Mental Health: Social anxiety and coping with conventions, what I wish you knew
Anxiety comes in many forms, for many reasons and is a very personal thing for anybody dealing with it. It’s something that a lot of people deal with but hardly anybody is talking about. I hope that by talking about these issues, I can contribute to a community where this stuff is normal, accepted, talked about and I want to help in any way that I can. I can’t fix your problems, but I can reassure you that you are OK, that this is normal and that you are NOT alone.
I can remember a time when I didn’t live with anxiety. I have always dealt with depression, but anxiety is a fairly new (well in the last 7 years or so) concept to me. I remember a time when simple things like going up to a cashier or making a phone call didn’t make me panic but a series of traumatic and difficult events over the years have brought me here.
For me, anxiety looks like this …
I live in a constant state of worry; sometimes it’s rational and sometimes it isn’t, sometimes I worry that people won’t like me for no reason at all. I worry that I’ve said or done something wrong, that I’m not good enough. Every little mistake or problem that I face seems like a catastrophe, nerves escalate into panic attacks and even the most simple tasks can feel exhausting.
I freak out in busy places, meeting new people feels like a monumental task and even walking up and saying hi to somebody that I already know can feel overwhelming and scary at times.
Most of it’s irrational and I have learned over the years how to manage and control my anxiety, but sometimes I simply can’t.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that social anxiety doesn’t affect me on a daily basis, because it does, and I have learned how to cope with it, but one thing that is new to me and I still find so difficult to do is going to gaming conventions.
I know a simple solution would be to stay at home, but I made a promise to myself that no matter how bad I felt, I would never let anxiety take over my life. There have been so many times that anxiety has ruined things for me – friendships, relationships, careers –and I am determined to make sure that never happens again.
I find it very difficult to talk to people, especially in a group setting and that doesn’t mean I don’t want to, I just find it nearly impossible to do. This makes maintaining friendships hard; it makes forming new friendships even harder. Gaming conventions are built on friendship, socialising, community and a LOT of people, all of the things that I enjoy yet can find overwhelming.
If you see me at a convention and I seem quiet or shy, please never take it personally. I would love to come and say hi to you, I would love to come and play a game with you, but sometimes I just can’t. At other times, I feel like I can take on the world: I’m a confident person, a kind person and I value friendship as much as I value meeting new people and I love socialising, but sometimes all I can offer you is a smile.
Large crowds can easily send me into a panic; something that has always contributed to my anxiety is the feeling of being trapped and being unable to escape. For a long time, it made even the easiest things like getting a bus or a train impossible for me. I have realised that this usually sets my anxiety off and then it can spiral out of control from there.
I have learned ways that help me cope and deal with anxiety at conventions and social situations. The main thing that works for me is to give myself a goal: it could be that I am going to meet up with that person I talk to on Twitter and say hi, or I’m going to sit down and play a game with strangers and have a really good time. Or, on specifically bad days, it might just be that I am going to walk up to a booth and talk to somebody about a game they are selling. Constantly pushing myself out of my comfort zone has been the best thing for me and in doing so, I am starting to experience all of the amazing things around me.
Many people suffer from social anxiety – we don’t want sympathy, we’re not seeking attention. We just want people to know and understand that sometimes even just making it to that convention or event is a huge deal for us. I enjoy these things and I know that I want to be a part of this community. I want you to come and say hi to me if you see me, I want to hang out with you and play games, and I will do my best to do all of those things. It just takes a bit more effort sometimes.
Always know that if you need somebody to talk to, my inbox is always open. Thank you for reading and please leave a comment if you like.