Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The One Where I Lost My Shit

I’m a badass bitch, right? Totally forward. Honest. Tough. Tell it how it is. Blah, blah, blah. You know it’s our kind that’s likely the most sensitive? Maybe, sometimes … oh, who knows. But there’s a good chance we have a lot of stories…and even more quirks.

I have anxiety. I didn’t used to (or just didn’t know, I used to say I was “nervous” a lot, for no reason) – I also didn’t use to be afraid of heights. Fun things happen in your twenties! (Thanks mom.) And while I rock/wall climb in pretty valid attempts to ignore, pretend against or invalidate my fear – I can’t do much of anything about the social anxiety.

Side note: I am also terrified of cockroaches for no reason. As a kid I played with bugs. Potato bugs (or rollie-pollies, as some call them) and milli/centipedes were my favorite - I guess I liked bugs that could curl up. I blame my fear of cockroaches on not having any in SW PA – the first time I saw one was when I first moved to DC; it was in our kitchen and I screamed bloody murder (that made my boyfriend at the time bolt into the kitchen to see if I was alive) and jumped up on the counter and refused to dismount for at least 30 minutes. I have since learned to deal with the fear by eeking like a little girl and running away. Solid.

Likewise, I am also terrified of the dentist. This has a foundation though. As a kid the Novocain took longer to work on me; only my dentist at the time never figured this out and also never believed I could feel everything they were doing. And I had many, many, many fillings as a kid. (In 7th grade my tooth just fell apart while eating a chocolate bar in science class. Sexy, right? I blame genetics and second hand smoke.) Once they put so much Novocain in my mouth that, even though I still felt everything through the drilling and filling, by the time we left, the right side of my mouth was so heavy with the drug that when I smiled, only the left part went up. My sisters kept making me smile the rest of the afternoon and drinking that milkshake was a disaster. It got to the point where I found a new dentist and just told him to forgo the Novocain. Felt the same. Finally, at 18, I went to a new dentist who I told my woes to and he suggested we wait a little longer to help it work – assuring me that it was a new chemical compound or something (which I think now was a fib) – but it worked. Unfortunately, it was far too late and the trauma induced by years of pain and people telling me I couldn’t feel what was happening to my teeth and nerves and OUCH! had caused me severe anxiety about going to the dentist. I was prescribed valiums to take before my visits. Now, I haven’t been in 4 years … I know, I know, I need to go.

I’ve had the same 10 Valium pills for four years now. I used one last year to fly to California. (I’m less afraid of flying now; it is now in an ‘uneasy’ category.) A few months ago I used one to go to the Coheed concert. I felt comfortable at the concert and really enjoyed it. So much so, I decided to go to another Coheed concert. Last night. My concert companion really wanted to stand up front. I vowed never to do this again after a Foo Fighters concert when I was 19. I was about 4 rows back from the stage and everyone was jumping around and etc. and at the end of the concert a guy threw up…a lot…in a circle. It was weird. That was when I decided concerts are not for me. I went to two after that; once was JEW where there was a 21+ area towards the back and plenty of personal space and the Coheed concert a few months ago where we were in the middle with a valid enough about of space. (And a Valium.)

I really hate inconveniencing people – namely because I don’t want to be inconvenienced. And I feel guilty if I’m the reason someone can’t do something they want to. I don’t know if this is a personality flaw; plus; or who cares. But against every part of my being, I stood in the second row in front of the stage. The first act I cried a little; but managed to contain the tears in my eyes. I stared at spotlights, closed my eyes, and thought about anything else to compose myself. The act ended. I managed to smile and laugh and pretend to convince myself everything was okay. Then, the second act came up and every adolescent in the first 5 rows pushed forward, my eyes were forced shut , my face was shoved into bodies and I felt like I was in a trash compactor; a really hot, sweaty trash compactor that smelled like feet. Horror.

The music started and everyone started jumping and pushing and screaming and I HATE ALL OF YOU. (Which made me telling the girl that had burped in my ear, not to yell in my ear about an hour prior particularly ironic.) And while my companion knew I was struggling (as the marks on his arms now indicate) and tried to help hold back the masses from killing me, it honestly felt like the worst moments of my life. I felt like I was dying. (I can cope with many things – this is obviously not one of them.) This lasted about an hour. They said two more songs and I held back my tears and my urges to punch people and push them and knock them out and kick them down and pull out their hair that was all over my arm that was covered in sweat that wasn’t mine. (Two things come from this: 1. Concert going ladies: tie your fucking hair back and 2. It provided much needed comic relief when said hair was stuck all over said concert companion’s face and he made futile attempts to get it off whilst his hands were forced down at his sides – after laughing, I helped.) I felt a brief moment of relief when the song ended; my salvation – it would only be better from here: Only just then it felt like the ENTIRE world pushed me forward. In my head I was lost. I just wanted to go home. I was on the verge of breakdown; I had held it together; we could see the band we wanted from so close – only the entire weight of the world pushed against me and my face was in a fat guy’s back and my was chest being compressed again and I CAN’T BREATH! and my anxiety and everything inside me wanted to ball up and die.

I don’t have any idea what my eyes looked like, but who I was with finally said let’s go; and trying to get out was almost worse. We’re going one way and people are pushing against us trying to fill the spots we hadn’t yet escaped. And I scream in terror “let me out” – which someone so kindly mocked, but I didn’t care. He stopped mid-way out of the crowd: Perhaps my eyes were just a glaze and he had no idea what I was going through and only left the crowd because I nearly tearfully said “I want to go home”, because he stopped while people were near. There was space; I would have been comfortable regularly. But this was not a normal circumstance.

We got to the back. I leaned up against a bar. It was cold. My breathing was abnormal but I just needed a minute. And then another minute. And then I realize: Oh shit, I’m hyperventilating and I can’t feel my lips. My face is numbing. I feel like I’m going to pass out. I alert my companion and he insists we go outside but doesn’t understand that my legs are too weak to walk. I had been hyperventilating since we left the crowd. All the composure and focus on lights, and closing my eyes and bracelets and I’m-so-fucking-tough-no-I’m-not came all at once. It had been at least 5 minutes – a concept of time was of little concern. I had about no blood anywhere I needed it. Walking was not an option and I hadn’t enough breath or stamina to be able to communicate that. I leaned against the cold bars at the back of the theatre. He talked calmly. That helps me more than anything: People talking calmly – it helps me focus…gather their energy, or whatnot. I breathed again. I could feel my face. And I felt like a fucking fool. He said I was shaking, but I couldn't tell.

I wonder if anyone else noticed. I mean, I was breathing like I ran 3 marathons for at least 5 minutes before I shook him to let him know that some help was needed. And he was right beside me. That is clearly not something I’m built to do. I had a dream the night before that I missed the whole concert because, while I was there in person, my mind was somewhere else, focused on something else, thinking about something else. That is exactly what happened with the first two acts. And I would have missed Coheed had we not left the crowd – instead I spent the rest of the concert being happy with the music, annoyed I couldn’t do what I know the person I was with wanted to do – trying, though failing, and embarrassed that I am clearly so vulnerable to something so non-life threatening.

Last night I had a dream that we left the concert venue but came back to say goodbye to friends. When we came back, the band came back on stage to play a few more songs for the people that were still around at the theatre. We got to stand right up against the stage with no bodies around us or pushing us or sweating on us. And it was amazing.


Elliot said...

I like your description of the trash compactor crowd.

Sounds like an eventful time--I would say getting a feel for the up-front area at a concert is a big piece of any rock show, but it definitely has the potential to distract one from the music with the constant 'I don't want to die/suffocate/get trampled/get hit with stuff' thoughts.

I'm glad you got to experience at least some of it on your terms, and it sounds like via your dreams it was a great experience. :)

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