Saturday, 16 April 2016

Dealing with over stimulation in public

The trouble with doing anything really big and popular (like attending a Derby Day!) is that it's virtually guaranteed to cause a whole host of autism problems at the time and/or later.

The main reason for this is that, obviously, a lot of other people are wanting to do it as well so there are massive crowds to deal with, often lots of excitable children running around, generally public transport to deal with and fairly often nowadays a big publicity/marketing machine blasting out adverts and music at high volumes.

All of this leads to a massive drain on energy levels just to keep that 'public face' mask on - the one that looks happy and calm and isn't showing the intense pain that's being experienced at the time. I understand the need for big venues (particularly sports venues) to create and stimulate 'atmosphere' but I would like some acknowledgement of the cost of this on people like me.

Today's Saracens vs Quins game at Wembley was wonderful but there were moments when I could have done without the random blasting of pop music and the overly excitable commentator. Overall though Wembley/Saracens did pretty well at hosting an enjoyable but relatively autism friendly event.

By far and away the worst event I have been to in my life however was back in November when I went to the O2 arena to see the Tennis ATP finals (Murray vs Nadal). What I endured there actually drove me to tears and ended up forcing me to leave early as I simply could not bear to remain in that environment any longer. The whole venue was blue coloured (as it was sponsored by Barclays Bank who are blue themed) which meant that wherever there was lighting it was the blue shade that makes me automatically think of emergency services sirens which leads to low-level but consistent anxiety. Most of the problems I had with the venue (very airless and 'close') could have been overcome but for the damn graphics the event insisted on using every time there was a challenged decision - a pulse beat on the screen and at full volume echoing across the court. Now, maybe its just me but I hear a beat that sounds similar to a heartbeat and my heart subconsciously tries to mimic it, leading to an increased highly-anxious heartrate and my breathing starting to go into hyperventilation. All of this led to me needing quite a bit 'down-time' to recover enough to drive my brother and me home that evening, a recovery that was set-back by the fact that I had to deal with getting the tube from the arena back to where my car was parked in Westfield!

The issue of 'what happens afterwards' came to the forefront today as well, while the getting to Wembley wasn't too bad and dealing with crowds going in was surprisingly calm the exit, naturally, wasn't. Even though I stayed to watch the Sarries boys do their lap of the pitch and then wasted another 15 minutes or so faffing around finding where my friend had left his bike, still the crowds for the tube were horrible to deal with. I wish that there could have been shuttle buses specifically running people to the nearby major train terminals (Kings Cross, Euston, Paddington etc) to allow for those of us going there to avoid the tube, leaving it just for those who were connecting to other parts of the City.

I made it home in one piece mostly - a major headache and quite a considerable need for quiet, but in a lot better shape than from other times I've been into London. Despite how good today has been though I know I've still got recovery ahead of me, tomorrow will probably come with a strong desire for sleep and quiet processing time along with other side effects such as affected appetite, clumsiness and probably achey joints.

It was worth it though - Stand Up For The Saracens!

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