I can be positive all I like concerning my neurological issues, but of course there are restrictions on what I can and cannot do. Everybody has their stone walls and glass ceilings, whoever they are and regardless of health, fitness and/or disability.
In August of this year I was lucky enough to be able to attend the 2012 Discworld Convention in Birmingham, where I made friends with Death (pictured), was wished good morning by a Golem and chatted with Offler the Crocodile God. I sang songs, got drunk with friends and generally made a fool of myself, which is the Convention Way. There were silly costumes, brilliant costumes and lots of cosplay – only at a fan convention will you initially fail to recognise a friend because he isn’t covered in blue body paint and prancing about half-naked!
However, I was at the convention with my husband D, surrounded by friends and Convention Committee members who are aware of my needs (I refuse to say “special” needs as I find that quite derogatory). If things became too much I could escape to our room, or go swimming, or sit in the bar with my sewing – just watching the world go by and chatting to the occasional passing Watch member or Barbarian. Sensory overload was not an issue because I was never alone; D could leave me if he needed to because he always knew that I was being watched by others and I had escape routes if I needed them.
For those reasons alone I was able to relax – and I had a blast. Yes I ended up spending time with paramedics and getting sick, but that’s all part and parcel of being me and is completely expected at conventions: if it wasn’t me it was somebody else, because at these things you tend to overdo it even if you have known triggers that you try to avoid. Everybody is overtired, overwhelmed and over-excited at these events, so even someone with no known issues will occasionally find themselves in an ambulance or having some kind of sensory overload.
We shall sadly be passing up the 2014 Discworld Convention, as the venue has moved to Manchester and it will be too difficult for us to get to in the car – and I am unable to use public transport unless it takes me directly to my destination.
Instead, I was making plans with a friend to visit Birmingham Expo/ComicCon next year. That is, until I looked it up.
I would be travelling alone, which neither my doctor nor my neurologist recommend. I would have to meet up with my friend and find a hotel, because this event – unlike Discworld – isn’t held in a hotel.
There are also a lot of people – it looks like a quiet day at Camden Market (which I can cope with because that’s out in the open air).
I would be subjected to being squashed and hearing a lot of noise. I would have no pool or quiet bar to escape to and I would have to have my hand stamped so that I could leave the event and go and sit in my hotel room. There would be too much noise and too many people with only Laura to cope should I suffer a seizure or a meltdown. That wouldn’t be fair on her – she’s my friend and not my carer.
Believe me, this would be a meltdown asking to happen. Also, Expo closes its doors at 5pm. What on earth would I do after that? It’s one thing to do nothing by choice because you know that your hobbies and interests are to hand, but being stuck in a hotel room with only a Kindle and cross-stitch for company unless Laura and I want to spend stupid amounts of money in a pub? We couldn’t even sneak wine up to our rooms because there wouldn’t be anywhere to buy it. I would be freaking out and throwing myself at the walls, and then there’s the possibility that Laura would feel obliged to sit in my room with me just in case, until I was ready to sleep.
You’re possibly wondering why D wouldn’t come with me. Well, he has sensory issues and can be oversensitive to sound and crowds (although he isn’t autistic) and he needs a break from caring for me in places that aren’t home. We both enjoy our brief weekends in Cheltenham with my son and my family, but that’s pretty much our limit.
The moral of my story? You are not washed up and nothing is hopeless – but some things are beyond your reach (even if only temporarily) – and you need to learn your limits before you dive in and cause yourself possible harm. Don’t feel bad about it and don’t get yourself into that nasty “I wish” mode. Perhaps you can’t achieve it now, but it doesn’t mean you never will.
I’ll make it to Expo one day. Just not now.