No, it’s not a typo. I know that the book and movie are called, “Far from the Madding Crowd.” But this post is about us and groups – when we find ourselves in a crowd and it’s maddening for us because, well, if many individuals do not understand what it’s like to have chronic pain, crowds can be absolutely clueless!
Besides the jostling, bumping, and elbowing that occurs when crowds are on the move, there can be a tremendous sense of isolation when crowds are confined to one place. Recently, I was in a large room where there was a large crowd. I happened to see an older woman sitting alone in a chair along one of the walls. I went over to her, and the first thing she said was, “I don’t like noise, and I don’t like crowds.” Clearly, she wanted to be at the event, but the circumstances were, at best, a difficult challenge.
As I have said many times, even if we have health issues that hobble us, we are still meant to be part of the world, including the world outside our protective walls. So how, then, can we better manage being in those often-maddening crowds?:
Bring an advocate with you. This is someone who can run interference for you as you move about in the crowd, and also help navigate food tables, restroom lines and other challenges.
Investigate getting a disability-accommodating seat at an event such in a concert hall or arena. Often these are more protected than general seating arrangements.
Save an extra seat so that those who wish to can sit beside you and talk. When a crowd is noisy, it’s very easy to strain you neck and voice trying to talk with someone while you are sitting and they are standing.
Bring some kind of visual “prop” that indicates you might need a wider berth. I have terrible arthritis in my knees, and it is impossible for me to negotiate stairs. But otherwise, my disability is invisible – unless I have a cane (which I do bring while traveling through crowded locales, such as airports).
Avoid standing or sitting near a restroom door or hallway, buffet table or the trash recepticle because there will be more foot traffic there.
Pactice what you’ll say if someone refuses to move out of your way or otherwise denies you an accommodation for your disability (especially if it’s invisible). This will help you not respond in heated anger, but rather advocate for yourself firmly and precisely.
When you enter a room, immediately note where the exits are and try to remain closeby one of them. In an emergency, a crowd can surge and become potentially harmful, and it is usually better to be near an exit so you can leave more quickly, ahead of the “mob.”
These are just a few of the things that I’ve found helpful. You might have some of your own, which I invite you to share!