Lets Talk: Post Event Depression, or something more?

Lets Talk: Is it Post Event Depression, or something more?

I think every reenactor is familiar with the feeling of Post Event Depression. It’s that let down & malaise that happens after all the excitement and enjoyment of a successful reenacting weekend. For some it begins as early as Sunday morning when the realization that we will be returning to our “real lives” soon becomes unavoidable. Almost every reenactor has some measure of PED. One of the main ways that people deal with Post Event Depression is by focusing on their next event. It becomes a cycle of staving off the depression, by turning on the excitement of another event. This is why some people seem to be attending events every chance they get and why some reenactors have “multiple era obsession”, reenacting more time periods than they can count. Running from one event to another, from one time period to another, leaves no time to feel bad about the ending of the last one.

Many reenactors are also familiar with Reenacting Burnout, especially those who have been in the hobby for decades. Reenacting Burnout is typified by being tired, overly stressed and generally “not interested” in the hobby. Burnout is that feeling of just being “done”, tired of all the work, the weather, the public. It’s that feeling of really needing a break from the thing that used to be our break. It seems the longer we've been in the hobby and been focused on one singular time period, the easier it is to experience some level of burn out. Whether it’s of reenacting as a whole, or just of specific events or time periods, burnout can happen to anyone.

But what happens when Post Event Depression begins to happen before an event or hits during the height of the weekend? When it’s deeper, longer lasting & the “high” of getting ready for the next event never happens? What happens when the Burnout extends to every aspect of the hobby, and into every time period? What happens when Burnout and Post Event Depression team up?

Welcome to the “Reenacting Blues”

Reenacting Blues is harder to qualify than either PED or Burnout simply because not many people are willing to talk about it. We all admit that PED is real and often joke about it on Sundays as we pack up. Almost everyone knows someone who has experienced Burnout or has gone through a year of it themselves. But there is a stigma attached to the Reenacting Blues. Why?

As far as I can tell, mostly from my own experience and the experience of the few people who will talk about it, Reenacting Blues is related to a desire for improvement, both personally & within the hobby as a whole, but an inability to see or experience the desired improvement. Reenacting Blues can be triggered by lack of recognition by peers or event organizers and is more likely to happen to long term, high level reenactors who put more pressure on themselves and events when it comes to authenticity. These people are also more likely to be involved in the organization of groups and events, which inturn leads to more knowledge about the negative side of reenacting.

That alone is one of the reasons Reenacting Blues is so rarely discussed, because it happens to the “highest level” of reenactors. No one likes to admit that they aren’t doing as well in the hobby as their “rank” and social media profiles might indicate. In our Instagram obsessed world, portraying our lives as anything other than picture perfect is unthinkable. Admitting that we aren’t “the best of the best” in reenacting, that we struggle with feelings of inadequacy & failure, that we are unhappy with our own position in the hobby, goes against that perfect image. For those trying to sell themselves as successful reenactors, leveraging that success into the success of a unit or an event, any admission of imperfection could be disastrous. This inability to admit our own unhappiness or uncertainty about our place in reenacting, just makes Reenacting Blues more likely to happen, that much worse when it does and more likely to result in us leaving the hobby altogether.

At the same time, no one likes to admit that there are inherent problems within the culture of reenacting, problems we have generally turned a blind eye towards for decades. Issues of authenticity vs. entertainment, the place of women, children & minorities in the hobby, portraying the “bad parts” of history, etc. are taboo subjects in all but the smallest circles. There is a fear that openly admitting and discussing these flaws within the hobby will turn away new reenactors. After all, quantity is what really matters at an event, right? Heaven forbid we don’t just talk about the problems, but expect events & organizations to change! This lack of open discussion and the refusal to even consider changing “the way it’s always been” leads those of us who see the flauts & desire improvement, straight into Reenacting Blues. If we do stick it out & try to change the hobby, it can feel like an endless uphill climb. The downside of that hill? Even worse Reenacting Blues than if we had never tried to change anything in the first place.

What happens when we start talking about Reenacting Blues?

If we bring up having the Reenacting Blues we will inevitably get one of two “helpful” suggestions: why don’t we take “a break” from the hobby or try doing it just “for yourself”. Unfortunately, while these methods might work for other reenacting ailments, neither of these addresses the reasons behind Reenacting Blues much less solves it. More often than not, instead of alleviating the problem, following this well meaning advice can actually make our Reenacting Blues worse.

“Taking a break” from reenacting sounds like a great idea at first. After all, the hobby is making us feel terrible and why keep doing something that makes us feel that poorly? A break works great if we are experiencing Burnout. It gives us the time away from the annoyances and problems that have created the burnout in the first place. Unfortunately, when those problems are actually deep rooted issues within the reenacting hobby, walking away from them doesn’t change anything. Sometimes taking a break can actually make things worse, especially if we are one of the only voices pushing for improvement. Without us, the hobby stagnates or worse, regresses. In the end, we come back from our break to the same hobby that we left, with all the same problems, prejudice and frustrations as before. Taking a “break” just doesn’t work for Reenacting Blues.

“Do it for yourself” is another popular piece of advice that those suffering from Reenacting Blues get. The idea is that if you simply stop looking for validation from your peers and events, then you will enjoy the hobby again. The biggest problem with this advice is that it ignores human nature. Early in our reenacting years it might be easy to focus on doing it for ourselves. We have a lot of things to learn, clothing & gear to acquire, research to do, new events to attend. But as the years pass, the more time & effort we invest in the hobby, the more research & knowledge we acquire, the harder it is to simply keep that all to ourselves. Why? Because most of us aren’t selfish. Reenacting is undeniably a community based hobby. Sure we could keep doing it for ourselves, but then why attend events with other people? To brag about how we are “better” than everyone else, to look down our noses at our fellow reenactors? All while not doing something to elevate those around us as well? No thank you.

The flipside of this is that once we reach the point of wanting to help others, we need positive feedback & recognition in order to keep doing it. That’s the other thing focusing on “doing it for yourself” lacks. There is nothing wrong with wanting a pat on the back or a thank you every now & then. Especially for those in the upper tier of reenacting, those of us who have been striving for authenticity for decades, those that have been investing time & effort behind the scenes at events. That little bit of positive reinforcement makes all the hard work worthwhile. After all, we are doing it for the good of our community. Thank you’s are how we tell that our fellow reenactors are benefitting from our efforts. But if we don’t get those kudos, if we are repeatedly passed over for positions or our suggestions are ignored (if not outright attacked), then Reenacting Blues can set in. The more our efforts are rebuffed, the deeper the feeling that we aren’t really important to the hobby can become and the more likely we are to give up entirely.

Then how do we handle Reenacting Blues?

Unfortunately, this is where I run into a giant wall. You see, I have been slowly sinking into the Reenacting Blues for several years and nothing I have tried seems to be stopping it. Over the past 3 years I have struggled to find recognition and appreciation that feels equal to the level of effort I put into the hobby. I have fought to improve authenticity standards, tried to make the hobby more accessible to other women, tried to expand experience based reenacting, only to either be outright ignored or passed up in favor of someone with less knowledge or experience because of their personal relationships with those “in power”. I have tried to refocus on just reenacting for my own enjoyment, but it feels shallow to be hoarding everything I have learned and not contributing back to the hobby in some way, especially when I see new reenactors struggling with the same things I struggled with a decade ago.

So if I haven’t been able to overcome my Reenacting Blues, how do I manage to still be in the hobby at all? Luckily I have been able to find some people who are willing to talk about their own experiences with Reenacting Blues and have found some comradery among other reenactors. It’s only a handful of very close friends at this point and there are still many who don’t understand my feelings or take them personally. But just knowing that this isn’t an isolated feeling, that there are others out there who also have experienced Reenacting Blues or who are still struggling, has helped at least solidify what I am feeling. It has also given me a safe sounding board for those times when I am really, really close to completely giving up the hobby. These friends somehow manage to pull me back from the edge & give me just enough hope to keep going.

I think too, the hobby as a whole needs to be more aware of all the reenacting ailments, not just Post Event Depression but Burnout & Reenacting Blues as well. We need to stop assuming that someone isn’t attending events because their everyday life is “too busy” and start examining the real reasons that good, active reenactors suddenly leave the hobby. The more I delve into my own experience with Reenacting Blues, the more I start to wonder about those people whom I remember being so active years ago, but who haven’t been to an event in ages. Did they leave because they weren’t getting the recognition in the hobby that they needed? Did they give up because of problems in the hobby that we still aren’t addressing? Was there something I could have done to help them keep reenacting, or is there something I could do to encourage them to return? What role did Burnout or Reenacting Blues have to play in them leaving the hobby? Will that eventually happen to me as well?

In the end, I still have Reenacting Blues but I have managed to (almost) make it through another reenacting season. Even though my event count is down to the single digits & nothing like those first years when I would attend an event a month, I have managed to attend every event that I registered for, haven’t left one early because of the Blues & am more than 50% confident that I will attend at least a couple of events as a participant next year. When you are struggling with the Reenacting Blues, that’s about as good as it gets, I guess.

Have you ever experienced any of the reenacting ailments like Post Event Depression, Burnout or Reenacting Blues? How have you coped or are you still struggling like I am?

See you in the past!


  1. WWII, After 14yrs, I struggle with Reenactor Burnout.
    Tired of the drama, tired of the elitist types, tired of public ignorance spawn by hatered, tired of being called a racist, a Nazi, ...etc.
    ya, I feel it.

    1. Sorry to hear you’re experiencing burnout. It defiantly seems to hit around the 10 and over mark. I wonder if that’s just because it stops feeling “new” at that point?

  2. The burnout comes for me when I have to travel 1,000+ miles to get to an event and the cost of gas can be $250. I have no idea how my husband goes to events by himself. If I did not have a driving partner to get home, I would not be able to do it.

    1. "Shared suffering"! Makes total sense. There are definitely times when the people I'm going to the event with, or going to see at the event, are the entire reason I manage to go.

      Still there is that part of me that says, "If I see these folks in modern times, we could also be in comfortable clothing & not keep being interrupted by the public".


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