By Andie Wells
I have a rare genetic disease called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and am physically disabled. I use a cane as my mobility aid and experience chronic pain, joint dislocations, migraines and various other symptoms as a result. Conventions, shows or festivals can be difficult for me due to my chronic pain and other symptoms associated with my chronic illness.
Anytime we have a con or a geek comedy show coming up, I practice self care. It has made a world of difference in making sure I can do shows or reserve energy for a weekend of shows at cons or festivals.
How I prepare for a set of geek comedy shows with a chronic illness
Managing my schedule
In the week before a geek comedy performance, I make sure that I don’t overbook myself. It’s important to me that shows are booked far in advance so that I can clear my schedule ahead of time. This means taking extra time to relax at home and not put myself in a situation where I am exhausted before the show has even begun.
I have a lot of food allergies that can trigger a number of symptoms that will put me completely out of commission for a show. I know ahead of time that I can’t possibly rely on outside food for sustenance when the risk of getting ill is so high. When you have a chronic illness, making sure you have food is of utmost importance. You don’t want lack of food to be the reason that you have lost energy. I make sure I have allergy friendly snacks on me for shows.
Staying hydrated is super important for someone with a chronic illness. Not only is it important for the body but having water on you, to take pills as needed, is essential. I always make sure my water bottle is full and sometimes have a second one on hand for con weekends.
How I manage the day of a geek comedy show with a chronic illness
Before the performance
On the day of the geek comedy performance, I generally don’t book anything else and make sure I spend time relaxing at home (usually watching whatever fandom we are performing) or making sure I don’t spend all my energy before a con show in the exhibitors section. I will attend panels where I can sit or enjoy other performances before hand but I make sure my energy is reserved for The Dandies’ performance.
During the performance
Because I am disabled, I do perform differently than the other troupe members. Sometimes I will perform with my cane and other times I will have it available as needed. I also will wear braces to protect my joints. I tend not to do overly physical moves; sometimes I ask for a body double or stunt person to take over for more physical offers. I try to find fun and innovative ways to protect myself but have fun with improv. My fellow troupe members are always there to “yes and” when I make an offer based on my needs.
After the performance
The nice thing about performing is that, in the moment and for a while after, you are filled with endorphins that reduce pain and increase energy. If only we could bottle that! However, it doesn’t last forever and the crash can be difficult. I will often need food and water and meds immediately after a performance. Hence why I am always prepared with them. I will need a rest period which could mean just a seat and chatting but could also mean that I need to get home to my onesie and bed STAT. Luckily, the Dandies usually hang out after and either: get food together, or have a chat after shows, or offer a ride so I get home to rest quickly. I am lucky enough to be in a troupe that always checks in to see how I am and make sure I am getting what I need. The Dandies are truly the best.
Want to learn more about how The Dandies manage their health and wellness for geek comedy shows and conventions? Check out Josh Henderson’s thoughts on how to survive a convention as an anxious introvert.