In June, I attended my fourth BlogHer conference. But this one felt strange. The last six writing conferences I attended all had a similar feel — one in which I knew dozens of people and was comfortable just…being me. That’s when I thrive.
This time, I started the conference off with a bang. After 3 flights in less than a week, and a truly amazing Disney adventure, my back was acting up for the first time in months. I was in pain, which only exasperated my desire to hide.
I know what you’re thinking. Chrissy? Hiding?
So, I’m an introverted extrovert. If you know me, you couldn’t possibly see me as shy. But if you don’t, you might think I’m the quiet one. Adding to that, I spent much of this year suffering from mild depression and anxiety, and now, I’ve got a recipe for disaster.
And so at BlogHer, only knowing a few of the several thousand people and trying to fight through pain, anxiety, and depression, I found myself hiding. Skipping sessions to nap in my room. Barely taking any photos throughout the events. Wandering the exhibitor hall by myself instead of sitting through full keynotes from really interesting speakers. Opting out of late night partying with new friends, and instead, I found myself floating down the lazy river with my roomie, Renee.
It was still fun, but it was a different kind of fun than one should have at a writing conference full of like-minded people. I found myself asking why I was even there.
On Friday night, I took a Valium for my back pain and crashed early.
On Saturday morning, Renee left, and my dear friend, Samara, was doing her own thing…so I wandered the expo for a while. I was interviewed for a Forbes podcast, and the guy looked at me — sporting a normal-ish blonde hairstyle and simple blue dress — with douche eyes and actually said, “Quirky Chrissy? You don’t look very quirky. Now, I saw this other girl who had rainbow hair and a unicorn horn. Now, THAT’S quirky.” Maybe it was the place my brain was hiding, but I wanted to simultaneously punch him and cry. But how do you defend your personality when someone mocks your chosen moniker?
I left the expo feeling down in the dumps.
The thing about being an extrovert who suffers from depression and anxiety is that you need people to help lift you out of the cycle, but you don’t want to be around people when you’re depressed or anxious.
By the time the closing party rolled around, I was ready to go home. But I told Samara I’d meet her down there. And I knew there would be snacks — I was starving, and I’ve yet to find a reason to say no to free food. So I decided I had one last chance to bust out my magic twinkle skirt.
And then I found some more of my people, and people recharge me the way the battery pack sewn into this skirt makes it light up. They bring me back to life (that’s the extroverted part of my brain). I met the unicorn girl, Elliotte, — who, by the way, is AMAZING — and she was kind and wonderful and inspiring…she gave me a pink unicorn horn and told me the podcast guy was full of crap.
If I could have gone back in time and worn this fucking skirt the whole time I was in Orlando, I think I would have. Because there’s no better way to make 50 new friends than to wear a light up twinkle skirt.
It was my superhero transformation and for a few hours, I wasn’t depressed or anxious or homesick. It wasn’t a REAL fix, but it helped me end the weekend on a high note.
I started seeing writing friends at the conference, some of whom I knew were there and that I’d said hi to, but hadn’t made a point to actually hang out with, despite my desperate need for more human interaction. I was shy and nervous. I convinced myself they didn’t want to hang out with me. I was afraid. But once I put on my armor, that magic skirt, it was like I could hide my insecurities behind the sparkles and just illuminate the bright spots. It was a Band-Aid, but at the time, I really needed a quick patch up.
Eventually, I met up with Samara and she was ready to DANCE. And so I danced. And twirled. And shined brighter than I had throughout the whole conference. I felt glimmers of the me that I love to be, and I knew I had to get back there.