I have fairly intense social anxiety. Most people don't believe me, because once I have been introduced to someone I will chew their ears off with my nervous chattering. But I lack the ability to walk up to people, cold, and announce myself. I physically cannot do it, not without some kind of catalyst or facilitator. Example: I spent the entirety of Guy Kawasaki's boisterous Alltop/Kirtsy party clinging to SJ like a baby monkey, or plaintively texting Susan about her ETA. I did not, could not introduce myself to a single one of the friendly, confident people milling about.
"No one with social anxiety would have that hair!" I heard, more than once, during BlogHer weekend. Possibly true, for a socially anxious person who had thought the matter through. But I just wanted people to remember me and perhaps toss me some writing or editing work, and have my online friends find me in the IRL crowds. I almost puddled when I realized that my lava-head spotlighted my wandering around the BlogHer breakfasts looking for someone to sit with: my loserhood must have been obvious to EVERYONE IN THE ROOM. Thank gods friends like LeftCoastMom, SJ, Liz Henry, Minnie, and Sarah Dopp let met glom onto them.
I made it through speaking on our wonderful panel. My voice quavered and I forgot half of what I wanted to say, but overall it came off well. Even so, the social aspects of the experience scrambled my wiring so completely that, even though I sat in two more panels that afternoon, I literally could not process what was being said. One of the speakers in one of those panels talked about the Can I Sit With You? project that I run with Jennyalice. I didn't find out about the mention until later, until someone told me, even though I was right there.
Social anxiety meant I was too nerve-wracked to eat for most of the conference. My complexion exploded. And apparently I was so tense, and spent those three days holding my body so rigidly, that when I got home and relaxed, my back started spasming. It was so painful that I thought I had a kidney infection (and my doctor's nurse practitioner thought I was drug-seeking -- lovely). The rest of my body felt like it had run a marathon.
These are not complaints. The excellence of BlogHer 08 surpassed all my expectations, was worth my jangled nerves and aching body. But attending and speaking and being "on" for three straight days almost laid me out.
Which is why, when friends called and invited us to their pool party earlier tonight, I sent the socially enabled members of our family: Seymour, Iz, and Mali. I stayed home with Leelo, because he's not always a fan of social gatherings, either. Plus he's good company, calming company, when it's just the two of us in a suddenly quiet house.
P.S. I am grateful to BlogHer for providing the peaceful sanctuary of a speaker's lounge. That small room, with its coffee and candy bars, saved my ass.