Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I loved NYCC, but...

Recognize anyone around me here?
So let me talk about conventions for a minute.

I really, really like them. I love meeting other artists in the artists' alley and making friends who share my interests. It's a ton of fun to see people cosplaying, as well, and sometimes I'll even cosplay, too. As the Stig at New York Comic Con this year I must've been recognized by hundreds of people (because let's be honest, who doesn't watch Top Gear?).

But therein lays my problem - hundreds of people. When I'm selling my art, it's great - I sit behind a table and people come to me. There's a barrier between me and the rest of the con. I can interact with people in turn and it's safe and easy to manage. When I'm not behind a table, things get very scary. The crowds are often huge. I can get lost in them. They jostle me around as I try to get to wherever I'm going. I'm short, so it's hard for me to see.

Oh, and as the title of this blog suggests, I have Asperger's. Yeah.

Crowds are really not my thing. Back in April, one of my two best friends and I went to a concert. It turned out to be standing room only and I was nearly suffocated being pushed into the barrier. I was also in constant physical contact with people and it was loud and dark. To add insult to injury, a crowd surfer slammed into the back of my head, leaving me concussed. It took me more than a week to recover.

This past weekend I was at NYCC, and back in June I was at AnimeNEXT. The last two cons I had been to prior to that, NYCC 2011 and MangaNEXT, found me behind tables selling (at MangaNEXT, I was my friend's table helper; at NYCC, I sold my own art). At my two most recent cons, I got overwhelmed and had full-on Asperger's meltdowns. Although I didn't show this outwardly, on the inside I was having panic attacks and eventually escaped to quiet places so I could recover.

I hadn't had a meltdown at a convention since Otakon in 2010, the last convention I'd been to before I started selling. This past weekend, it dawned on me that the cons I'd survived the best were the ones I'd been behind a table at. A depression fell over me on Sunday as I realized that I mentally was unable to handle conventions unless I was selling. I would have to give something up that I loved dearly unless I came up with new coping strategies.

I cried over this. Usually you don't have to give something up because of your health when you're only 23. Self-awareness is amazing and makes you feel very mature, but sometimes realizing what your limits are really hurts. I keep thinking about it now and feeling awful about it even though I know my health has to come first. It's a truly miserable feeling.

I'm going to get through this just fine. I'll figure out what strategies work best for me. For now, though, I'm feeling rather awful even though I had a good time when I wasn't out in the crowd. I'm terrified that I'm going to have to stop doing something I love simply because of who I am.

And that's just not fair to anyone.