I used to love going to concerts and festivals. I loved the atmosphere, the buzz of people going here and there. The energy and the excitement in the air. The smell of food vendors cooking the laughter of friends reliving old memories. YEA… I loved these things.
I can remember when all that change for me. I went to pain in the grass at White River Amphitheater when I had just come back from deployment. The things that I had once enjoyed had now become overwhelming and frightening. The hustle and bustle of the crowd no longer exude excitement for me, but anxiety. I had once enjoyed the business and people and the chatter as they walked by but now that was replaced with a sense terror. A sense that I had to be on high alert watching every possible person because they could be a potential threat. Their movements their hands who they were talking with what they were saying it all became overwhelming. The smell of food vendors that I had once enjoyed and now been replaced with the smell of body odor and trash. The body odor, trash and Porta-Johns had always been there. But somehow I had never noticed them before. But the smells I think we’re the worst, they triggered memories of my deployment that had been seared into my brain. The memories would come back as a rush flooding through my mind and overwhelming my senses. I would feel almost in a daze as if I wasn’t quite in reality. Like I was on some obscure edge of reality looking in, coming in and out have a Consciousness I did not understand. The uneasiness gave way to anxiety and then panic, and I can remember leaving before the headliners even took the stage.
So some Ten Years Later here I am. Standing at the threshold of what I will be my first concert experience since the amphitheater. Some very good and well-meaning friends head got me and my wife tickets to the Willie Nelson concert. I love Willie Nelson I grew up listening to his music so I was conflicted about the evening. On the one hand I was excited to see Willie Nelson perform, a man who had only heard through the radio and had listen to my entire life. But on the other hand I felt panic. Would I be able to make it through the concert, what if I have a panic attack, would I embarrass myself and my wife in front of my friends? I thought perhaps I will just graciously accept the tickets and at the last minute back out come up with some reason why I couldn’t attend and apologize profusely. You see it’s just not the panic and anxiety that I was worried about. For me and my PTSD it betrays my body. I’ve learned to manage the anxiety so that it does not lead into a panic attack. Well for the most part anyway. But I still cannot fully control the way my body malfunctions. Anytime I’m under high stress or anxiety the diarrhea kicks in. It’s almost instantaneous. I know it is coming I can feel the shortness of breath the heart palpitations and I can breathe through a those. I can calm my mind and bring myself to a place I’m calm. Well for the most part anyway. But with a panic and anxiety I know but the diarrhea is coming.
As you can see I keep my truck well stocked with various remedies for such a problem. With all the overseas travel I have done I have had many opportunities to fine-tune the medications that I take to alleviate this problem. I had I even have prescription strength medication for serious bouts. I keep them on hand and at the ready never knowing when I may need them. Tonight would be no exception. I research the tickets that my friends had bought they were good seats. It was a private section with private bar private food and private restrooms. It was off to the side away from The Fray of the crowd. Large Lounge seats and an older crowd. I couldn’t have asked for a better seat for the concert. The anxiety I once fell at the gate as we entered quickly dissipated when I assessed the seating and the venue. It was an outdoor venue surrounded only by a 6-foot fence it would be easily scalable in an emergency. Two exits to my rear and one to my right. The main body of the crowd to my left and front. If there was an emergency I would be well out of the way of the oncoming crowd. All of these things I assessed at a moment’s notice. I was able to calm my mind and put myself at ease. That is except for my digestive tract. Within just a few minutes of being inside the venue I felt the call. I made my way to the private restrooms but there was already a line 10 people deep. I was thankful for the private section and private restrooms so I could only imagine what the rest rooms look like for the main menu. I popped 2 prescription strength pills to alleviate the issue, but it was already too late, my guts are already churning. I made my way to the grey little porta john trailer, rolling blue paluka, whatever you call it. They were more upscale then your standard porta-john but still had a cramp feel and overwhelming stench one would expect. As luck would have it the door install that I selected did not have a lock. You could tell that one had once been there and since been broken off. So there I was half panicked, bubble guts, fumbling around in the crampness of the porta-john attempting to use it all the while holding the door shut praying that no one would try to open it. As I sat there all I could do was laugh. Laugh so I wouldn’t cry. Why did I let myself get to this point? Why had I not just stayed home? Why am I still here? As the pressure in my stomach subsided and I left the cramped quarters are the porta-john I did feel some relief. But there was a twinge of worry. What if the pills didnt work fast enough and I ended up running to the bathroom all night.
Well the pills did work. And I didn’t end up using the restroom again that night. The concert was actually quite enjoyable I had fun with my wife and my friends I enjoy the evening and toward the end even got close enough to the stage to where I could see the wrinkles on old Willys face. I’m glad that I just sucked it up that I pushed forward and I didn’t allow my previous failures to dictate my future
Will I attend another concert? I dont know. But I will at least consider it. I can not limit myself based on my fears.
What I have learned while living with ptsd is that I have to push forward and challenge myself daily. If I am not advancing, then I am retreating. Marines never retreat, we never surrender.
Sgt Q -Out