Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Gaming with Fibromyalgia (x-posted Imaginary Funerals)

This post has been crossposted from the Imaginary Funerals blog that has since been discontinued. Posts are hosted on the Imaginary Funerals G+ page

GAMING WITH FIBROMYALGIA (link to main host)

by +Brie Sheldon (originally posted January 24, 2014)

A little background:

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia when I was 12. It was a lousy diagnosis to get at such a young age, but the symptoms were pretty clear and they’ve only gotten worse since then. If you want to know more about fibromyalgia, a quick internet search should answer any questions you have.

I started tabletop gaming around age 15 or 16 (I’d done text RPGs for years by that point). At that point, my fibro wasn’t too extreme, but I still dealt with some of the problems – leg cramps, soreness, and fibro fog. These things have increased in severity and frequency since then.

I know a lot of people have it way worse than me, but I wanted to share my experience. Maybe it will help other people, and maybe it will help con organizers, GMs, and other players understand the difficulties people like me face. So, what’s so hard about gaming with fibromyalgia?

Managing climate control. Holy crap is this hard! I don’t know if gamers just run hot or what, but virtually every gaming space I’ve ever been in is too cold for me. A lot of people game in basements, which (even when finished) are often cold and sometimes damp, and it leaves me aching and sore and generally pretty miserable. This year at cons I ran into the problem of it simply being way too cold in some of the rooms, so by the end of sessions I was cramped up and ready to go lie down. But sometimes, you can’t lie down – you have to keep going, especially when you feel the social pressure to be involved or just really want to be involved.

Standing or sitting for long periods. This is something I’ve complained about before, but, super long lines for badges? Standing in food lines? Waiting outside con rooms? Yeah, standing for like 20 minutes is rough. My legs cramp up, my back sometimes seizes, and there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do. Accommodating disabled people is not something cons are great at. It’s troublesome, as well, when you don’t have a visible disability, like me, or when (like me) you don’t have special tags designating you disabled-enough-for-people-to-care. Likewise, sitting at a table (especially in the aforementioned cold rooms) can mean that standing up is a struggle, and it is simply embarrassing to be a 20-something woman who can’t stand up from the table without wobbling. People stare.

Fibro fog. This is probably one of the toughest things. The pain and stiffness I deal with every day in every type of situation, so it becomes a quiet echo of my life, “pain, pain, pain” beneath my breath every moment. You kind of get used to it. The fog, though, isn’t constant, and is worse during times of anxiety and stress. Basically it makes it hard to focus and makes me seem dumber because I can be slow to respond or get confused. For the longest time I didn’t understand what it was, but now I’m pretty familiar with the feeling. I try to hide it because it’s legit one of the things about my illness that makes me feel the most stupid and useless. Ever try adding together dice or adjusting target numbers when your brain feels like it’s stuffed full of cotton? It’s like that all the time. It’s kind of like when you have a sinus headache or like a post-narcotic headache. (This is also a problem when navigating conventions because I get lost and lose track of time very easily when the fog sets in.)

Feeling singled out. I rarely game with other people with disabilities, just because of the way my circles have worked. This means that I’m often the only one at the table who needs accommodations. I’m the only one who needs to be given a break or time to stretch during long gaming sessions. I’m the only one who needs help doing basic addition when my fog is too foggy. It’s just me sitting there having trouble. So far my groups have been pretty great about it, but that doesn’t make it easier for me to feel good about it. An example: asking people to please grab me a drink because that extra walking today just is a bad idea. Most of my group would happily do so, but that doesn’t make me less embarrassed or make me feel less like they should hate me for taking advantage of their kindness.

Gaming with fibromyalgia isn’t easy. It’s got a lot of pitfalls and there aren’t really bonuses for being disabled.

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