Join us as JP Barnaby goes Outside the Margins.
The SAD Truth About Social Anxiety Disorder
Have you ever been surrounded by people and yet felt completely and utterly alone? That’s the best way I can describe social anxiety for someone who has never experienced it. You feel alone, but yet, you’re not alone because there are hundreds of people around you who don’t want you there. The rational part of your mind tells you that if they didn’t want you there, you wouldn’t have been invited, but the bit that’s screaming the loudest convinces you that you’re a fraud. It’s a psychological balancing act from which sanity takes a vacation.
If you follow me at all on social media, you know that this year I’ve made a few changes in my life. One of those changes included moving to Atlanta, Georgia at the behest of one of my very best friends. This particular journey started in October of 2013, nearly a year and a half after Jonathan and I met.
And it started with a panic attack in the middle of Piedmont Park.
I’m going tell this story because there are people who would look at me, see my posts on Facebook, see the events I attend, and assume that I cannot possibly have social anxiety. JP Barnaby’s reputation, her persona is based on innuendo and snapshots – a slice of a moment. When the events are over, and I get hate mail for bringing my porn friends to events, or expressing my opinion about a subject the whole world is talking about—the anxiety builds on itself leaving me as something of an emotional house of cards. But what I want to accomplish with this post is showing people who get hives at the thought of leaving their comfortable home to drive to an event and walk in alone that they are, in fact, not alone.
I have always been a huge fan of Atlanta Pride, an event which I have attended for years. I walk to the event cocooned by friends and we have a fabulous time. But, two years ago, I made a huge mistake. Famed photographer Gio Caruso had agreed to shoot two of my friends (Jonathan and his boyfriend Eddie) for the cover of one of my books. I was to go to the parade, hook up with them, and take them to the hotel for the photoshoot. Simple, right? So, I hopped on Marta, got off near Piedmont Park, and followed the people in the rainbow-colored socks to the parade route. I positioned myself near the end of the route and waited. Eventually, I saw the Panthers go by with Jonathan and Eddie in their midst. I followed the route to the end, but before I could connect with them, I ended up running into a model I knew and talked for a moment.
And that is when all hell broke loose inside my head.
I was alone in a veritable sea of people. I didn’t know how to get to where my friends were from where I was, and the guys I was supposed to meet had disappeared. The world got very very small, pressing in from all sides. Vulnerability welled in my chest and I searched for a place to hide. I’ll skip the gory details about what happens during a panic attack but about an hour later, Jonathan and Eddie found me hiding behind the mammoth metal gates at the entrance to the park, my head on my knees, and tears streaming down my face. I am a grown woman with a great career in IT, 24 published books, and I couldn’t handle the crushing fear and alienation.
Fast forward one year, and it’s time again for pride.
With the failure of the previous year ringing in my head, I let Jonathan know that I wouldn’t be coming down for pride. I cited the cost of travel, hotel, etc., but he saw right through me. He informed me that not only would I be getting back on the horse and coming to pride, I’d be staying with them, and walking with the Panthers in the parade.
Wait, what? I’m sorry, did you just say that you want me to walk in front of a million spectators with a group of people I’ve never even met? There is no way this can possibly end well.
Until it did.
From the moment we walked up to the float, they embraced me. Whether they did it because they recognized a kindred leather subby sister, or because Jonathan had paved the way, it didn’t matter. Nitro, Sir Alan, Brian, JP, Isaac, Dale – they all opened up a place for me that day and I had an absolute blast. It was my very favorite pride. When the walk was over and it was time to head back to the Atlanta Eagle, Boypup Isaac had me sit against his legs and he wrapped his arms around me as we rode on the back of the trailer. We’ve been friends ever since. I think it was then that Jonathan started to use the phrases “when you move to Atlanta” or “when you move down here”. I’d never considered it before – moving away from Chicago. But, I had far more friends in Atlanta, more reasons to leave the house – which I never did except the times I traveled for events.
So, I lined things up, and took a huge leap of faith. My friends here have caught me and held on tight. I’ve been out more in the last two weeks than I have in the last two years. And whenever I have those thoughts that no one wants me here, or that I’m alone, I just ask Nitro to put me to work. He’s done an amazing job of it so far. There are times when I’ll sit off by myself, but then someone comes to sit next to me and bring me back into the fold. When the bar gets too crowded, Jonathan stands right next to me and doesn’t let go. It’s a slow process, overcoming a lifetime of conditioned behavior. I have to work at every social event not to wander off and find a quiet place alone—but it’s better.
Last night Nitro stood on stage and challenged each one of us to step outside our comfort zone. I, for one, plan to take him up on that challenge. So, I’d just like to end this post with three words for my social anxiety –
BRING IT BITCH.
~ JP Barnaby
About JP Barnaby
Award winning romance novelist, J. P. Barnaby has penned over a dozen books including the Working Boys series, the Little Boy Lost series, In the Absence of Monsters, and Aaron. As a bisexual woman, J.P. is a proud member of the GLBT community both online and in her small town on the outskirts of Chicago. A member of Mensa, she is described as brilliant but troubled, sweet but introverted, and talented but deviant. She spends her days writing software and her nights writing erotica, which is, of course, far more interesting. The spare time that she carves out between her career and her novels is spent reading about the concept of love, which, like some of her characters, she has never quite figured out for herself.
Web site: http://www.JPBarnaby.com
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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