MCM London Survival Anxiety Sufferers and the Less Abled

So you’re at a Con,MCM or another, but you suffer with anxiety or you’re less able-bodied than everyone else then you might be feeling more than a little panicky right now.  But fear not because Aunty Vix is here with some useful tips and tricks to get you through the weekend (relatively) unscathed.

Some of you may already know this, but I’m a long-term sufferer of depression and anxiety.  I can’t actually remember a time when I wasn’t anxious to be honest, and being in a place full of people can really freak me out and make me super-duper anxious.  Like, critical mass anxious.  But at the age of 37, I have some fail safe coping mechanisms that I hope might be able to help you too.  I’m also less able-bodied than most, which again can just add to my anxiety.  I have progressive arthritis in my lower spine which can make walking painful and slow if I’ve been on my feet for more than an hour of so, and I also have COPD which is a chronic lung disease.  That on its own can make me tired very quickly and makes walking around more of a chore than perhaps it should.  Add that to my anxiety and it could be a recipe for either a full on panic attack or with me just deciding not to go to an event at the last-minute.  In my defence though, for the last few MCM events I seemed to have contracted pre-con flu which had me out of action and bed ridden for about a week each time.

So, what advice can I offer for the socially anxious and the less able?  Well, I’m glad you asked…

First off, I would like to clarify that I am not registered as disabled.  I am less able-bodied than most people in the sense that I need to use a walking stick if I know I’ll be on my feet for a long time, or will be walking longer distances.  I don’t yet need a wheel chair and I don’t have any life changing special needs.  But I do need to take constant breaks and ‘sit downs’ to give my back and lungs a rest.  For those that are disabled, MCM is quite nicely set up for you.  There is disabled access in the form of ramps and disabled toilet facilities, and most of the aisles and doors are nice and wide so you’ll be able to move your chair around pretty easily.  MCM has a Carer’s Pass programme where the person coming with you to assist you can apply for their own pass.  You can also check the ExCel website for more details of the venue’s accessibility, which includes wheelchair hire, 40 disabled toilets, lifts and facilities for the hearing and sight impaired.

For those of you like me, there are plenty of places with seating areas around the venue so you’ll be able to get a seat fairly easily.  Yesterday on the Friday I managed to get a seat almost instantly where ever we went to find one.  There are a ton of seats in the main atrium outside the various coffee shops and food stands.  Inside the convention, there are lots of big, empty areas for  sitting down and flaking out, so you’re never going to be short of somewhere to sit.

Now onto the anxiety part.

I think everyone gets a little nervous when faced with big crowds, and anyone who doesn’t please tell me your secret!  But seriously, big crowds can be scary and intimidating so here’s a few tricks I’ve learnt over the years to deal with being around a lot of people.

  • Make sure that if you’re in a group you know where you’re all going and what time you’re going to meet and where.
  • Make sure that you have everyone’s phone numbers in your group.  This will make you feel a little less anxious if you know you can contact someone if you get separated or lost.
  • Be aware of where the main entrances/exits and toilets are at the venue you’re going to.  A lot of my anxiety and fear of large planes full of crowds is not knowing where the exits or toilets are.  If you know where the exits are then you know where you can go if the crowds all get a bit too much and you need to go outside for some air and to calm down.
  • Stay hydrated and eat something.  I cannot stress enough how important drinking water and not being hungry is.  It’ll give you more energy and help you to tire out less easily.
  • If you do find yourself getting increasingly anxious and it’s beginning to take over the excitement of the day then remember your breathing exercises.  Nice, slow deep breaths in and out, try to relax your shoulders and arms and just breathe.  Concentrate on controlling your breathing to bring down your heart rate and you’ll find that it will help you to calm down.
  • Keep in your mind that you can leave whenever you want.  You don’t have to stay if its making you super uncomfortable and panicky.  If it all gets too much and you can’t seem to calm down then just go home.  There is absolutely no point in getting super stressed out and anxious being somewhere that is making things worse for you.  You can make the decision to just leave, and I find that really helps me to calm down.
  • If you need to, and are able, have a power nap in the middle of the afternoon.  I’m lucky enough to usually be in an apartment or hotel next to the venue so to be able to keep up with all my nerd buddies, I quite often go back to my room around 2pm for a 30-45 minute nap.  It helps to fight my constant fatigue, but it also gives me some time out away from all the crowds and the over stimulation that Con can bring.  Then I get up, have a cup of tea and maybe something small to eat before I head back into the fray.
  • REMEMBER TO TAKE YOUR MEDS.  I know that Cons are often when you meet up with people who you’ve not seen for ages so you can get swept up in the excitement of it all, but if you take depression and/or anti-anxiety meds, then for the love of Odin remember to take them at your usual time.  Suddenly stopping your medication because you either a) forgot to take them or worse, b) forgot to bring them entirely, is going to make you feel really shitty and more than likely trigger an anxiety attack.
  • Lastly, remember that you’re at Con to have fun and be with your friends.  Don’t let your anxiety spoil any of that.  It is a cruel mistress and can strike at the unlikeliest of times , but don’t let it ruin your weekend and your enjoyment of the things you love.

I hope those tips might help some people who struggle a bit when it comes to conventions.  And hey, if all else fails then you can take the day off and write an article about surviving Con when you suffer with anxiety!

GS Blogger and MCM Reporter: Vix

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