I almost didn't make it to NJCon. At the very last minute, I came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to go. I started the process of finding someone to sell my ticket to, figuring out how to transfer my hotel room into my roommate's name, and coming to terms with the fact that something I had been looking forward to for roughly a year was not going to happen. The cons of going definitely outweighed what I thought the pros would be.
I'm currently weaning off of my meds (Lamictal first) so I can write again, and some days are better than others. The headaches, dizziness, and exhaustion are beginning to wear off. Unfortunately, the anxiety, depression, repetitive thoughts, and paranoia are still amplified. Every second of every day for as long as I can remember has felt like Hell, and for the next several months there will be moments where it feels even worse. That coupled with the fact that I need money in order to survive leaving home made it seem like a good idea not to go. Staying home would give me more money, and it would also mean that no one would have to deal with me. Because, honestly, who wants to deal with someone who is like me – especially right now?
I have come to learn that 'just staying home' is the worst thing I could do though – especially if I am making all of these plans to fight for myself. I have tried the 'just staying home' thing in the past. It has nearly killed me. I used to think that if I stayed in my comfort zone, it would all be okay. I'll 'feel better'. Life will be 'easier'. I've considered quitting my job, going on disability, and 'just staying home' from the world. I mean, if tearing myself out of my comfort zone, even to simply do things that I enjoy, is so difficult, why not? Because I've found that when I give up what I want and let my mind win, the only thing I really want to do is die. So, I make plans to do things that I love and see people that I admire. Because standing completely overwhelmed and helpless in the middle of a strange place is still better than lying on my bed, daydreaming about just ending it all. It takes being out of my comfort zone to remind me that I still exist and there are reasons for me to continue to exist.
I think that when I came to the conclusion that I didn't want to attend the con, I somehow knew that this weekend would take me out of my element more than I planned for it to.
Firstly, in order to afford to stay in the hotel, I made plans to room with three other girls. Anyone who knows me, knows that I don't get on well with other people. As much as I wish I could connect with people on a deeper level, I don't. I can't. I live in a situation where my daily interactions with others mostly include people yelling and hitting each other. I live in a situation where people seem to go out of their ways to make me feel ashamed of my existence. As much as I want what other people seem to have with each other, there is always that sinking feeling that people are only pretending to like me. And the voices that scream, 'You're disgusting. You're bad. No one likes you. No one wants to be around you. You're creepy. You're annoying. Everyone wishes you were dead.' So I stick to myself because I can't handle the loneliness that comes with being around others.
I knew that rooming with three other people, while good for my empty wallet, was going to take a mighty toll on me, especially now when I am going off my meds. And it did take quite a toll.
Thursday and Friday were miserable for me in that area. When they tried to interact with me, I didn't want to interact because I knew they would hate me. When they didn't try to interact with me, I convinced myself that they already hated me. My social life, which I adamantly try not to even have, is a never-ending empty void. Being around people and knowing that I am not someone that exists or matters is another thing that makes me wish I was dead, even more so than 'just staying home'. I try to convince myself that I am worthy of friends and that I don't deserve to feel so lonely, but there is something that tells me that every human in the world wishes I would disappear the very moment they meet me; that everything they do and say is just them struggling to get away from me.
Saturday, I melted down. It happens. After trying to 'fight' thinking that everyone hates me, like everyone tells me to do, and continuing to lose, it happens. I somehow found myself in a crowded area of the hotel, rooted to the floor, as other people walked by. And all I could hear was, 'Look at all those people. Look at them talking to each other. You don't have that. You'll never have that. You're bad. Don't try. Don't try. You're bad.' over and over and over. I couldn't conquer it, I couldn't leave, I could only just stare. And I broke. I always do.
But there is always something about breaking down at conventions that makes me a little stronger in the long run. I break relatively often. It happens when I see groups of friends, families that aren't screaming at each other, lovers, strangers who managed to make conversation. I walk away in tears or stand in the middle of a public area with 'You'll never have that' repeating like a broken record to me. And then I walk away alone. It matters to strangers on the street whether or not I'm okay as much as it matters to the people in my daily life – either not at all or in a way that I am in the way, that I am a burden. And I weaken. But at cons, not even just Creation cons, it isn't like that. The moment you start to look sad, you're surrounded by twenty people asking you if you're okay. You're not invisible. You exist.
I realize that on the outside, sometimes existing and being cared about tends to make everything worse. It's hard to comprehend at first. There is the desire to push everyone as far away as possible so I don't get hurt worse. But there is also the need to pull people close. I always end up freezing up until people give up and leave. People at cons don't just give up and leave though. My amazing roommates and new friends continued to return and check on me, something that doesn't often happen in my life. I can't put into words how it feels to matter to other people when you so often don't. I can't put into words how it feels to exist when you so often feel invisible. It's like being pulled out of quicksand, onto a rock. I finally have the courage to start to try standing on my own.
The kindness and support shown to me by my new (and old) friends, by Gil McKinney, by Osric Chau and by Chris Schmelke this weekend gave something unexplainable to my life that I never had before. Because of the wonderful friends I had/made, I gained the courage to try to connect with other people, spending Sunday night bonding with my roommates rather than isolating myself. I finally gave in and broke down to someone in person about how invisible I feel all of the time, and because of Gil, I actually discovered how it felt to exist. Chris took the time to make sure one of my photographs was how I wanted it, despite the hundreds of photo ops he was doing all weekend, giving me a sense of importance. And, because of Osric, I was able to put everything in my head aside for awhile and dance at the Cocktail Party – something I never would have even considered doing if he hadn't taken the time to boost my confidence and show me how to dance. It is people like these who remind me how and why to keep going when I am ready to quit.
To all the people I met at NJCon – whether you were my roommate, my friend, someone who stopped to ask if I was okay, or someone who just simply commented about my bear – you have had an impact on my life this weekend.