This post is sponsored by McCormick Australia.
Recently I shared that I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. So, it may come as no surprise that blogging conferences are a big deal for me. Big, stressful deals.
The Problogger Training event on the Gold Coast last month was my third blogging conference. I have been to two Digital Parents Conferences, as well as different smaller events over the past few years.
But that doesn’t mean they get any easier.
My first DPCon was a bit of a baptism of fire. Lily was about 18 months old, it was one of the first times I had really spent much time away from her. The conference was in Melbourne and I had to fly there, the first time I had ever flown or really travelled by myself. I didn’t sleep the night before and caught the first plane down the morning of the conference. The transfer was late which meant I was almost 2 hours late to the conference. It was an incredibly long day and I ended up leaving the dinner early and going back to my hotel room to cry. Meeting SO many new people had left me feeling drained and overwrought at the same time. But obviously good things happened too because I went back for another!
The second DPCon was held in North Sydney, so much easier to travel to. I was pregnant with Chloe, had only recently been diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes and was also participating in Meat Free Week. I missed half of the second day as I needed to attend an appointment at the Diabetes clinic. Again, stressful! Yet I found it a little easier as I knew what to expect and had made some blogging friendships over the last year so I wasn’t meeting as many new people. Once again, I got a lot out of the conference and walked away inspired.
I haven’t been to a PBEvent before but after seeing all of the photos, tweets and blog posts from last year’s I knew I just had to try and go this year. When it was announced that DPCon was going to be held on a cruise ship this year, meaning I couldn’t to (I couldn’t leave Chloe) it just seemed to cement the fact that I really needed to go to PBEvent.
The cost was a major barrier but I approached McCormick Australia and they agreed to sponsor me to attend, relieving at least one of our worries.
We were looking at taking a family holiday around the same time, originally to the snow. But we ended up deciding to combine it with my trip to the Good Coast which ended up working our really well.
So how was my anxiety this time around? Peaking. Skyrocketing. Absolutely crazy.
To be honest, I barely thought about it in the lead up. I did that thing when you think it’s still months away then suddenly realise it’s only a week away. I started packing a few days before but I find if I pack too early I tend to get too anxious.
But the biggest cause of my anxiety was Chloe getting sick just days before we were due to leave. Her very first vomiting bug just before her very first trip on a plane!
When we woke Monday morning, mere hours before our flight, to Chloe not even able to keep a breastfeed down we didn’t know what to do. Mr Monkey called the Healthdirect line who suggested we try to get in to see a doctor before we left. The uncertainty and the worry suddenly hit me and I had a panic attack, my first in about 8 years.
Thankfully we were able to get in and see a doctor. Extra thankfully my parents were staying with us and my Dad was able to drive me and Chloe to the doctor while Mr Monkey and my Mum continued to pack.
The drive to the airport and then the wait at the gate was extremely stressful. Thank god for Mr Monkey who was able to keep me calm. Chloe vomited just as we got up to board the plane, all over the chair we were sitting on. Thankfully I had some wipes and I cleaned it up as well as I could and Mr Monkey let the staff know.
I really wanted to concentrate on Lily enjoying the flight (she was a baby the only times she has been on a plane) but I was absolutely petrified that Chloe was going to vomit everywhere. Thankfully she fell asleep before we had even moved and slept for the entire flight. I was exhausted and tried to sleep but was a bundle of nerves so only dozed on and off.
We arrived safely at the Gold Coast and Lily and Mr Monkey went off to baggage claim while I stayed to the side with Chloe. Of course, that was the time Chloe decided to wake up and vomit everywhere, all over the floor. Wipes to the rescue again, as well as my scarf.
Mr Monkey organised the rental car while I cared for Chloe and tried to stop Lily from mucking around with the luggage. We finally get to the car only to discover that our luggage wouldn’t fit in the boot. Thankfully with some creative rearrangement we got it in. Strapped the girls in to their car seats and draped Chloe with one of our beach towels. Both girls slept for the 30min drive to our hotel and I felt a little calmer.
Thankfully we had the foresight to book a 2-bedroom apartment. It was big enough for us to all have room to move around, Lily had her own room (although she only slept in her bed for one night, the rest of the time she wanted to sleep on the couch), and we had a kitchen so we could save money by cooking instead of eating out.
But the biggest plus to the apartment was the washing machine and dryer! It really did not stop for the first two days as it washed towel after towel and change of clothes after change of clothes!
Chloe and I spent the Monday and Tuesday in the room as she was still sick. There was always a towel nearby as the apartment was carpeted and I was so anxious that we were going to be hit with a cleaning bill!
Mr Monkey and Lily were able to spend some time together on those days which was great for them. But stuck in the room with Chloe I found it hard to fight the pretty awful thoughts of “what’s wrong with her?”, “what if it’s worse than just a stomach bug?”, “this is a terrible holiday”.
Thankfully she had stopped vomiting by Tuesday afternoon, although Tuesday night and Wednesday were anxious days as I waited to see if she really was better or if she was going to relapse.
Mr Monkey had to fly home on the Tuesday night to work a function on the Wednesday night so I was left with the girls until Thursday morning. Thank GOD Chloe was better as we were able to get out of the room on Wednesday and go for a walk down to the beach. I think that saved all of our sanities. But there was the added anxieties of Mr Monkey being on two extra flights by himself, the stress he was going through at work and “what on earth would I do if something happened to the girls while I’m by myself in a city that I don’t know?!?”
Of course we were fine and Mr Monkey made it back on Thursday for us all to have a great day at Sea World. Finally it felt like a holiday! Of course, after a big day of walking and fun we were all exhausted but I wanted to meet up with some of the other bloggers for drinks that night, including the amazing Cherie from Raising Master Max. We have talked online for years now but haven’t had the opportunity to meet so it was to do so was just amazing. I was SO nervous meeting other bloggers for the first time and felt incredibly out of place in the trendy Stingray bar at the QT but I ended up having a great time (which was probably helped a little by the 3 G&T’s that went down waaaayy too fast).
Oh my! I just realised how long this post is and I haven’t even gotten to Problogger! Sorry about that, it was a bit of a traumatic week.
Ok so it’s now Friday. I have to be at the QT hotel (about 10mins walk away) at 8am. Considering I don’t normally leave my home until 9am unless I’m going for a run, 8am was going to be a bit of a struggle for me. Especially after a few drinks the night before!! But of course, my anxiety helped a little in this case – I was up early, I had everything ready to go and I was out of our apartment in plenty of time. In fact I had enough time to stop at a convenience store and grab an energy drink, then a muffin from a coffee shop and even enough time to sit at the beach and eat said muffin. That made the biggest difference to how I felt going in – unlike my first conference I wasn’t late, I wasn’t rushed and I wasn’t completely overwhelmed before I got there.
Registration was a bit nerve-racking as it was the first time I was subjected to just how many people were at this conference! 550 people is a LOT of people. Plus, Problogger is very different conference to the Digital Parents Conferences – there are many different types of bloggers from a HUGE range of styles and age groups.
But I saw a few familiar faces which helped to settle me and I grabbed a lemonade and sat in the foyer to use the free wifi to upload some photos before it all started.
Darren’s opening speech was fantastic and really helped to set the mood for the conference. I won’t go into too much detail about what was said or what I learnt from the sessions – I’m sure you can find them on other blogs.
Break times (morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea) were held in the lobby outside the ballroom where the sessions were held. It was fairly small area and with so many people trying to get to the buffet it was a bit crazy and claustrophobic. Thankfully they had opened up the tennis court outside and that’s where I tended to spend most of the break times, especially as the weather was so beautiful!
The one thing with being at a conference with so many people is that you are constantly meeting new people. If you’re an extrovert and a people person this is probably a great thing. But if you are an introvert like me and especially have anxiety like me it can be completely draining. By the afternoon sessions I was exhausted. Thankfully I was able to find a quiet spot outside during afternoon tea where I could just sit for awhile by myself.
To be honest by the time the conference finished for the day I was rather glad to leave. I had had a fantastic day but by that stage I was almost out on my feet and just couldn’t take much more. I went back to my beautiful girls and discovered just how much of a mess they had made of the apartment. Mr Monkey cooked dinner and I got ready to go to the Networking Event which luckily was at a bar just across the road from where we were staying.
However, Chloe wasn’t exactly happy about me leaving again. She had been asleep when I got home the night before, asleep before I left that morning and was asleep when I got home from the conference. So as far as she was aware she hadn’t seen me in a whole day (the longest we’ve ever been apart). She woke upset and then cried whenever I walked out of the room. I almost didn’t leave but Mr Monkey made me go, assuring me she would be fine once I left (which he says she was).
I got to the bar and it was loud, crowded and dark and I couldn’t really find anyone I knew. I got myself a glass of wine, met a few people, had a photo taken with some random people I had just met and then decided that it was all just too much for me. So I was only there for about an hour but at least I made an appearance and I got to dress up!
Saturday morning was a later start and this time I was able to get ready with the girls – they were up early as Daddy was taking them on a whale watching tour (he’s a brave man). I felt much calmer walking into the QT that morning – I knew what to expect which makes a big difference. I recognised faces that I had met the day before and of course, still met others that I hadn’t.
There was some great sessions the second day as well and I decided to spend the day focused on learning and getting as much out of it as I could. For some, conferences like this are purely about the social aspect, for others it’s all about the learning. For me it’s a little bit of both but probably more skewed towards the latter. While I definitely love meeting bloggers that I’ve had an online relationship with and fostering relationships with others, it can become a bit much at times. But I always get a lot out of the sessions I attend and even this time, after 3 years in the “biz”, I’ve come out with a huge to-do list of things to do with my blog and ideas of where I want to take it. Of course, now that I’m home I’ve realised I don’t have the time to do it but it’s nice to be inspired!
By the second afternoon I was well and truly over trying to make small talk and at afternoon tea I sat in the sunshine and called Mr Monkey to see how their day had been and called my parents at home to check-in. That little touch of “home” grounded me and I was able to go into the last sessions feeling much calmer and at ease.
The conference ended with a bang with the competition results (which I really wanted to win but was completely anxious about having to go up in front of so many people if I did!) and Darren’s closing remarks. All in all, I had a fantastic time but felt completely exhausted by the time it all came to an end.
I left the conference to meet Mr Monkey and the girls at our hotel where they were with some of Mr Monkey’s cousins. We had a nice relaxed BBQ dinner with them near the hotel pool and it was such a lovely way to decompress after a full-on week.
Sunday morning was stressful as we had to be out of the apartment by 10am and I obviously hadn’t been doing any cleaning over the past two days. Being a self-contained apartment we had to make sure it was spotless before we left. But we did it and managed to be out on time.
We started to head towards the airport and stopped in at some shops to grab some bread rolls to go with the various foodstuffs we had leftover from our stay for a picnic lunch. We found a random playground where the girls had a great time. However, Lily had started to get grumpy, which we thought was just because she was tired after a big week. (We discovered a few days later that she actually had tonsillitis!) I was anxious about getting home and what we had to attend to once there and Mr Monkey was stressed about the work he was going home to. So we were all a little on edge and all pretty happy when it was time to get back to the airport.
As we arrived at the airport we realised we still had a DVD that we were supposed to return to the hotel lobby before we left. Cue very stressful phone calls as we tried to work out what to do with it. We got hold of the hotel who gave us the details of the company to call. In the end we decided to just take it home with us – we would try to return it to a kiosk near us or mail it back to them (we ended up mailing it to them).
Of course while we were trying to deal with this we also had to deal with returning the hire car and then check into our flight. We were early enough to sit for awhile before boarding but everyone was stressed and grumpy and just ready to get on the flight.
Thankfully, the flight home was much more enjoyable yet still made anxious as it was the first time Chloe had been awake on a flight. She was fairly well behaved but wanted to take every single thing out of the pocket on the seat in front and couldn’t work out why she had to spend so long on my lap and wasn’t able to run around. Thankfully it was only a short flight!
We made it to Sydney airport without a hassle where my Dad picked us up and we returned to a wonderful welcome home from my niece and a roast dinner cooked by my Mum. I definitely recommend that for a great welcome home!
Because we had had the washing machine in the apartment we only had a small amount of washing to do when we got home. The house was fairly clean before we left so I didn’t have too much anxiety about what I needed to do when I got home.
So in summary, it was an… interesting week. It started off terrible but ended pretty good. The Problogger Conference was fantastic but completely overwhelming but I think I managed to keep my anxiety fairly level, for the most part.
Of course, I came home and it all hit me and the last week or two has been incredibly hard. My mood has been at an all time low and my anxiety levels have been high. But I suppose that’s to be expected really.
I want to say a big thank you again to McCormick Australia who sponsored me to attend the conference. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to attend.