Mental Health

Why We Get Post Convention Blues and How to Beat Them

The post-convention blues are real, my friends. They can range from the blah’s, to the blues, to full-on depression. There are some very good reasons for that. In our everyday lives, we may feel marginalized or isolated. There are few people we can connect with about the things that light our fires. We may even live in places hostile to our skin color, gender expression, or sexual orientation. When we go to conventions we find Our People.

I will illustrate why it matters to find Your People in a series of Stock Photo Comics. (I can’t draw so this is my solution).  Your People do not side eye you for:

Unrestrained feels..

Sexual orientation/gender identity...Particular combo of ethnicity and interests...Or we just found people we could bond with over the stuff that matters to us...Not saying conventions are perfect places where every human being is a rainbow farting unicorn. NOPE NO WAY NOT EVEN A LITTLE. But we do find Our People there. We go from isolated minority to a sea of people who GET us. It makes sense that coming back to our own realities at home can be a jarring experience.  So the important questions is: how can you minimize the impact of that loss? Because I want you to be happy, my fangirl/boy/non binary darling!

Integrate your passions into your everyday life.  First things first.  Are you filling your everyday life with reminders of your passion and joy?  If you are, DO IT EVEN MORE.

Think of how you played in your childhood.

The things that matter to us in our fandoms today, flow from the imagination, play, and whimsy of our childhoods. Whether our childhoods were lovely, traumatic, or all points in between, we just got on with doing what we loved. We connected without shame to the things that filled our spirits with joy. That could have been faeries, dragons, spaceships, robots, quests, magic, monsters, it could have been anything. But to a one, our worlds of imagination offered us comfort, solace, hope, inspiration, and freedom. Then we grew up, and became disconnected. FUCK THAT. It’s time to reconnect. Think back to when you were a kid. What did you play? What did you imagine? What did you read? What do you love now that fills you with those same feelings?

Then make a list of those things. That’s your to do list of life, my friends. Take the items on that list and let them inspire you to:

  • Start a creative project.  That could be designing a cosplay, writing a fanfic, making a piece of art, shooting a video, or recreating props. Some Supernatural fans have literally spent months fixing up Impalas to look like Dean Winchester’s Baby, and then they get to drive around in them every day! Bottom line, be the originator of your own badass life content. It creates a consistent thread in your life of imagination and creation.
  • Don’t assume that no one near you can relate. Maybe not in your town or school or home. But check meetup.com, check social media, ask on your own profiles to be connected to folks who live in your vicinity. Visit your local comic book shop and look at the flyers they have up. You never know.
  • Organize a local meetup for your community with a theme. Even if they live a few hours away, you might be surprised. They could be feeling the way you are and would welcome a day trip out to you. It can be as simple as a TV-watch party for Buffy with vampire themed drinks. It could be meeting at a local diner in Winchester and bringing your con photo op binders to swap stories.  It can be a Wynonna Earp cosplay photoshoot near a dive bar that kinda looks like Shorty’s. I know it can be intimidating to plan events. What if no one shows up? But here’s the thing. What they do and it is fucking amazing? Plus, having it on the calendar will make you feel like you haven’t been dropped off into the deep end.
  • Stay connected with your con family through binge watching together on Skype or rabb.it. Lots of folks have remote watch parties. I have not used rabb.it. but I have used Skype and google hangouts. You just say one, two, three, HIT PLAY and then watch together.
  • Put fan art or merch everywhere at work or home. Looking at it will reconnect you with the things that matter to you. Whether it’s the love and acceptance of Sense8 or the optimism and sense of possibility in Star Trek, you will always have reminders. You can get mugs, candles, art prints, cutting boards, calendars, the fandom options are endless.
  • Be creative with your style. Represent your fandom wherever you go. You can find low key fandom items to wear at work. You can also play with your hairstyle. Hell, tattoos are always an option. Rock it.
  • Start planning your next convention. Buying those tickets, planning your photo op poses, or deciding what you want your fave to autograph will give you something to look forward to.
  • Bring headphones to work or school if possible. Listen to fandom podcasts, audiobooks, or music associated with the things you love. Even if you are only listening on your commute, that is something.
  • Start projects online with your fandom. In fact you can choose a fandom based on its level of activity and creative energy. For example, if you are a Misha Collins fan, you ALWAYS have a project to work on, whether it is doing a bizarre scavenger hunt, raising money for a refugee family, or creating a piece of art with a group.
  • Make time for yourself to enjoy your favorite shows/books/movies. Don’t feel guilty for scheduling in time to do that stuff, even if you are a parent. (I’m talking to myself now.)
  • Write fan letters or art and send them to the people who are making a difference to you. The time and love you put into that will be time you spend thinking positive thoughts of gratitude.

Make your life better in general.

Sometimes it is MORE jarring to return home because we hate our jobs, our partners are not supportive, or our families look down on us. Tackle those issues according to your level of emotional energy and your financial situation.  

  • If someone is being actively homophobic or racist at work, report it if possible.
  • Start building the groundwork to leave your job, or to move somewhere better.
  • If your partner or family belittles your interests, it’s time to have some come to Jesus talks and good healthy boundary setting sessions.

I know this is a whole lot easier said than done because I’ve had to do a whole shitton of it. I have had good therapists help me through it. And the impact on my level of happiness was incredibly positive.

Look ahead to next time.

Prevention is worth a whole lot more than cure. Being exhausted and actually sick with con crud when you get back just compounds the misery.

  • Make sure you bring hand sanitizer to the con and wash your hands often while you are there.
  • Make sure you eat and take care of yourself at the con.
  • If you have anything you swear by like vitamin C or emergen-c, bring it to the con.
  • If you DO have the option, make sure you ask for a recovery day off work ahead of time. You will need to rest, and you will thank yourself for the brilliant planning.

Lean into it.

 Will having a cry make you feel better? It’s ok to do that! Share your pain with other fans. Let yourself feel it. As long as you are taking care of yourself and you try not to wallow toooooo long, honoring your feelings is a good thing.

Make sure that if you actually have full blown depression that you get treatment from a health care professional.

Know the symptoms of depression. Here is a handy reference list from the Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007

If things seem like they are slipping deeper from blue to depressed, get professional medical treatment. When in doubt, get professional medical treatment. (sensing a pattern?) Again, I know this is easier said than done. I say this as someone who has survived 25 years of major depressive disorder, PTSD, and anxiety disorders that have resulted in no fewer than five hospitalizations. Many of those years were spent with no health insurance, which, as an American, sucks donkey balls. I say this only so you know that I get it. I have called upon many different resources in my life – teaching hospitals, local universities, public health departments, free support groups at local nonprofits, I have tried and used it all. When I couldn’t afford it I’d call and tell them. They often came up with ways to help me.  The important thing is that you don’t wait for it to get better on its own. I’ve done that and I’ve suffered for it. So I know for a fact that depression compounds upon itself. Depression is terrifying and traumatic, and having a full blown episode itself causes damage. The longer you wait, the worse the long term impact will be on your health.

So. Ask for help. If someone says no they can’t or won’t help, ask someone else. If a treatment doesn’t work, try another one. Keep doing that until you get the treatment that works. It is horrible and unjust that that you have to fight so hard for your own life, but your life is worth fighting for. I have been happy and symptom free for several years and I rate being non depressed a 15/10. I highly recommend.

And keep doing what you love.

In the end, attending conventions is worth the pain of coming back home, especially if you are taking good care of yourself in between cons, making space for joy, and if your life is nice to come home to! If you have any other advice for weathering the post-convention blues, please put it below in the comments!

And as a bonus for reading the entire article, enjoy a picture of babby 19 year old Rebekah after her first fan convention. It was the 1995 Star Trek Grand Slam convention in Pasadena and I was just a tad excited for the first female star ship captain. Can you tell? Once a nerdy feminist, always a nerdy feminist. At the convention, besides asking Kate Mulgrew to sign everything but my face, I got a 'Q' poster (you can see part of it in my hand) signed by the man himself, John de Lancie for my uberfan younger sister Michele. I also remember swooning over Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes in person. (Troi and Riker, my first 'ship).  Great memories! I can't wait to go out and make some more. See you at the con!