“I’m just not going. I don’t need to go anyway.”, I explain to my wife. “But you always love this conference when you get there. You’ll be fine once you get on the plane. I want you to stay, but I think you need to go.”, she says.
That is the typical conversation my wife and I have over and over the day before I have to fly to a conference.
This mentality goes through my head on a minute-by-minute basis leading up to hopping on a plane. My binary mind plays the flip-flop game with me over and over and over between wanting to go, feeling like I need to go and then considering just scrapping the entire idea. WTF have I gotten myself into?!?
My brain is crying out to stay home, stick in my usual, remote work routine and maintain comfort in my little bubble. It’s a battle that wages in my head every…single…time I have to fly by myself while popping Xanax.
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I’ve given in to that temptation twice in my life. Once I was speaking at a user group in Minnesota and the other I was speaking at the PowerShell Summit. I’m assuming I caved was due to the pressure of speaking. I’m not sure. My conscious and unconscious brain don’t seem to agree a lot of the time.
When a new conference comes around, a year out, I want to attend badly. I think about all of the people I can meet and chat with and the new technologies I can learn. I’m psyched up until the time comes when, like clockwork, my brain begins to doubt that life decision seriously. “You don’t have to go to that conference, Adam.” “I mean, what’s the big deal if you skip out anyway?” Those are common phrases running through my head as the clock ticks down to departure.
Why am I like this? Always a curious one even with my mental health, I start analyzing my feelings and wonder why my brain locks up like this when I see so many millions of people seemingly thinking traveling is no big deal. Is something wrong with me? Why can’t I be normal? After a lot of contemplation, I’ve managed it stems from four main aspects of my life.
First, I’m an introvert through and through. Like many geeks, I get drained when socializing with a lot of people. When traveling, you have to deal with alot of people in the airport, at the conference, at conference after-events and more. Nowadays, conferences are whirlwind episodes are booze-filled social sessions that leave me crashing at the hotel every night wondering how the partiers continue on past 10 PM.
Second, I don’t handle stress well. The moment stress creeps again, I lose my logical mind and revert to a space cadet forgetting my luggage while waiting in security screening (twice), missing flights (twice), using the bathroom in the ladies room (once) and forgetting my checked carry-on bag on the jet bridge halfway across the airport. My space cadet self doesn’t help my anxiety, as you can imagine, because every snafu only leads to increased stress and a feeling of losing my shit.
My life and my family’s life is as routine as they come. We all operate like clockwork. Imagine doing the same general activities 49-50 weeks out of the year and then suddenly, BAM!, brand new routine for a week. For a left-brained, introvert like myself, it’s a shock to my system.
Routine is comfortable; it’s predictable and is easy to get into. Uproot that routine, and my brain is tossed into a free fall.
Mental Health History
I’ve written about my mental health history previously on this blog and on other sites, so I won’t go into my life story. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression off and on nearly my entire life. I’ve managed to deal with it well between antidepressants over the years, but I’m prone to losing my shit when some people may be mildly inconvenienced. My brain seems to be more susceptible to particular anxiety-invoking situations. It’s either that or I need to quit it. It’s all in my head like some people believe.
I’m writing this blog post as I’m sitting in my departure airport with feelings of anxiety coursing through my veins. The feeling never goes away until I arrive at the airport of my connecting flight. I guess, by that time, my brain knows it has no choice other than to enjoy the ride. That anxiety then graduates to conference anxiety which is a whole different conversation. But nine times out of 10, I’m always glad I went!
I don’t write this and other personal blog posts like this for people to pity the struggles I go through. We all have our demons. I choose to share them in hopes it may help others even though it exposes me a bit. If you relate to this position and want someone who can relate, feel free to comment here, reach out via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on Twitter @adbertram. I won’t be able to “fix” you, but I will try to help as much as I can!