I met some bloggers for brunch in Ottawa recently. This is the second time I’ve met people face-to-face who only know me through this blog, which is something I didn’t think I’d ever do again. I mostly went because I was invited by Zoom!, whose blog I really enjoy, and since there have been no night terrors since the brunch, I’d call the entire event a rousing success.
As a means of judging how far I’ve progressed in my recovery I’ve been really interested to find out how I’d act and react in a group of people, and finding out in a group of strangers seems to make more sense than surrounding myself with people I do know only to find out that, when it’s not my turn to speak, I drool.
The brunch was a lot more informal than I initially thought. When I was first invited I figured it would go one of two ways… either we’d be standing up and mingling so when I dropped my glass of orange juice it would have some time to build up momentum before crashing into the carpet.
Or we’d be sitting around a collection of tables and the discussions on either end would occasionally be interrupted as I, somewhere in the middle, would again and again drop egg-yolk into my lap.
It was a lot more of the latter but I skipped the eggs and went with the smoked salmon on a bagel and a bowl of mixed fruit. I was nervous going into the brunch, but not overly so… at least not as nervous as I thought I would be when I was first invited.
I did actually stand just down the street from the restaurant, under an overpass so I’d be out of the rain, for ten minutes before walking into the restaurant. But I think that was equal parts nervousness and thinking it was something I was supposed to do.
Generally when I’ve had time to think about meeting new people, especially in groups, I’ve tended to over think everything and will plan conversations to the gesture. But this time I just watched the scenery flash by on the bus ride to Ottawa. I do remember being nervous, but only feeling like… like I had a three too many cups of coffee.
I think some of my nervousness was calmed by the fact everyone was anonymous. Some of the bloggers had met before, but never as part of this specific group. It was very much like two or three degrees of separation between everyone else at the table… kind of like A knew B, C and D; B knew X, Y and Z; Y knew C, N and O and I was 4.
It was interesting being introduced to people by their “code names”, as if none of us were quite comfortable enough or quite ready to have our blogs connected to our real world selves, so that even as we meet in the real world it’s easier to hide behind false identities.
We did all use our real first names, I think because otherwise it would’ve felt too much like a grade nine game of Dungeons & Dragons where everyone was trying to remain in character. But I think having to identify myself by saying “Gabriel… I write Salted Lithium” instead of “I’m Gabriel Blahblah” gave me a bit of a safety barrier so I didn’t have to feel so exposed.
Getting the invitation in itself meant a lot… having people see enough value in this blog that they’d want to meet me makes me feel kind of tingly. This past couple of weeks have been strange like that. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback since I started Salted, but it’s only recently where said comments are starting to feel good. My own particular brand of introversion tends to turn “positive feedback” into… well, basically threats. So when normally good things happen, like my blog-hits spike, I’ll stop posting or turn Salted off to search engines.
Natalia, for example, recently wrote something complimentary the other day about a comment I left, and ExChimp just wrote a post where he mentioned the possibility of me actually knowing what I was talking about, both of which have left me feeling pretty freaking good… I’m still smiling about them. At the brunch itself, however, there were people who not only knew about my blog, but who also spent time at the other end of the line of table talking to other bloggers about this blog. Which totally blew me away.
The only other time I’ve ever heard someone say the words “Salted Lithium” has been when I’m speaking with my psychiatrist. It’s just something that has never happened to me before… like ever. I do get a lot of positive feedback in comments and emails about Salted, and they all mean a lot to me, but actually hearing people speak about this blog and tell me how emotional they’ve gotten while reading… it just blew my mind.
Mostly we spent the brunch talking about the random things we all blog about. I don’t think, other than the actual meeting-physically part, the brunch had any serious purpose. At least no Associations were formed, although we did have tiny name tags.
I was the only person not currently living in Ottawa who was there, and I was also the only person invited who doesn’t write about stuff happening in Ottawa, but I did meet someone who is not only friends with some of my offline friends, she has actually visited my town from time to time. That was weird and random.
I did really enjoy meeting everyone, and I didn’t spill anything on my pants or anyone else’s, even so I’m not sure I’d do something like this again… but if Zoom! asks I probably would.
Actually, now that I’ve thought about it a bit, I think the main reason I’ve never done something like this before is most of the people I blog with are just too far away… interesting.
…the taxi to the place where I catch the bus to Ottawa is twenty bucks, so my mother drove me. The way she was acting as we were waiting it felt very much like my first day going to school on the Big Boy bus.
She was pretty excited about me getting out as well, once I mentioned to her some writers wanted me to join them for a meal she got practically giddy… she’s been (sometimes) gently pushing me to join some groups around here, or ideally find something to do outside of this region for a while now.
She’s even gotten so concerned over the past year about my isolation that over the occasional Sunday dinner she’ll mention something in passing about maybe setting me up with someone from her office. Only not so much “in passing” as “here’s her card and my cellphone”.
It’s great to hear you’re getting a lot of positive feedback about the blog, because it’s great to read, honestly. You have one of the few blogs I make a point of checking daily, in hope of an update =p
Although your mother sounds like my friend Luke. He’s only just turned 18, and she’s already trying to hook him up with the younger employees where she works.
By “younger” I mean 25 year olds, so it still doesn’t work out =p
I always get that “first day of school” crap as well. It’s why I’m trying to get out more too. 🙂
I met with a bunch of bloggers in May, all chicks, and I was scared as SHIT before hand but I had an incredible time, and cannot WAIT to do it again. I’m glad you enjoyed yourself too!
I’m going to a local blogging party and I’m scared shitless…mine is the only mental health blog in the area and it doesn’t help that it’s controversial, but I do have readers among the bloggers here…I just have no idea what they think of me…they don’t leave comments…one or two have sent me emails.
It will be very weird and scary. Strangers who may know nothing about mental health knowing intimate details of my life…
but I’m excited to go too…good to read your account of your experience and see it worked out for you…
I wish ours was a brunch…ours starts at 6pm and goes until 1:30 am…I won’t be able to stay after about 8 pm…I’m just to tied to a sleep schedule and a wind down period in the evening…
Great Job Gabriel!!! That is so wonderful that you were able to get out, overcome, and have a good time. The success of the social outing coupled with the compliments on the blog ought to make a big day for your ego. You certainly deserve it!
I was sorry I didn’t get to talk to you more, but glad that I’ve found the blog.
Gabriel, great writeup. I laughed out loud when I read your line about your mom taking you to the bus.
Bloggers tend to be a pretty introverted bunch (with some notable exceptions of course, but I’m not one of them), so I think more than a few of us were feeling a little anticipatory shyness before brunch. We all did great though.
At any rate, I’m happy you decided to come (and wear pants). It was a pleasure to meet you. I promise I’ll never invite you to anything formal, since I never go to anything formal.
XUP was suggesting that we start having these events regularly (eg maybe the fourth saturday of every month or the first saturday of each season, or something like that) and open it up to all the local bloggers. It could be kind of an ongoing, informal, fluid thing – nothing too structured, just whoever feels like it that day can show up. What do you think?
Oh, and I forgot to mention – I noticed you don’t have a watermark on that photo! 😉
It was really lovely to meet you. Also lovely to read you.
Bloggers are a funny bunch, aren’t they? I didn’t notice you dropping anything on yourself, but I did try to hide the homefry I managed to launch down my shirt. So we’re all I little awkward I guess….
I’m glad you had a positive meeting! It’s hard to meet fellow bloggers – and often awkward in groups. Your description was pretty apt (Hi my name is ..”) for my first “IRL” meeting of fellow bloggers too.
Also – something I’ve learned since having children: It’s not a meal until you share some with your shirt 😉
Gosh, G, that’s fabulous.
Arru anpa Spaks, thanks for making me a part of your day. If I were eighteen again like your friend Luke and someone was trying to set me up with an “older” woman I’d be saying “sure, sounds like fun” a whole lot.
Hi Thor… I actually thought about asking about your meeting, I think it was part of that BlogHer thing, but then I decided I’d just be over thinking the whole adventure. Knowing you made it through unscathed helped…
Hi Gianna… I totally forgot to mention I was the only mental health blogger there, but then I read one of the other blogs and I think I was one of two. Because of the level of honesty needed to make a recovery blog work properly there’s a level of intimacy between reader and writer that most blogs never get to… it’s difficult to explain my Salted blog to people I know offline for the same reason it’s hard to have a conversation with a group of bloggers, it’s the problem of how do you answer the “so what did you blog about today?” question.
Most people blog about something they’ve seen on television or experienced second or third hand, and that’s great. I’m a big fan of new ways of seeing old problems. But you’re blogging about recovering from addiction, I’m writing about recovering from manic depression and father/abandonment issues and Thordora’s writing about recovering from postpartum depression.
Thanks bromac. I owe you an email, which I’ll send off once I wake up… or maybe earlier if my sleepwalking gets any worse.
Hi Zoom!, thanks again for the invitation… if this turns into a regular thing I may insist, at least once, we have the meeting here. But I’d be interested. When I published this post I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t figure it out. It’s kind of like how I feel when I’m looking for something and it’s sitting on the table right in front of me… so thanks for pointing out the missing watermark. The large thing in the corner will be back, but I think for the not-so-special photos I’ll leave off anything else.
A lot of my posts get stolen wholesale by sploggers, so the large URL watermark is my way of making sure people know it’s my material they’re looking at on another blog… so that stays. I have been playing around with different secondary watermarks, and even larger sizes of photos, on my photoblog, which you are more than welcome to comment on…
Hello and welcome Hella Stella, it was great meeting you… I think I might have accidentally noticed you trying to dislodge that homefry, but that totally could have been something else entirely. I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve seen so far of your blog, and I’ll definitely be back later on…
Hi again Soire, I still owe you an email as well… sorry about that. I’d be interested in finding out how many times you’ve met with blogging groups, and how they’ve gone…
Thanks Clare… I think we need to plan something for our second year blogging anniversary…
just want to clarify, yes, I’m recovering from addiction, but to addiction to PSYCH MEDS…not illicit drugs…addiction by prescription made by psychiatrists in other words…
And I’m not completely free of dealing with mental health issues either—not at all, I just look at them differently than a lot of mental health bloggers…but I still consider myself one with you and all other mental health bloggers…
in other words I still catergorize my blog as strictly mental health oriented as there are a lot of people like me who feel psych drugs have done more harm than good…
just wanted this to be clear since when you said I’m struggling with addiction it sounds like illicit drugs and that is NOT the case…
In any case, I’d love it if you felt inclined to send me a note via email to tell me how you negotiated the “what did you write about today” stuff and how did you feel about people you actually met maybe going and reading your intimate thoughts and feelings…I’m a bit scared of that.
People who don’t have a clue about all the shit we’ve gone through??
Hi Gianna… normally when asked about blogging I cheat. If asked and the person or group does not know about Salted then I’ll tell them about my photoblog, my “everything” blog that I hardly ever update anymore… which I really should be doing.
If they know me only through Salted I guess I’ll let them know that mental health issues aren’t all I write about, but Salted is about educating people on mental health issues with a particular emphasis on manic depression.
That’s as far as it has gotten so far. I have written particularly personal posts only to have someone I know pop up to read Salted for the first time… I think the reason I’ve avoided writing about sex related stuff for so long is because people I know offline read Salted, including at least one of my sisters.
Your blog is quite different than mine in how we write about the medication issue, but in terms of how personal our blogs can be I think we’re pretty much in the same boat when it comes to meeting and explaining them to other people.
The problem you face that I haven’t had to is explaining the addiction issue. Once that’s brought up then you have to explain your issues with psychiatry, the DSM and the rest of it… so, if I were you and meeting people for the first time and not wanting to get into a philosophical debate straight away, I think I’d go with “I blog about the issues surrounding mental health, and some of the alternative methods of dealing with them.”, or try to focus on some of the less intense posts you’ve written about. I’ve got the “No Post Days” I can talk openly about… maybe you can focus on the Dr. Norman Doidge kind of posts.
Have you thought about starting a non-health related blog?
Very good suggestions Gabriel…I totally appreciate them…
no I haven’t thought about writing another sort of blog…well, that’s not entirely true…I do have a vague interest in it…but for now so much of my energy goes into the work I do on the blog and stuff that informs the blog—like all the email groups I’m part of and that I moderate….I’m in the midst of an intense education and it’s actually a full time job…
things may change at some point, but I’m not so sure…
in any case your ideas about how to deflect from the intense personal aspects of the blog are good…
one thing I’m mildly nervous about is that a few local bloggers read me…but I have no idea why…they don’t say anything about mental health on their blogs…so I’m worried that they know so much about me and I know nothing of that nature about them…in any case the ones I’m aware of seem like good folk…
oh…one of them is a therapist….but the rest, I’m clueless.
Suggestion: To avoid yolk stains showing on clothes, wear a yellow outfit.