Thank You For Being So Goddamned Brave.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 4.824% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

“Are you sure you want me to come?” she wrote.
We’d been friended for years on the Internets; we started way back before the gravestone days of LiveJournal, and had played tag on just about every social network possible. We’d texted, lightly.
And she had all of my social anxiety, and more.
I knew that even writing to me to ask if I wanted her to come had caused her tizzies of anxiety.  Opening a window into her fears wide enough for me to peek in and see all of her turmoil was an act of supreme trust.  And of course I emailed her back to tell her of course I wanted her to come, I’d wanted to meet her for years, if she came I would hug her and show her just how happy I was to see her.
And I thought: I don’t know if I could come, even with that.
Because I am a severe sufferer of social anxiety.  I can just about do book signings, because there I am at least reassured that people came to see me; if they didn’t, all they had to do was stay home.  But when I imagined going to visit an online friend of mine?  Who’d immediately home in on all my physical ugliness, feel pity at my awkward jokes, would wince at my too-loud laugh?  Who might actually look at me blankly and say, “I’m sorry, who are you again?”
I’d stay home.
I would so stay home.
And so she came out to see me.  She’d had to enlist a friend to come with her, for strength.  And it was a large crowd there, all milling, and when I saw her out of the corner of my eye she trembled a little sometimes, but of course I called out and gave her the biggest, warmest hug I had it in me to give, and whispered in her ear just how glad I was, so happy that she’d come.
Nobody but me would have known how scared she was.  She looked completely normal – even beautiful.
But that’s the way we socially anxious work.  We look good on the outside, and are as tight as hand grenades on the inside.
And when the signing was over, and I was trying to round everyone up into going out for drinks afterwards, she pulled me aside and told me, with a thin smile, that it was too much.  She’d gotten overloaded.  And though oh how she wanted to stay, all of these people had drained her introvert-batteries and now it was time to be escorted home.
I didn’t know that I could, but I gave her an even bigger hug than the first one and thanked her, thanked her, thanked her.
Thing is, she’s not alone.  One of the reasons I have any audience at all is that I blog about my insane burblings of social anxiety, and how hard it is for me to go to conventions.  I’d say about one out of every five people who’ve come to see me read from Flex and sign books has that hesitant smile when they approach me, and I know that the only reason they crept out into such a whirlwind social situation is because I’ve lent them strength at some point by sharing my own tearful fears, and that they and I are intertwined with the same terrors.
They’re braver than I am.
I couldn’t come out to see me.
And so when I see them, I ask to hug them, and I thank them, and I smile, and I try to tell them how fucking proud I am that they came.  I know the cost. I know the fear.  And yet they thought somehow, I was worth it.
I hope I’m worth it.
Two stops left on this tour.  Next Saturday I sign in San Diego, and a week later I sign in San Francisco.  Some of you are thinking of coming out.  And I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t; the world is scary sometimes.
But if you do come, tell me.  Tell me how hard it was.  Because you deserve all the fucking hugs for battling that Godzilla of a terror, you deserve to see how proud someone is of you for coming out, because I know.  I know how hard this is.  I know how beautiful you are for trying.
You’re so magnificent for transcending your fears.  And you get thanked so rarely for all that effort it takes to reach the level of normal.  So tell me, and I will thank you, I will thank you endlessly, I will tell you how beautiful you are because oh my God you are.
 

1 Comment

  1. Chelsea
    Mar 23, 2015

    This is one of the many reasons you are a wonderful human being. 🙂

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