I just came from Balticon, where I had a great time both as a panelist and an audience member. It was great to be among a group of people who were enthusiastic about the various genre fandoms. The con did a good job of making a welcome atmosphere for LGBTQ and POC folks, and had a robust harassment policy posted prominently. My panels were evenly spread and not back-to-back, and I had plenty of time to chill out. In fact, my Saturday schedule was basically empty! But I noticed something: I was exhausted by 10pm each day, even during the light schedule days. And by exhausted, I mean fatigued. Bone-deep tiredness, the type where your eyelids feel like they have weights on them. When I got in bed, I immediately fell asleep as if I had done strenuous exercise. It was beyond just the normal con fatigue.
And that’s when it dawned on me—I was experiencing the physical toll of social anxiety. I have a mild form of anxiety, one that I am finally addressing in treatment. I never feel like I belong. I am awkward in crowded social situations (such as room parties!) and find that I need some time alone after being social. I will often go up to a con’s Green Room just to be alone.
I am writing this for a couple reasons. One, to apologize for any aloofness/unapproachability vibe I radiated. Secondly, I want to kind of raise awareness about this issue. Much of the reason I go to cons is for networking. And networking is one of those things you must do as an author. Face-time with editors and authors are as important as submission in this business. And I know that I have missed connecting with other people because of this condition of mine. Finally, I think this is an important signal-boost the issue. I tweeted that “Networking for the Socially Anxious” should be a panel topic.