Last night I met a group of strangers I already knew…

Last night I found myself in a pub that I hadn’t been in for over 20 years. It had changed clientele since I’d been in there. 20 years ago it had been a little rough around the edges being down to earth with cheap though decent beer and now it is smooth and the soft drink I had was a copy cat coke with prices that exceed those I paid in London recently for the real thing.

Memories came back of the lifestyle that I’d left behind. Back then I was one of many local drunks and I never got through a day without “taking the edge” off with copious amounts of booze and illegal substances. They weren’t happy memories.

The person I am now has no crutches to shore me up when meeting people I don’t know but, because I’d tweeted with them for months they were people I almost knew. I’m not good with groups of people and I’m quiet around strangers. I have memory problems and I can’t remember names so being faced with Twitter handles and not knowing most people’s real names I found it difficult. Thrown in was an anxiety that bubbles under all the time. It’s like a vague sound that you can only just hear and don’t know where it’s coming from. It pecks away at me a lot though it’s worse some days than others.

We had all been curators or were going to be curators of a rotating account called @Bristol52. The people were lovely and chatty but I struggled. I’m not good at small talk and I found it difficult to concentrate on what people were saying in a noisy environment. But I did it. I got there, I stayed a respectable amount of time and then I left to take a walk home taking photos as I walked.

I won last night because I refused to give in to the anxiousness and I had quite a nice time despite it. I knew when to call it a night and when it was the right time to go home. I was wise enough to know that a walk home in the cold night air was better for me than a bus ride. I knew that when I got home a cup of coffee and a chip butty would comfort me as much as a chat and a cuddle with my animals. Next time (and there will be a next time) it’ll be easier. It won’t be comfortable but it will be less uncomfortable and I will enjoy it more.

Social networking is great for me. I’m a hermit by nature but I keep in touch with life and reach out more than I would if it didn’t exist. Twitter has become my main platform for blogging and showing off my photographs. The @Bristol52 account gave me an opportunity to show to Bristol at least that people with mental health problems were actually normal to spite an illness and it was a good experience. If the cost was a slightly uncomfortable with lovely people I’d like to meet again then it was a price worth paying. Next time the cost will be less and I’ll grow just a little bit more. Comfort zones stunt me, moving out of them strengthens me. Roll on the next gathering!

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