J. Brad Hicks (bradhicks) wrote,
J. Brad Hicks

I Discovered a New Personal Limitation

On a personal note, I've been feeling very fragile for about a week, now - to the point where I really thought I was over it, really thought I was feeling better by Saturday, only to get emotionally and physically exhausted by something I usually enjoy, the local Polymunch. I know why, too; I just don't know how long it's going to take me to get over it.

It would appear that there is an upper limit to how long I can room-pack for a convention, and that limit seems to somewhere between 60 and 70 hours. I can even tell why: that is how long I can go, apparently, without any privacy or any control over parts of my environment. At this year's Worldcon, by the morning of the 5th day without those things, the 5th day of sharing a hotel room with 3 other people, I was desperately wanting to gargle a shotgun. As soon as I got home from Worldcon, I locked myself in my apartment and slept for a nearly straight 36 hours, and refused to leave the house even for grocery shopping for another 36 hours after that no matter what I was out of.

I think I get it, too. Sensory equilibrium is hard for me to maintain; losing control over the lighting levels and the thermostat is rough on me. But there's more to it than that, something that hits me even harder. Attempting to read other people's facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice, let alone attempting to modulate mine so that they can comprehend them, are very, very, very mentally demanding activities for me; on the best day of my life, I don't do any of those things especially well. To do those things even as poorly as I do them requires a fair amount of concentration, especially if even one of the people isn't somewhere on the autism spectrum; non-autistics have (what feel to me like) unreasonable expectations of proficiency at those things.

And for as long as I have memories, as far back as age 4, I have always dealt with this the same way: when I cannot do it any longer, when I will simply go mad if I can't have some time to relax and get some thinking and/or reading done without having to interact with other people, I go to whatever room is designated for me only, I turn all but one low-lumen light source off, and I close the door, and I take off every scrap of fabric that binds or chafes in any way, and I don't turn the lights back up or put on street clothes or open that door until I've recharged enough to do it some more. (If, as usually happens, I notice this need right away, it's seldom longer than a day, and sometimes as little time as a few hours.) It's not because I'm anti-social; most of that time, I'm bored to death and would really rather be around other people. I just know that I can't do it without freaking out, losing my mind, and choking on my rage that other people want more out of me than I can do.

That's how I was able to stay married for almost three years: I had a room in the basement, dedicated to my hobby, and right up until everything else went wrong with my marriage, she respected a closed door and respected my need to control the environment in that room. That's how I acquired a reputation for generous hospitality back at the old Brad Davidian Compound, where I always had at least one live-in houseguest and sometimes as many as three of them: that whole time, I also had one room with a door that could be closed that nobody came into without my invitation except (on tiptoe, whispering, terrified of doing so, I was later told) during an emergency. It's part of why I'm gods' own perfect secondary in poly relationships: I have a lot of love in me and a lot of need to give and no possessiveness whatsoever, but on the other hand I also really don't have it in me to be there 24 x 7 x 365* for anyone, no matter how much I love them or they love me.

I've room-packed for cons before, I've been dirt-poor at least a third of my years in fandom. Heck, I've been to cons during years when I was couch-surfing, borderline homeless. But none of those times were for cons longer than 60ish hours, so I never noticed that I had this limitation until now. Chicon 7 was the longest I've ever been at a convention, the whole five days and four nights. Apparently I can't do that without getting my own room. It's good to know that, so I don't do that again, although Eris knows what'll happen whichever year it is I get around to going to Dragoncon, given how expensive and hard to find solo hotel rooms are for an event that size. Possibly just "not go for all of it," make sure that I have solo transportation that gets me out before the 60 hour mark if I have to room-pack. A budgetary complication, but one I'll probably find some way to hack around. Part of why I'm so high-function is that I have the long-term attention span to keep nibbling at a problem, a little at a time, until I can engineer a work-around for my limitations.

But, yeah: for those of you who need to know, Brad can only socialize in very small-group contexts, and for short spans of time, until further notice. I'll let you know when I'm feeling more resilient. Trust me I'll let you know! By that time, I'll be lonely and bored to death.

P.S. 24 x 7 x 365 is a weird cliché now that I think about it. Shouldn't that read 24 by 7 by 52?

P.P.S. This is all just another reason to miss the Libertalia, my long-ago disintegrated Pace Arrow motorhome. When I had it, I could go to any event and always have not just all of my clothes and all of my books and all of my groceries with me, I always had my own bedroom.
Tags: personal, polyamory, science fiction
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