I went to Planet Comicon this past weekend. I had a great time overall, but there were, as always, some physical and mental issues that I had to deal with. Since I’ve been paying much more attention lately to how I deal with my environment, examining why I feel the way I do at certain times and what could be triggering me, I made some notes:
- One of the defining characteristics of ADHD is heightened sensitivity, both physically and emotionally. When there’s a lot of sensory input coming in, like lots of different conversations buzzing around, music, announcements, bright lights, flashing lights, and so on and so forth, it’s easy for me to become overstimulated and overwhelmed. One way I dealt with this was to not have too many plans at the convention. It wasn’t anything I purposefully set out to do, but when I got there, I just wandered around, letting myself be distracted and drawn to whatever was the shiniest, basically drifting on a sea of sound and vision. And it was fun! Even when I made plans to meet up with friends, I left the plans vague enough that I didn’t feel pressured to try to focus on one thing or another for too long (or to be at a certain place at a certain time, because that’s a stressy buzzkill).
- On the downside, the convention hall was consistently hot. I don’t do well in heat. Never have. I shed and adjusted some of the layers I arrived in, but I never really got comfortable, feeling flushed and sweating and sluggish almost the entire time. This hit at my emotional sensitivity, making me tired and cranky, which in turn cranked up my anxiety and the feeling of being overwhelmed. As the day went on, I felt more and more drained, even when I was enjoying myself.
- As an extrovert, I need interaction with people to energize myself. This can be an uneven affair when I go somewhere alone, like I did to the con. Social anxiety means it’s not always easy for me to strike up conversations with strangers, and being in a sea of strangers can be really, really overwhelming. I connected with some friends at points during the con, and chatting with them, joking around, getting handshakes and hugs, that all helped dial the anxiety down and even helped me block out some of the overwhelming sensory input.
- However, being at the con alone meant I had too-long stretches of time with no one to talk to or have physical contact with. I think that was a big mistake. I’d do much better having at least one companion to interact with and touch.
- Touch can be a funny thing. Physical contact with people is very comforting for me–unless I’m physically uncomfortable, when it can be jarring. Being overheated in the convention hall meant there were a number of times when I didn’t want to touch anyone or anything. Which, again, dialed the anxiety up. (Also, if I’m not sure if physical contact is welcome, I feel nervous and insecure and afraid to touch people, which, yup, dials the anxiety up.)
If I were going to do it all over again, I think only a couple of changes would have made a big difference:
- Wearing just a T-shirt and shorts (instead of the jeans, button-down shirt, and bow tie I wore) would have kept me cooler, enough that I wouldn’t have felt so uncomfortable, cranky, drained, anxious. I would rather dress up (I don’t really do cosplay, but I do like to look dapper).
- Bringing a companion/plus-one along, or going with a group of friends, would have kept me more anchored and energized, less lonely and anxious.
Being attentive to my state of being and my surroundings, and running this self-diagnostic after the fact, was very helpful in getting better at living well with ADHD (and, yes, anxiety). As Stan Lee would say, Excelsior!