Last week, I told you how nervous I was about attending a party for my friend Rob Brown’s new book, The Public Relations of Everything. In my heart of hearts, I’d have no trepidation. But that’s not how my social anxiety disorder works. Add in the fact that I copy edited the book–and that I knew I would be acknowledged at the party–and my anxieties were pretty damn high.
But I was determined to go. I did. And I’m so glad I went. I took along a friend who also has depression and social anxiety disorder. John was a godsend. When my knees started shaking, I whispered to him, and he reassured me that it wasn’t noticeable. By the same token, I reassured John when he thought he was a complete failure, just because someone took his business card and mingled on when John hoped to talk further. I told John this was a success, because he went up to the guy and showed initiative. We went back and forth like that all day. It was a win-win.
Rob held the party at his house. Mostly, I felt comfortable there. You could tell, by the collection of vintage typewriters, that this was a writer’s house. Rob, along with being a terrific writer, is also a big music fan like I am. He still has vinyl albums. He’s that type of guy.
But anxiety still crept up, and it happened when I least expected it. Rob was showing me his writer’s room, and like almost every other writer’s room, this one has large, packed bookshelves. Books written by those close to Rob get special placement out front. Give him half a chance, and he’ll tell you stories about the books and the people behind them.
I loved that–until a lot of people wandered into the room. As filled with character as it is, it’s a small room. Or, at least to me, it became smaller as more people walked in. Suddenly, it was a crowded room. To my anxiety, crowds are like catnip.
I tried to stay calm. I told myself to breathe and focus on the moment. It worked. For a while. After I don’t know how long, I turned to John and said “we have to leave now.”
John understood. Others were starting to leave the party anyway, so there was no chance of us looking strange if we left. Part of me would have loved to have stayed longer and listened to more of Rob’s stories. But if I didn’t leave, I felt as though I would explode.
We went back to John’s car. He smoked a cigarette, while I decompressed. Other guests passed us by on the way to their cars. I think they thought we were smoking a joint, but we weren’t. We were just, in our own ways, letting out the nerves that we couldn’t let out in public.
Our demons are not gone. But we fought them. And it really was a very nice party. Rob presented me with a copy of the book, and even wrote me this inscription: “For Alan. Passionate reader, meticulous copy editor, creative and collaborate thinker. Without you, how would Everything be accomplished?”
I was very touched by that. And because I went, Rob got to see how touched I was. Here’s a photo of me with the author (I’m on the left), and a photo of the cake with Rob’s book cover. Great people. Great cake. Great experience. I would have missed all of it, had I let my anxiety get to me.
PS – If you’re interested in the book, click on this Amazon link. Since it’s an academic book, it’s quite pricy. But if you’re connected with a university and/or library, it could well be of interest.