Signing Event Aftereffects
This is a follow-up post to my Pre-event Thoughts post last week. Reading the previous post may help you understand where I’m coming from when I write this one.
I’m writing this many days after the fact because it takes me a while to digest my experiences. I also like to get a little distance between me and any highly emotional events before I come to conclusions on them. And finally, as you’ll see from the post, I was physically unable to write this before now.
ETA: I’ve noticed some grammatical errors, and honestly, I don’t feel like fixing them. Please try to overlook them.
Day 1 – Travel Day
I drove from Kentucky to Biloxi, Mississippi with a friend riding with me. Our total travel time was over 9 hours after all our stops. The trip itself was thankfully uneventful. However, the stress of driving combined with my continued anxiety about the book signing was enough to have me all bent out of shape by the time we arrived.
I have a lovely combination of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, anxiety, and god only knows what else. Long before we arrived in Biloxi, I was in horrible pain from this unholy trinity of health problems.
My neck, shoulders, and back were tighter than I ever remember them being before. I’m not sure how I drove for so long with that pain. Just thinking back on it now makes me want to cry from the remembered pain.
My arms and legs were shaking, twitching, and cramping from fatigue. The best way I can describe this feeling is as a combination between the fatigue you’d feel after a hard workout and the twitches you’d get from a mild electrical shock. Together.
Sounds fun, right?
And this was just the beginning of the long weekend. I was still almost sick with anxiety from thinking about the day yet to come – the day when I had to face hundreds of people. And for the cherry on top, we were later than planned, and I still had to set up my table that night before doing anything else.
I was extremely grateful when no one else I was with wanted to go to the author meet and greet that evening. I almost cried from relief. Not only did it mean one less session of putting on a brave face and acting fine, but it also meet I could take some time to relax in my room and try to reduce my pain level.
Day 2 – Signing Day
I woke up feeling like shit because I slept like shit. Which isn’t that surprising given my health issues. Sleep problems – everything from insomnia, unrefreshing sleep, and bad dreams – are common in fibromyalgia. And of course anxiety can cause or worsen those same things.
Like most people with invisible illnesses though, I powered through the fatigue and put on my metaphorical all’s-okay, I’m-a-pleasant-person mask.
As we walked through the casino to the meeting rooms, we could see people lined up to get in to see their favorite authors – almost an hour before the doors would open.
Panic began to set in. I started to hyperventilate. My stomach churned and begged to be emptied of its contents. My footsteps slowed as I fought the urge to turn and run the other way. Any moisture in my mouth evaporated, making it impossible to even swallow.
The only way I managed to make it through all this without any disastrous results was my years of training in deep breathing, meditation, and yoga. And, yes, my friends. Without them, I probably would have run or gotten sick anyway.
The waiting was the worst part. Like it always is. Once the waiting is over and things start happening, anxiety has (mostly) no reason to stick around. There’s no point in obsessing over possibilities when those possibilities are becoming realities.
As the doors opened and each person entered, my anxiety dropped a tiny notch and I breathed easier. After those who’d bought VIP tickets were through and the doors were opened to general admission, I felt almost normal.
All in all, the event itself went well for me, if you ignore the anxiety. I wasn’t looked down at by other authors for being the no-name writer. I wasn’t ignored by readers even though I’m an unknown. No one said bad things about my writing. (At least not to me!)
I’d call the day a success, in spite of only selling and signing a few books. Successes to me are those things I mentioned in the previous paragraph. I faced my demons and I won this fight. That’s all I feel I can ask for most days.
Day 3 – Travel again
In spite of sleeping much, much better than the previous night, I still woke up feeling exhausted from the stress on the previous days. I had another 9 or more hours of driving to get through before I could totally relax and start to recover.
The drive home was easier than the drive down to Biloxi, simply because my heightened anxiety about the near future was gone. Still though, by the time I arrived home my shoulders were painful once again.
My wonderful, supportive husband met me at the door and handed me a strong drink. I wanted to cry again. This time from happiness. Grateful that someone understood me and what I had just gone through in the previous days.
I spent the rest of the evening on a heating pad or soaking in a hot bath, trying to reduce my pain, sore muscles, and stiff joints.
Day 4 – “Rest” Day
I put the word rest in quotes above because no day after a travel day is really a rest day. There’s all those things that just have to be done – unpacking, laundry, running errands, cleaning, going through email and messages, etc.
In addition to all that, I had to take one of my cats to the vet for her checkup. Since she’s an elderly sick cat, a checkup is never routine. I wasn’t too anxious about the vet visit since she’s been acting so healthy. However, anxiety isn’t something you can control, so it was always there, in the background, like a low hum, amping up my mental state.
I tried to spend as much of this day as I could by relaxing. Like most people who have too much to do and too little time, I wasn’t that successful.
Day 5 – Back to work
This is the day that separates the chronically ill from the healthy. Yes, I had tried to relax and recover during the previous day. Yes, I had went to bed at a good time and I thought I slept well.
I knew as soon as I got out of bed, though, that I wasn’t okay. I tried all my usual tricks – drank lots of coffee, gave myself time to wake up, took my meds. By the time I got to work, I knew I was going to be useless for the day. Nothing helped my energy, nothing reduced my fatigue.
I cannot explain to you what the fatigue of fibro/chronic fatigue is like. It’s like you’ve been sleep deprived for days. You literally cannot think a single straight thought. It’s like walking through invisible molasses.
As if the fatigue itself isn’t bad enough, now add in depression caused by the fatigue. The fact that you can’t remember your own name makes you want to cry. Well, everything makes you want to cry. All those things you used to be able to do and can’t anymore makes you sad and angry.
Sleep deprivation has been proven to make a person less able to control emotions in general too. This means that you also have to be extra careful in your responses to people when you feel the fibro fatigue, because you are extremely likely to take something someone says the wrong way.
Day 6 – Still going
Today is day 6, and I’m still dealing with fatigue. Thankfully, I’m not completely exhausted anymore. I can think well enough to write this (hopefully) coherent post, even if it did take me 3+ hours to do so. I still have very little energy though. Will this brief period of lucidity last more than a single day? I never know. I can only hope and pray it does.
I’m rethinking the whole idea of book signings. Before last week, I wanted to have the time, money, and energy to do several each year. Now, I’m wondering if I can even attend one or two a year.
I know from my public speaking experience that the anxiety will lessen with each event I do. It will never go away though. That’s not how anxiety works. And the physical energy and endurance required, even without anxiety, makes me seriously question whether I’m physically capable of doing many more.
I’m glad I had this experience, and it turned out to be a good one. I have no regrets.