensive and obscene to large degrees. I find the anti-semetic jokes by the self-proclaimed Jewish-descent Catholic-raised gay ferret to be hilarious. Few, if any, of my friends would laugh with me.
With a new podcast to listen to, I headed home. This would be a good time to mention: if you go to a convention, remember to eat a decent amount of calories (400+) for lunch. I ate very light for both breakfast and lunch and ended up pretty wiped out. If I had been staying at the hotel and gone to the after session parties, it wouldn’t have gone well for me.
I jumped back into the convention at noon for “So you want to build a fursuit?”. I wasn’t all that interested in making a fursuit myself, I was just curious how they were put together. Turns out there is a lot that goes into them that I didn’t think about like molding claws and teeth out of clay. One of the fursuiters, appropriately named “Punk Cat”, decided to drop in and get his tail stuck in the door on purpose just to cause a scene. Everyone in the picture is staring at him instead of moving to help.
After that I did a 2 hour game of “Lupus in Tabula”, a party game similar to Mafia or Werewolf. It was a lot of fun, in the first round I helped lead the villagers to success in lynching the last werewolf. In the second round, I got eaten half way through and eventually so did the rest of the village.
Then the convention finished up with some closing ceremony by the organizer and some of the sponsors. Fur Reality was founded, funded, and organized in just two months. Attendance reached 150 people, there weren’t any major issues with the attendees, and the hotel was thrilled to host the convention.
My first furry convention was a lot of fun. I’ll definitely attend Fur Reality next year if I’m still in Ohio. In the mean time I’m going to look at going to a larger conference early next year.
Four months later, I joined Fur Reality staff. I went on to become Director of Operations in 2017 and Chairman in 2018. After 2018, I stepped down from the position of Chairman and left Fur Reality staff to take care of my own psychical and mental health.