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.

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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.

Katie. 

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7 thoughts on “Social anxiety and coping with conventions, what I wish you knew

  1. whovian223 says:

    Wonderful post, Katie.

    Seeing some of what you are dealing with makes me realize that I do have a few social anxiety issues as well, though nowhere near the level of some people (certainly not yours). Or maybe it’s just that I haven’t pushed myself like you have, so have avoided the situations that do make me nervous.

    It’s always a good thing to talk about these things instead of bottling them up, and I’m so glad that you are bringing attention to this. It needs to be talked about more.

    You said: “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.”

    What happens if somebody recognizes you and comes up to you? Does that make you more or less anxious?

    Anyway, great post. Keep fighting the good fight.

    Like

  2. giblabman says:

    Hi,
    Thank you for sharing this. What a wonderfully honest and courageous person you must be. Takes guts to be so open about such a problem.
    My son is autistic and I can recognise some of the same sense of anxiety and fear in him at social events which you describe. You are right to try and push against your comfort zone – something we have always done with him. Also we are trying to get him engaged with game playing – as there is so much we can alllearn from gaming, not least of course the joy of safe, structured social interaction.
    I’ll keep following you on social media and perhaps hope to see you at a convention. If you feel the need to run away, don’t worry – I’ll understand;)
    Andy

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Chris H. says:

    Thank you for another fantastic article. I don’t have to worry about gaming conventions because there are never any where I live, I’d have to fly to one and *that* is something I definitely don’t like doing. 🙂

    Like

  4. 1d4damage says:

    Reblogged this on 1D4damage and commented:
    Social anxiety is something that affects a fair number of our community, including myself. And it’s difficult to talk about, because it isn’t always rational. Katie’s well thought out and eye-opening article about how if effects the enjoyment of things like gaming conventions is very much a must-read!

    Like

  5. dmdungeon says:

    Reblogged this on DM Dungeon and commented:
    With a few Canadian Comic Expo’s coming up this month this struck a cord. We enter into a vast sea of people at conventions and how some of us deal with it can be overwhelming. This is a excellent read and maybe help you at your next convention. You’re not alone.

    Like

  6. Jesse B says:

    Is not an easy thing, crowds sometimes. I think my own oft-times over-analytical mindset breeds in a good deal of self-reflection the more eyes are upon me. I’ve learned that its just a fact of being human I suppose. Though to be honest, doubly hard is being an ‘other’ to boot when in crowds. Then, even when the mood has left, breaching that divide is hampered by another more invisible gulf, oft-times not of my own design and even more difficult to cross than my own inner doubts.

    Like

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