When reading a blog post or journal article, everything seems to have an answer, a solution. I don’t have an answer this time, but I’m going to try.
If only mental health was cut and dry, right?
When I was fourteen years old I started going to concerts with my mom. Sometimes we would have assigned seats, other times I would make my way to the pit while she sat on the comfy chairs in the back. As I got older, I was allowed to attend these shows by myself, sometimes at massive stadiums and others in small, intimate venues. It was awesome, and I was hooked on the experience. You know this, because I run this music blog.
So a year after I was formally diagnosed with anxiety and depression, my parents asked me a question: why don’t I get anxious at concerts?
And honestly, I didn’t know.
But I did some thinking, and here’s what I found:
Concerts have loud music, lots of people that I don’t know, and are in unfamiliar spaces often outside of my comfort zone. All these things individually can make me anxious, but again, why not concerts?
My therapist and I discussed certain sensitivities, and (while I’m quite sensitive to all of them) the most prevalent ones for me are sound and touch. So loud music and sweaty people in a tight space doesn’t make me anxious?
But, another thing that I’ve talked about in therapy is I hate being yelled at, reprimanded, criticized, etc. etc. It’s both because of the sound level and the fear of being isolated, hated, or rejected.
Now I’m thinking that’s the reason why I couldn’t bring myself to attend the women’s march, or other protests my peers participated in college: the loud sounds combined with angry yelling while being around a throng of people.
Along that vein: I hate Times Square. It’s too many people in one area, and I’ve had some negative experiences that still trigger my touch sensitivity.
But punk rock or riot grrl or hard rock doesn’t count as yelling?
We’ve got a lot of contradicting things going on with my no-anxiety-at-concerts dilemma, but I think I have the missing piece: grounding.
Grounding is a technique that helps people stay grounded or focused during an anxiety attack. My personal technique is planting both my feet on the floor, keeping my back straight while I breathe, and repeating relaxing or calming mantras. The purpose of all of this is to focus your mind and body, so that you can keep yourself from spiraling out of control.
So I think that seeing a band or artist live is what helps me stay grounded during a potentially triggering situation. If I can focus on the music, the pounding of the bass in my chest, the lights, the singer, then the outside world just fades away.
Of course, it’s not a perfect method. Sometimes a loud drunk person can shake me out of my daze, or a sweaty teenager can slam into me. I had to leave a Front Bottoms concert because the crowd suddenly surged forward, packing us in like sardines.
Everyone’s anxiety is different, but I think that the most important thing to keep in mind is how we understand our bodies, our limits, and the little ways we can push through our anxieties so we can live our best lives.
It’s not easy, but it starts with a desire to understand.