I survived. Overall I had a really great time, actually.
As suspected, my many fears and anxieties were unfounded. Mostly. There were times when I felt deeply lonely and left out, and times when I felt absolutely full-stop-functionality overwhelmed, but the were reasonably easy to recognize and cope with.
I enjoyed drifting and not being attached to a specific friend group, overall, because there was less pressure to perform. I could go to a panel alone and later I'd see people and we'd chat or hang out for a while and then we'd drift off to other activities, etc. Nothing was personal. Someone could say: "Oh, I need to go see a panel/do a thing," and because there were so many things to see/do it didn't feel at all like "I'm a loser and no one wants to hang out with me" (a fear I had).
Was a super-low-key day and left me feeling a bit lonely (most people aren't there during the day on Thursday, and I was still finding a groove). I went to the greatest number of panels this day. Some of them were even good! The day started off by me sitting down early with a coffee and then getting wrapped into a three hour conversation about books with a small group of other people I didn't know. That was my first "Oh! These are my people!" moment. I had pretty long conversations with friends that were also very low-key. I had an "early night"--getting to bed by about 2:30 a.m., ultimately.
Became a super-social day. I kept running into people I knew both peripherally (not that well) and as friends. I kept having good, brief, fun conversations. I felt really *on*...until I shut off. There was a weird sort of social barrier that went up at about 6 or so. I had a friend offer to hang out and I declined, saying I just wanted to walk around a bit. And so I did that...and I had more interactions that were good and brief. When I reached a limit, the "hey, I just want to walk around a bit, I'll catch you later, okay?" line seemed very, very cool with people. They understood.
I went to a social anxiety panel on Thursday and one of the things that they said was: Sometimes anxiety can present as extroversion, because you keep flitting from group to group, and you're good for a while, but you get restless and anxious. I felt like that.
Actually, I wished I had a drink to relax me a bit--but the drink-things didn't really open until 10 (some of them 8).
I also brought and distributed a lot of my buttons. That was cool.
I dressed up as Arcanna, which is sort of a sexy cosplay but is made more modest by a lab coat. At first I felt like...I wasn't as easy to approach that way. Fewer people smiled. Fewer people said hi. A friend reassured me that lots of people were probably just hung over. Saturday early is pretty low-key anyway.
There were far fewer panels I was interested in on Saturday, too. So a lot of my day was walking-walking (which I like). I got about 20k steps on my fitbit. I volunteered for a mobile house of toast shift and that was SUPER fun. Performing is a different skill set than having to be social, and so flipping that switch was easy and energizing.
Also, I brought a flask for Saturday. This was a smart choice! Not that I recommend drinking large quantities, but a few sips from the flask in the late afternoon *really* upped my enjoyment of things like being still and people-watching (without that persistent "I'm a loser no one likes me and they only talk to me because they feel obligated" feeling). I was in a much mellower, happier place with a bit of chemical (alcohol) assistance*.
Once the night stuff started going on I met up with various friends at various times and had tons of fun being tipsy and flirty and walking around to various places. Saturday night was my "late" night, and I got home and to bed by about 4 a.m. (The advantage to commuting is that I didn't actually drink that much all weekend, overall--no hangovers, yay!--but on Saturday it meant that it became a late night to account for the drinks I did have.)
I wasn't going to go Sunday, but friends were meeting up to take a picture and were bringing their kids, so I brought Nadia for a few hours. Mostly I was overly-tired and stressed out, and 2 year olds are hard to manage at things like this. But it gave D a break.
Also, I dislike seeing the end of things. I don't like going to the State Fair on the final day--there's a sadness about things still going on, but lots of stuff being packed up and taken away.
Overall it was a good-to-great experience. The low points were brief in the relative sense.
I'm missing a lot of stuff in this little recap. But it's a bit of a whirlwind experience, really.
*It's easy for me to go to a bar and not drink. To go to a party and not drink (well, depending on how well I know people and how overwhelmed I am at the outset). But I have an AA checkbox relationship with alcohol in this way: I like to have a drink (not get drunk or have lots of drinks) when I'm alone or alone-in-a-social-setting. I like to have a glass of wine while watching my favorite show. I liked sipping from the flask and walking around a little bit looser and less worried about the wheels of anxiety spinning in my own head. AA says this is an alcoholic warning sign (only one of many, granted) but still. It seems sort of judgey that this is a metric of alcoholism--drinking "alone" vs. drinking as a social experience. WTF, AA? Or maybe there is reasoning behind it that is beyond arbitrary.