If you’ve read me (blog or book), or listened to my podcast, for any length of time, you know I’m fairly open about my life. But there are times I’m not completely open, or I remain quiet. There are things we can talk about, but we tend to shy away from them, or we tend to gloss over them. I’ve been fairly open about my experiences with depression and anxiety. But the anxiety issue is one I tend to gloss over.
If you’ve read my short story Maelstrom, first: thank you for reading it. Second: that’s what its like for me. I have suffered from severe social anxiety for years, stemming from my own DNA and a couple of very painful experiences when I was younger. There are times when I literally cannot leave the house. There have been times I have missed important events in those I love lives, despite desperately wanting to be there. There have been times I have arrived at a place, made it to the front door, and been unable to walk through the door.
And while I’ve told my friends that were arriving for IndieVengence Day I suffer from this particular disorder. But I did not explain the intensity of it for me. A new place, meeting people I’ve never met before can throw me into a panic attack so severe I can’t breathe, my mind is a constant blast of white noise, and it feels like I’m having a heart attack with my chest tightening up and pain shooting down my arms.
It’s my knee jerk reaction to hide this from people, mainly because sadly, in the past, people have made fun of me or told me to just get over it. You can’t just get over social anxiety. I’ve been in therapy for over four years working on learning to cope with it.
In the weeks leading up to IndieVengence Day, I reminded myself that I’d be among friends, that 90% of the people coming to Dallas for the event are people who love me and know me, and vice versa. That the people I would be spending time with want nothing but for me to be okay.
But a last minute change in plans (something that can spend me into a tail spin) coupled with not enough sleep, and a sore knee and ankle, and having to walk into a building thinking we’d be meeting a book club (group of people I’ve never met before that I have to speak to? where’s the xanax????) mixed up together in my anxiety coated mind?
I’m not going to go into details. Because it wasn’t pretty. And it hurts me to remember I lost my shit and had to walk out of the bar and have a good long cry.
I am going to go into how everyone at the event taught me that I am worth it. How unlike people in my past who have said, “Just get over it… I don’t have time for your shit” (or as a dear friend puts it, “You’ve known a lot of assholes, Amber”), no one cared that I had freaked out, no one cared that I have a severe anxiety disorder. All they cared about was if I was going to be okay. When I argued I should go, not wanting to ruin anyone’s good time, they counter argued that I needed to be there, that they wanted me to stay, and what could they do to ease what I was dealing with? People hung back with me, waited for me to take a few deep breaths before going into a new place, held my hand, put their arms around me, told me how much I meant to them.
While I might never heal completely from all I have gone through in my life, this last weekend my friends, all people from different countries and walks of life and real life jobs, healed me in a way I very much needed with their patience, their kindness and their love. Their taking five minutes to stand with me, to talk to me, to tell me about their lives away from social media and the Indie Author Arena broke through all the hurt, loss, and heartache of my life to ease my hurts and show me, not tell me, how much I mean to them. It might have been a slap on the ass (thank Melissa, I’m still sore!), holding hands with two of my favorite people on the planet as we walked around downtown Dallas, someone making a production of how good the chocolate was, someone reaching for my hand or putting their arms around me and saying, “Hey, you’re truly wonderful, you know that?”
It was supposed to just be a book signing. Instead, it became the doorway into my home, a place I’ve never felt before.
Two days past everyone heading out (although I get Michelle back for a quick lunch on Sunday before she flies back home), I’m aching for my family. I’m missing seeing everyone’s individual personalities come out when they talk and eat, hearing their voices, hearing their laughter.
I’ve learned so much this past week. That between Michelle Franco and Scott Morgan, it is possible to think you might die from laughing. That there’s no bad ass quite as bad ass as James Peercy in how he’s got no problem going out after a signing still dressed in costume. That NO ONE and I mean NO ONE sings “Blurred Lines” quite like Tracy James Jones. That when bar hopping, always ask Dionne Lister what she’s drinking, because its going to be so damn good you’re going to want another one. That Melissa Craig plays “chicken” just as well as I do, that Ciara Ballintyne tells hilarious stories, that Justin Bog truly is the great love of my life, that Ben Ditmars is hilarious after jello shots. That Julie Frayn can make me sob hysterically when she says goodbye, and that Charity Parkerson looks like an angel when she laughs. And so much more about these wonderful friends of mine.
But more than that, I’ve learned that I have finally found home. And it seems unfair it was only for five minutes. But I’m reminding myself that hardly anyone ever gets the honor, the joy, the blessing of being in a room of over fifteen people and knowing that each of them would do anything they could for you, that they love you just because you are you in all your twisted, damaged, scarred, anxious self. That they can see past those scars, flaws, and damages and see who you are on the inside and still open their arms and say, “I love you, just as you are.”
Thank you to my friends… No, thank you to my family for all you bring to my life. For being a part of my life and letting me be a part of yours.
God Bless Fucking Twitter.