Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Managing Mental Health at Comic Con

“When you hit [rock bottom], that’s when you change.” –Jon Berthnal (The Punisher)

I’ve been going to Comic Conventions for eight years now. In some ways, they’re old news, but I still typically enjoy them. The cosplays, the creativity, and the excitement! So what happened to me at Dallas Fan Expo this month kind of surprised me.

I’ve struggled with mental health in the past and even gotten annoyed with people at Cons before for crowding me (par for the course) but this time I swear I felt claustrophobic around all the people. So my mind started racing: Where did that come from and how would I deal with it? 

I’ve written about mental health and tips for comic conventions in the past, but as my mind started racing it wasn’t exactly clear what I should do. Should I cut my losses and go home? Should I try to stick it out? Granted, my list of things on my to-dos this year was pretty small compared to some years, but I’d still traveled an hour into Dallas to be there. I wanted to make the trip worth it.

Thankfully I managed to calm myself and finish out the Con, at least enough to attend the Punisher and Daredevil panels (I enjoyed their shows, but didn't expect them to get me so excited for Echo and Daredevil: Born Again). And with how many of us geeks seem to deal with some sort of introversion and/or social anxiety, I wanted to share a couple things that helped me that I hope will help my fellow geeks enjoy their next Con. 

1. It’s okay to take a break. I made this point a few years ago when I only had 8 hours total to be at Salt Lake FanX, but it was even more true this year at Fan Expo. There’s so much to do and see at each Con that it feels like I have to check out everything. But that’s simply not true. There’s always the next Con (which will have a lot of the same merch and artwork, so no need to get all your shopping done now). As I re-learned this year, it’s okay to sit in the hall, rest your feet, and breathe for a few minutes before going to your next planned event.

2. Be flexible. Speaking of plans, last year Ryan quoted Captain Cold in saying to “throw away the plan” when things go off the rails. And he was right. My brain is very black and white, so making a conscious effort to be flexible is tough. But with so many variables in play (especially people on the convention floor) the need for flexibility is non-negotiable. You gotta roll with the punches, because otherwise you’ll end up walking into someone on the vendor floor (because people stop in the most random places there). 

3. Give yourself some grace. Despite obviously writing from a religious perspective, I’m not necessarily talking about grace in a religious sense here. I’m talking more about the tendency that many human beings (me being a prime example of this) to expect too much out of ourselves. So whenever a depression flareup happens to me, I start kicking myself for not being able to manage it better (just ask my wife). To paraphrase something Vincent D'Onofrio (Fisk/Kingpin) said at the Daredevil panel, it’s better to embrace imperfection. 

So go in with a plan (but be flexible). Take breaks as needed. And be kind to yourself when things don’t go perfectly. Comic conventions are for everyone, not just the more social among us. So I’ll see you at the next Con!

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