I went to an amazing concert last weekend and it is all I can think about. I am still riding the electrifying energy from that show, 6 days later.
Music is one of those things that nourishes in a way nothing else can. Fellow frequent concert-goers know exactly what I am talking about: the rush you get from seeing your favorite band on stage right in front of you. The sense of community experienced by perfect strangers as they shout lyrics in unison. The unparalleled stress relief you get from rocking out, and perhaps if you’re really lucky, the indescribable feeling of getting to chat with the band members after the show.
Maybe music doesn’t do this for you like it does for me. Perhaps your cathartic escape is running, going to the gym, or participating in a sport. Perhaps it is knitting, dancing, skateboarding, bee-keeping, beer-brewing, horseback riding, or cooking. Whatever yours is, you know it because it feeds you in a way that food doesn’t. Your passion for this is hard to put into words, but it is almost as important to your well being as the air you breathe.
Music, especially live music, feeds me in a way that has no parallels, which is why I am still riding the high from last week’s show. But this concert was different in a very big way, and that is the part I really can’t stop thinking about.
I didn’t get anxious. At all. The entire show.
For some context, the music I most enjoy live could be considered… INTENSE. Especially the crowds. Think: circle pits, moshing, crowd surfing, etc…
For years, I attended these shows and positioned myself in such a way that I would be safely removed from the chaos. Going to these shows was life-giving and helped relieve stress, but my intense anxiety caused me serious claustrophobia, so I was always very careful about where I stood and brought friends with for backup in case I had a panic attack. I could never be completely boxed in – always had an escape route – and lots of space around me and whoever stood closest. I preferred smaller venues because big crowds were literally terrifying.
At last week’s sold out show, I stood with only one person in front of me, dangerously close to the stage, for the first time in my life. And it was freeing in a way that I have never experienced. The crowd ebbed and swayed, but instead of sneaking away to the side to hide, I just let it move me. I even got separated from my concert buddies, but I just kept dancing while the musicians melted our faces off (figuratively of course).
When the crowd got particularly boisterous I got knocked around a little bit. There was shoving, elbows flying, and it was difficult to stand upright, but I just pushed right back. Despite this, my husband and sister panicked a little. I kept having to turn around and give them a thumbs up because they couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Despite people being squeezed in all around me in what appeared to be total chaos, I was screaming along to every song, jumping as high as my legs would allow, completely engulfed in the experience.
Not only was I free from anxiety, but I also didn’t have a single sip of alcohol. This was a first for me. In the years since I hit drinking age, I always had a drink at shows because of how anxious I was. Like a lot of people, I needed it to help me unwind and let go. This time I rocked out sans alcohol and anxiety, totally wrapped up in every moment. This event made me realize just how far I have come, and I knew I had to share this experience.
For someone struggling with anxiety or depression (or both), it can sometimes seem like there is no way out. I know, because I was that person for a long time.
Many people reading this might be surprised to learn that I used to suffer from anxiety and depression, and that is because I suffered in silence. I struggled on my own for a very long time. I was depressed in high school but had no idea that what I was feeling was depression. It wasn’t until my Behavior Disorders class in graduate school that I truly realized what was going on.
The joke is that doctors and other health professionals always diagnose themselves with whatever it is they are studying at the time. I was no exception, but I also really had what I was reading about. This was life changing information for me. Anxiety and depression were more than just words on a page – they suddenly became very real.
Even though that class helped me become aware of what was going on, I didn’t really tell anybody outside of my very close family members what I was experiencing. I didn’t want to be cursed with the stigma of mental illness. I didn’t want it to change the way people looked at me. I kept it to myself and didn’t seek help because if I was seeking help that meant I was accepting my fate. I didn’t want to let depression or anxiety define me.
It wasn’t until that fateful appointment with my doctor a few years ago that I started to change the way I looked at depression, and mental health in general. Hearing that I was going to need medication for the rest of my life to keep depression and anxiety symptoms at bay forced me to take a good hard look at myself. I thought I was doing a good job taking care of myself, but the appointment that day made it crystal clear that I wasn’t. I wasn’t taking care of myself at all.
My diet was crap, completely void of nutrients. I didn’t get good sleep. I wasn’t exercising. I didn’t engage in any stress relieving practices. I relied on too many prescriptions and over the counter medications for stomach problems, headaches, allergies, asthma, and hypoglycemia. The amount of money I wasted on all those products should have been a clue that I was unwell, but somehow I ignored it.
Despite knowing that I had some serious life changes to make, I still didn’t tell people I was depressed. Lots of people knew I had debilitating allergies and low blood sugar, but I only told the people closest to me about what I was going through with depression/anxiety because there was such a tremendous stigma around mental health issues.
Heck, there still is. Other than my health, nothing has really changed in these few years, and that is exactly why I am writing this post. We are in the middle of Mental Health Awareness Month, and it is time to end the stigma associated with these health problems. I was in denial about my health for a long time because I didn’t realize how many people around me were also suffering. I thought I was alone and I felt too ashamed to ask for help.
If you are suffering, please know that you are not alone. Please know that there are other people out there who know what you are going through, because they are going through it right now too. Please also know that there is a way out and it is beautiful, paved with sunshine, puppy dogs, and rocking music 🙂 I wish I had the courage to share my experiences with these issues back when I was actually experiencing them, but I am doing it now in the hopes that it will reach someone who is walking in the shoes I used to walk in.
Everybody’s depression is different, everybody’s anxiety is different, but I am living proof that it is possible for someone to be symptom free, drug-free, and happy. Every day I have a better understanding of how I healed myself, and it is nothing short of miraculous. There is hope for all of us. You just need to know how to get better. First and foremost, you just need to know that you CAN get better.
When I started taking charge of my health, my symptoms vanished, one-by-one. The more I put myself and my health first, the more the unhealthy me slipped away. The fearful one, the sad one, the one who had to go home 4 times every day on the way to work to check that her doors were locked. The one who had panic attacks – the one who cried for no reason – the one suffering from terrifying chest pain – the one who hated meeting new people and going to social functions – the one who couldn’t get out of bed for a whole month – the one who believed she was worthless – the one who loved singing but was too afraid to get in front of a crowd – the one who thought she was broken – the one who washed her hands until they were raw, cracked, and bleeding – the one who lashed out at the people who were just trying to help her.
The unhealthy me becomes more of a distant memory every day.
If you only take one thing away from reading this, please let it be that if you are struggling, you are not alone. There are people out there who can help you, and things you can do to get better. There is hope. I know, because I found it. And I know you can too. Keep rocking.
If you need to talk to someone please reach out to your doctor, counselor, or holistic health care practitioner. The therapists at Be Your Very Best have been helping people through mental, physical, and emotional issues since 1989. Please visit their website if you are interested in getting help.