I’ve suffered and struggled with depression and anxiety nearly all my life. I hid behind a smiling face that spit out joke after joke to try to mask the pain and attempt to slow down the constant anxiety in my head. I focused on what people “saw” and what people thought of me. But, I found peace in video games. It was the one constant thing in my life. The thoughts that raged in my head at a hundred miles an hour crawled to a snail pace as I focused on whatever game I was playing. In college, it was a constant battle between partying and video games. And the playstation won most of the time. I wasn’t anti-social at all but I just loved video games more. People hurt me….but video games never did. Yes, it sounds silly but its the truth. Over time my love of video games gave me the opportunity to meet others who suffered the same plight. But, those types of connections disappeared once it became time to be an “adult.”
Yes, video games were still around but those connections with people who suffered from anxiety like me were gone. Fast forward to a few years ago and something happened. I became friends with a co-worker and we agreed to meet for coffee to discuss project she was working on.
“You should do a podcast.”
“Me, no…I hate my voice…it’s Kermit the Frog-like.”
“No…think about it…you could have me on as a guest.”
And that’s how No Ordinary Nerd started. The struggle that I had to connect with others who suffered like me is gone. I meet and talk with people who deal with the same issues every single day….and I meet new people with the same plight every day. This podcast has given me an opportunity to share and heal with so many others. For example, this podcast gives me a chance to attend and cover conventions all over the state.
And it has exposed me to so many aspects of nerd culture that I never knew existed. This past weekend, we attended a convention in San Jose called Fanimecon. I’ve attended many conventions but nothing like this. The amount of cosplay was a bit overwhelming. The costumes are elaborate and extremely detailed….and in some cases extremely revealing. Seeing fit people basically in underwear was unsettling. I remember walking through the lobby and accidentally getting stuck in a group of shirtless guys who obviously live in the gym and thinking..
“Whoa…I definitely don’t belong in this group.”
I imagined someone across the room staring in my direction and seeing me in this group.
“….yeah, that guy is definitely lost.”
“Look at the pudgy guy stuck in the middle of that mess of buff guys…right there.”
Each convention gives “nerds” an opportunity to meet with others who love the same things that they do….and “belong.” That’s what I love about this community. Everyone is so accepting. There is no judgment, its all love. And honestly, this community is the most polite group of people I have ever met.
But, this convention was much more for us, it would be the first time we would be hosting a panel. A chance to present and reach out to others in a more formal ways. People take time out of their day to attend panels that could be about their favorite show or meet actors, artists , and writers from shows they like.
We pitched our idea….and waited for a response.
This was new ground for us. Yes, we discuss our stories and nerd culture every week on our podcast. But, to do it in front of others was a whole different ball game. Plus, each person on this panel suffers from anxiety….so yeah, but people who suffer from anxiety in front of people who suffer from anxiety also, good idea?
“What if like…no one shows up?”
“What? Why would no one show up?”
“Well….look what people have to do to go to our panel. They have to leave the actual convention….walk across the street. Walk across this park. Enter this mini mall…and into this hotel.”
“Geez, if you look at it like that….that’s a lot of exercise. And I only exercise if I know food will be in the general area after all the exercise. Like running after the ice cream man. I might run just to catch him/her…but that’s because I know I will get a choco taco at the end of it.”
It looked and sounded bleak.
We shrugged it off.
“Hey, if one person shows up…it will be easier. Less stressful. More intimate.”
The day of our panel came and I had trouble sleeping the night before. I was imagining the sound of crickets after my jokes or freezing up with no sound coming out of my mouth. But, I tried to hide my nerves from my team. I knew they were nervous already so seeing me freak out would only make it worse.
We had an hour to wait because a panel was currently in our room so we stood near our room. We could hear laughter every few minutes.
“We have to come in after all that? All that joy and laughter?”
“How do we compete with that?”
“That’s the least of our worries…look at the front of the room. No line. No one waiting for our panel.”
Time inched by and we had a half hour to freak out. But, something happened. We watched someone walk up and sit on the floor next to our room…then another.
“Dude…that’s two. That’s officially a ‘line’.”
“Wait, maybe they are just waiting for a friend thats watching the panel in their now?”
That wasn’t true. Just like that, the line started to wrap down the hallway.
This was happening. We walked in and that empty room we were scouting was filled with people to hear what we had to say and share.
It was awesome. One by one, my team poured out their hearts and told the crowd about their issues with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and personal trauma. And then shared what saved them….and what has helped them cope. And I looked into the crowd and saw sympathetic eyes. I saw nods in agreement, people who were going through the same thing. It took all my being to not cry at how beautiful it was.
I grabbed the mic near the end of our hour.
“We are all in this to share and heal….and grow together. You are not alone. Does anyone want to share anything?”
And suddenly someone stood up and walked to a microphone standing right in the middle of the audience. And another person….and another…..and another. It gave me goosebumps. Each person shared their experience with mental illness and what saved them. We ran out of time. I looked at a worker who gave me the dirtiest look that said:
“You need to get out of this room….your time is up. In fact, your time HAS BEEN UP.”
I grabbed the mic and told the crowd to meet us outside so we can continue the discussion.
And the healing continued for an hour after our panel. We met and took pictures with people who were in the audience and told us their experiences. It was a reminder of why we need to do what we do. To take the pain we suffered and use it to connect with others and heal together. Mental illness affects us all. But, once we learn that we are not alone, it becomes easier.
See you at the next con!
(Do you suffer from depression or anxiety? Please don’t hesitate to contact me. Let’s talk about it.)
Today’s daily prompt is the word “buff.” This word can be used to describe “waxing and making shiny.” Or if you want to get nerdy, it is a word to describe using spells or potions to make you or your character strong or give them extra abilities or powers. But, in this case, I use it to describe how my team felt after our panel….almost as buff as the mess of shirtless guys that surrounded me after I left the bathroom.