Sewing Meet-ups and Anxiety: I went to PR Weekend and Survived

So I haven't even started writing this post yet, and the sighs are already coming out. I have been planning to write this post for over a week now, and really struggling with exactly where to start with it. So I'll just start at the beginning. Lol

Back in February, while I was lying in bed with the flu, I got a message from one of my favourite sewing bloggers, Gillian. Gillian told me that she was speaking at PR Weekend in Ontario, and that she would really love it if I could come. First of all, I had no idea what PR Weekendwas and I had to look it up. LOL. And secondly, while I have always wanted to go to a sewing meet up, and I see them happening through instagram all the time, I've been mostly way too anxious to ever go. I am fairly introverted, and as I get older and start to realize more things about myself, I have noticed that socializing, especially with strangers really takes a lot out of me. I can do it, and sometimes I find it quite enjoyable, but it takes a lot out of me.  I also worry all the time. I worry about saying the wrong thing, about whether or not I have offended people and whether or not people will like me. It kind of sounds silly when I say it out loud, but the feelings are real, and they can sometimes be overwhelming. Sometimes it's easier to just stay in my little bubble where it's comfortable.

On top of all that, I have become a bit of a nervous traveller, which sounds kind of ridiculous because John and I travel quite frequently, and once I get to the place we're going to, I usually love it. But anyway, it's all stuff that I am working on, and I think it's really important to push myself out of my comfort zone sometimes, and build up some strength with experiences. I mean I'm never going to get better at something if I don't practice right? So after figuring out that PR Weekend is basically the website Pattern Review's, annual meet up and conference, I decided that I wanted to go. I also discovered that Stratford, where this year's weekend took place, is only about 30 minutes from where our middle son (Nick) is going to school. So perfect, John could come with me and visit with Nick while I went to Stratford. So I talked to John and we booked everything (along with tacking on a bit more travel to Montreal and to Halifax as well - go big or go home right?). I was a little nervous thinking about it, but I discovered that Helen and Caroline (who I have great online relationships with - and you might also know from the Love to Sew podcast) would be there, as well as my fellow Calgarian, Anya, who I had already met in person a couple of times. So that gave me some comfort - at least there would be some people I knew there. And I really, really wanted to be there to support Gillian.

To be perfectly honest, I knew I would be okay for day one of the weekend. Day one involved some great talks (Gillian's included), a pattern swap, a lunch and a dinner but it was all in the same place, and I told myself that worst case scenario, I could always escape back to my hotel room if I was feeling uncomfortable or not enjoying myself. It was day two that I was super nervous about. Day two involved travelling by bus to a town about 1.5 hours away, and then spending the day in that town shopping around, finding lunch, and then returning on the bus. I was super freaked out about the bus ride. Basically, my bladder is about the size of a walnut (and when I'm nervous, it's even smaller) and I'm not really great with car travel when I don't know exactly where I'm going, and where the pitstops are. Plus the idea of being cooped up on a bus wasn't very appealing. But I convinced myself, that the PR crowd is pretty much all women, and mature women at that, so I figured we would probably be in a coach style bus with comfy seats, air-conditioning and a bathroom, which would make it all bearable. I also thought, that absolute worst case scenario, I could just opt out of the second day. Which is probably what I should have done, but more on that later.

Here are some pics from the first day. It really was a lot of fun. I met some great people and actually enjoyed the socializing. It's really amazing to be in a room filled with people who are just as passionate about sewing as you are. It was really cool to chat with people about the outfits they were wearing and things they were making. I got to meet the mother-daughter duo behind Jalie Patterns, and chat with them about their new collection (and buy a ton of their new patterns LOL).  A couple of people even came up to me and told me they recognized me from my blog and instagram. That blew me away! 

This is me, and Diane. Diane and I have had lots of interactions on Instagram, but I didn't recognize her until she told me her instagram name. What a world we live in?

This is me, and Diane. Diane and I have had lots of interactions on Instagram, but I didn't recognize her until she told me her instagram name. What a world we live in?

This is me and Anya. Anya is so lovely and incredibly funny. When you're around her, you immediately feel at ease.  Not to mention she is an incredibly talented sewist. I am so lucky to have her in my hometown (when I'm there) and I look forward to hanging out with her more.

This is me and Anya. Anya is so lovely and incredibly funny. When you're around her, you immediately feel at ease.  Not to mention she is an incredibly talented sewist. I am so lucky to have her in my hometown (when I'm there) and I look forward to hanging out with her more.

And here I am with Caroline. Caroline and I have been emailing back and forth for forever and she is just the sweetest friend. It was so amazing to finally meet her in person, and someday I'll get to Vancouver and hopefully get to sew with her too!

Me and Gillian. Gillian has been a huge inspiration to me ever since I started sewing and found sewing blogs. I love her style and her attitude. She is incredibly supportive and her smile lights up a room. She was so fun to hang out with, and I know if we lived closer together, we'd hang out all the time.

Here is Gillian during her talk about photography. It was excellent, and if you haven't already, you should check out her  Better Pictures Project  on her blog. Sooo much good information.

Here is Gillian during her talk about photography. It was excellent, and if you haven't already, you should check out her Better Pictures Project on her blog. Sooo much good information.

This is me and Lori. During Gillian's talk, she asked us to pull out our phones and take a selfie. Lori was right beside me, so we did it together. Lori is so friendly, and I loved that when I looked over at her during some of the talks, she was knitting. She is also one half of the duo, the Clothes Making Mavens, which is another fantastic sewing podcast.

I kept missing selfie opportunities with Helen, but I did get this one. Helen is amazing - she is incredibly talented, really grounded, and she is super fun to talk to. You guys probably know that I am a pattern tester for her, and she is so awesome to work with. I'm wearing my York Pinafore which she designed, in all of these photos. 

This photo was taken after the break on the first day. We did a costume change because after dinner, they were planning to judge the optional camp shirt and pj contest. Spoiler alert, I didn't win, but Anya won the camp shirt contest. 

I feel like this photo encapsulates Gillian and my personalities so well.

So this brings us to the dreaded day two. Ha ha! I had asked one of the PR organizers on day one, what to expect in terms of buses for day 2, and I was surprised to find out that they had rented school buses. Plain, old fashioned, yellow school buses. I found that quite crazy especially because it had been so hot in Stratford, and this was a group of women, not children. Anyway, I understand organizing something like this takes a ton of effort and I also know that school buses are probably cheaper. Anyway, I wasn't the only one not looking forward to school buses. Ha ha! Gillian, Anya, Helen, Caroline and I all decided it would be better to go in a car. And we bumped into Helena and Lori in the hotel lobby, who also decided to take their own car. 

This is from left to right, Anya, Gillian, Caroline, Lori, Helen, me, and Helena (the other half of the Clothes Making Mavens duo). This is us just before we left the hotel on day 2.

I should mention here, that I had not gotten much sleep during the night, I had eaten way too much sugar, and I was a bit hopped up on excitement and nervousness. But all things considered, I didn't feel to badly. Anyway, we all hopped into Caroline & Helen's car, and it wouldn't start right away, I'm not sure why, but it did end up starting in the end. But this made us all feel a bit wary of getting stuck somewhere, so we decided to go in Anya's little rental car instead.

We had planned to eat breakfast in Stratford, but the restaurant we wanted to go to was packed and the wait looked huge, so we grabbed a coffee and then were on our way. Oh, and this had been another factor for me throughout the weekend, I wasn't eating enough - I'm currently on a pretty strict elimination diet, so I'm not eating eggs, dairy, or gluten, among other things - and my plan is to be on it for at least a year, so I couldn't just go off of it for the weekend. I hate being such a pain in the butt when it comes to food (or anything really) and I was lucky that there were some gluten free options at the included meals, but staying away from eggs and dairy on top of gluten is really tough. So anyway, I had mostly been eating granola bars I had brought, coffee and some candy that Helen and Caroline brought (Sour Patch Kids? Yes please!).

Anyway back to the story, I was in the back of the car between Helen and Caroline, and I started to feel a little uneasy, but I figured I'd take a few deep breaths and be okay once we got going. So I did, but then I started to feel a little claustrophobic, and then it seemed like we were driving way out into the country, not on the main highway, and I started to feel more anxious. I had looked at the route on my phone before we left and I thought we would be on the main highway, which has lots of gas stations and places to stop (which was how I was reassuring myself about the drive), so when we seemed to get off that route, I started to feel even more anxious. Of course, we all had our phones and a car GPS, so we weren't ever going to get completely lost, but anxiety isn't rational - fear isn't rational. Anyway, I'm sure my breathing must have changed a bit, because Caroline looked over at me with concern, and said are you okay? And that was enough for the flood gates to open. The tears came out, and I couldn't stop them, and then it became a vicious circle.  I was crying because of my anxiety, and because I was feeling trapped in the car, and then crying even more because I hate causing a scene, and then crying more because I was embarrassed and I felt like I was ruining everything and crying more because I'm 38 years old and I should be able to sit in a car for an hour and a half without having a panic attack. Then on top of that, I had to pee and my stomach started gurgling. It was not fun! But luckily, the car that I was in was full of amazing, caring and understanding women, (thank you again Helen, Caroline, Gillian and Anya!) and they took really good care of me. They made a bunch of stops, gave me lots of hugs and reassurance, and then helped me make a plan to get into a better space. It was really incredible actually. So what ended up happening, was, the ladies got the GPS reprogrammed to go off the planned route, and go to Waterloo which wasn't very far, and I texted John and Nick to come and pick me up at a Tim Horton's near the highway. I didn't feel really good about missing out on the day, but at this point, I knew that I wouldn't be able to calm down if I stayed in the car, and I also didn't want the rest of the group to spend the day worrying about me. And even now, I know it was the right decision. All the ladies were really great and texted me later in the day to tell me they still loved me, and to check on me, and that really meant a lot. I was sad to have missed out on the fabric shopping (and more camaraderie), but I think we all know I have more than enough fabric, so that wasn't the end of the world either.

You might wondering why I would share all of this. Well, a few reasons really. I feel like it's really important to be honest about who I am - I mean it can't be all sunshine and rainbows all the time. And, I really think that I am probably not alone in my struggles with anxiety. I was pretty embarrassed at the time, but I'm human, and I cry, and I have anxiety; it's part of who I am. I think that it's important to talk about our feelings and experiences, and also mental illness of all varieties. It's important to be open about not only our successes but also our struggles and imperfections. I mean we're all human and we all go through similar experiences, no matter how unique we think we are. I know I take great comfort in knowing I'm not alone, and when I read about someone else having similar experiences to mine, I feel less alone. I am a huge worrier, and that's one of the reasons why I love sewing. It really grounds me in the moment and keeps me present, so I can imagine there are other people out there sewing/knitting/crafting/arting for the same reasons.

So, do I regret pushing myself and going to PR Weekend? Absolutely not! I had a really great day that first day, and I learned a lot about myself on the second day. I wanted to go to support Gillian during her talk, and I did that. I am also proud of myself for not hiding my true self, and for being vulnerable. Would I go to PR Weekend or something similar, again? Yes! I know now some things I could do next time, to help make it better/easier for me, but I also know that I can do it. And I feel like I made some really true friends through all of this (hopefully, they feel the same way). So moral of the story, if you push yourself to go to a sewing meet up (if that's important to you), and your worst case scenario happens, it can still be okay - it's okay to be vulnerable, and to be yourself. Plus, this just gave me more evidence that sewing people are the best people. ;)

So there you go, if you made it through this super long post, thank you so much! I hope you aren't thinking, boy that Heather is a complete basket case, but if you are, that's okay too. Now you know. Ha ha ha! If you've had similar thoughts or experiences and you want to share, please do in the comments, or if you don't want to share publicly, feel free to send me an email. 

As always, thanks for reading, and I hope to be back here again soon!