Even when I feel that I’m fully recovered, certain moments always crop up where I am reminded that mental health is a long and strenuous battle. Usually, these moments occur when I’m surrounded by people or when I have plans that I know will trigger either my depression, anxiety or my rheumatoid arthritis. I believe that the worst part of it all is knowing that you are an outcast and that you can’t tell everyone what you are feeling or what you are thinking because they won’t understand you.
In my case, I’ve found that concerts and shows tend to cause one or more of my conditions to act up. This is absolutely miserable because concerts, shows, fireworks, movies, presentations, in general, are those things that are always the most fun or anticipated. We are willing to pay in order to sit in chairs that may be far away just to see, to hear, or to watch the show of someone whose talent we admire.
Even though I love these events, ever since I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and arthritis I found myself paying attention to the places where the spectacles are going to be held. I’m always checking if there is access for people that have mobility impairments or as, in many of the places available in my city, the road I must take in order to get to my seat is determined by stairs. Where I live, concerts are very expensive and if you want to see famous artists or a world-renowned spectacle with your friends or family you’ll have to make compromises, you’ll have to buy a cheap ticket (which really isn’t cheap) so that you have to see the show from a very long distance and the access is torturous. Of course, being in the same position for a long period of time makes my bones ache, makes my joints scream and my extremities to become stiff. By the time we get out of the show, I must go out in the cold to grab a cab, which makes my pain on the next day absolutely unbearable.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen amazing shows and I feel lucky to have the economic possibilities to see great artists perform, but I’ve always felt bad because I never know if the show that I’m going to has chairs, or if I’ll have to sit on the floor.
This struggle isn’t always physical, but psychological. I’ve found myself having panic attacks, episodes of memory loss due to anxiety, sweating, headaches, and/or gastrointestinal discomfort because of the number of people in these places. There is always a moment when I sit in my chair (if I’m lucky enough to have found one) and I look around to see the crowd and my anxiety tells me, “Hey if there’s an earthquake, if there’s a fire, these are all the people there are going to step on you on the stampede at the exit.” The struggle of going in and out of the place is huge because I always feel that the doors are too narrow, that there are too many people and that everyone is invading my personal space. I feel trapped. Even the prospect of standing up just to go to the bathroom makes me uncomfortable in these groups.
Of course, I feel miserable because I know that I’m not like everyone else and I know that my discomfort makes others uncomfortable. I feel especially bad for my mom and my brother as they like to go to shows, they are very carefree, and they would sit on top of a rock in order to watch the person they like play. I know that they have to accommodate their desires in order for me to be comfortable and to feel safe.
Speaking of this is really hard but I know there are a lot of people that can relate to my situation. Others who feel uncomfortable leaving their houses to go to theaters, malls, concerts, plays, and dance clubs, but they remain shut-in because we all want to fit in. We all want to feel that we are not a burden. I invite all that feel this way to keep in mind that you are not alone and that you are not the only one who feels this way. Dream with me of the possibility of being able to enjoy our favorite band or favorite artist or a Cirque du Soleil show in a comfortable space that makes us feel safe.