(Yes, I *am* wearing a Knights Who Say Ni helmet in a tank top for my profile pic. WHAT.)
The week I'm referring to was on our first book tour, when John came down with a deadly combo of pneumonia and a bacterial staph infection. I did a show while he was in the E.R., before we realized how serious it was, but after that is a haze of terror and helplessness and aching, soul-stabbing loneliness.
With Epbot I set out to create a place where, among other things, I could be myself and just talk to people. And ideally, have them talk back. About silly stuff. About fandom stuff. Of struggles and triumphs and inspirations - of cabbages and kings!
I got all that in spades.
Today, most of my closest friends I've met through this blog. Some were fans who asked for a meetup, others were artists or cosplayers I featured on roundups. Some I've only met IRL a few times, others I get to see every month. But all of them found something in common with me, chose to express it, and have made my life so much richer.
Even those of you I don't know yet, I feel like I know, at least a little. From what I hear on meetups, I think you feel the same. We have these commonalities, you see. Not everything, of course - that'd be boring - but enough to bring us together. Enough to cheer each other on.
Yesterday John and I had a meetup at Diagon Alley in Universal. Not unusual; we do these a lot.
Why yes, I WILL use this excuse to post a few pics from my phone.
This was a particularly lovely one, though, because right up front Chelsea admitted she was nervous meeting me, so I got to confess that I was nervous, too. Not over the meeting, but because I'd decided that maybe that was the day I could finally, after years of hoping and trying and failing - finally get myself on the ride E.T.
You're laughing now, but my agoraphobia has prevented me from going on rides for around 5 years now. It's an irrational nuisance, a fear-monster I've been working to tame. Two years ago I conquered the kiddy Dr. Suess ride, but anything that locked me in, that lifted off the ground or sailed into water, has been off-limits - and of course that's nearly all of them.
E.T. was my holy grail, because I hadn't been on it since I was a kid, and because I was afraid it would close before I could work up the courage. Yes, I, a grown woman, was afraid of the E.T. ride.
I've been working on my exposure therapy, though, while continuing to get my thyroid and hormone issues in check. Several months ago I went on the boat ride in The Land. Before that I made it through the queue of E.T. - a big step, since they lock you in a room first - before ducking out at the end with shaky, sweaty palms. And often at night, before I went to sleep, I would imagine myself on the ride, the darkness and the height and the restraint bars, until the fear loosened ever-so-slightly.
So I'd been doing my homework, and I felt, finally, ready. All I needed now was moral support, a pinch of distraction, and maybe even a scosh of peer pressure.
I told Chelsea this - well, an abbreviated version - when we first met, and later that day, just before the park closed, she and her hubby Nate insisted on accompanying me and John to the ride.
We told them they didn't have to. There were other things they'd rather do, and we told them to go do those instead. But they spent their precious vacation time to come with us, chatting and laughing, and then they rode E.T. with me, and you guys, I rode E.T., I did it, and though I shook quite a bit and gripped those handlebars 'til my knuckles went white and I very nearly panicked, I didn't panic. I went right to that edge, and came back safe and sound. I can't say it was fun, not yet, but I can see how it might be again someday - and just that is something I couldn't imagine even a few months ago.
I know a theme park ride is a silly victory, I do, but it's a marker of so much more. Last week I sat comfortably through a community play. Bad traffic doesn't bother me anymore. Neither do elevators or movies. A month ago - and this one stings to admit - I successfully drove by myself for the first time in over two years, and it was actually fun. Best of all, I did all of these things without Xanax.
While I'm proud, let me be clear: It's not mind-over-matter. It's not that I have better or stronger willpower. It's proper health care and treatment and medication, combined with a few mental and breathing techniques for fine-tuning. After years of searching for the right doctors and tests, my Hashimoto's is mostly under control, I do spine stretches to relieve "computer hunch," and most recently I've been correcting some imbalances with prescription hormones - all issues that have triggered and exacerbated my panic. It's been such a long, tedious journey, but now, almost a decade after my panic switched on overnight, I can almost imagine a life without it. Almost. That. is. HUGE.
I'm telling you all this because I want you to know there is hope, and because this isn't a private victory. Whether you're aware of it or not, you've helped me get here. This community is helping me take back what agoraphobia has stolen from me. So it was only fitting that Chelsea and Nate were there with me at E.T., even if they, too, didn't know how much they were helping. (I managed not to cry after; just stood there grinning and shaking. That's another little battle won.)
Thanks to this community, I don't have to face the monsters alone. And neither do you.
Oh, and since I believe every victory deserves its spoils, check it out - I got myself a battle trophy:
I took this on a nearby bench while the rest of the group went on the Simpsons ride. (Baby steps - I'll get to more rides eventually.) You know I'm giddy when I resort to taking selfies. [shudder]
My new E.T. plush stands next to my monitor, a reminder of triumphs and home and friends I haven't met yet, and also that when the really hard times come, next time, I won't have to face them alone.
Fist bumps all round, y'all. We did good.