Part One: Pre-festival fear
This weekend I’m off to a music festival. It’ll be my second one of the season, and truth is, I’m dreading it.
The last one I was at was difficult for personal reasons that had occurred in the week before, and even though I ended up enjoying most of it, and helping my dad celebrating a big birthday in style with lots of people who I love, it was really, really hard work at times, exhausting emotionally, mentally and physically. This one is a bit of a pre-birthday treat as I’m turning 33 the following week.
For one thing I’m going to be on my period, ladies you know how this goes, stock up on applicator tampons, carry a perma stash of loo roll and wet wipes and pray it’s not a sore one! Practicalities aside I’ll be hormonal, spotty, bloated and possibly grumpy. It’s not a local festival so it’s a bit of a debacle getting there, with all our camping equipment, and we’re having to collect our tickets in person in an unfamiliar city (the plus side is they’ve been gifted to me by someone- so will be received with much gratitude!)
There’s always a need, no matter how fleeting, to be vigilant when it comes to my sobriety too. I need to brace myself to be around temptation and remind myself of why I can’t just go with the flow and risk getting caught up in the moment, it’s just not worth it. Realistically I never am that tempted, but often before a big hedonistic event I need to have a word with myself, and that involves facing some dark moments from my past and thinking of loved ones lost to addiction and recklessness. I’ll never be anti drink or drugs, and will always understand why people use them, but I will always have to keep myself from thinking that I can have the same relationship with them that other people have. It is a door that I have walked through and firmly closed behind me. But I’ll never be able to throw away the key, lest I think a clean slate means I have the ability to start a fresh relationship with them. I always have to carry that key and realise that I have the power to make that choice every day, there is no one but me responsible for that, it is both a place of empowerment and vulnerability.
The main worry I have just now is that I feel like time is slipping away from me. I worry that I am not doing enough with my life, that I will get depressed again and be unable to enjoy the things I used to, and that my sobriety will start to feel like a chore again, that maybe I have to avoid certain occasions because they are too risky for me, the whole thing is challenging in so many ways, and it is supposed to be fun! And isn’t that what we’re all supposed to be doing at every given opportunity? Enjoying our lives? I feel so strongly about this, especially after I stayed in and missed out on so much for so many years because of my health. I feel like I should be grabbing every opportunity and running with it now that I am well and fit enough again. I know this pressure is mainly coming from myself, and my awareness of my own mortality, I’m not even gonna blame social media, or advertising or youth culture or my peers, although it undoubtedly could be argued that they contribute to these feelings. I find myself capable of ruining fun things before they’ve happened, because of bad toxic thinking habits, it’s like I’m sabotaging myself in new ways, when I could just be getting reckless and smashed like old me!
When I miss out on events I feel isolated and as trapped as when I literally shut myself away from the outside world and couldn’t get passed my own doorstep without feeling like the sky was falling in on me. I turned down too many invitations, made so many excuses, justified my absence by lying to myself and others about how terrified I was, to be around other people, or go to new places, just to exist in my own skin. Now I feel obliged almost, to take advantage of my regained confidence, to reclaim myself by enjoying and exposing myself to as many fulfilling experiences as possible. I feel that by avoiding or refusing opportunities I am depriving myself of delicious, precious slices of life, when I’ve already been robbed of so many by debilitating illnesses. ‘Well’ me and manic me will often make plans that ‘ill’ me cannot fulfil, so I can’t allow ‘stable’ me to ruin good times by simply feeling unenthused.
I know that perfectly healthy and neurotypical people feel similar self imposed pressure, I just don’t quite know how best to deal with it, apart from accept and forgive myself for backing out or saying no, and acknowledging that I can’t be full steam ahead for all things hedonistic. And remember that it’s natural and okay to feel apprehensive about new experiences, even exciting ones.
Part Two: Post festival relief
Well what an incredible weekend that turned out to be! I ended up asking for help getting there and back from a wonderful friend, making it so much easier than using public transport. We collected our tickets easily enough, despite a cancelled train, we detoured via an amazing veggie all day breakfast and it all worked out good in the end. (Cheesy crumpets by the way, just might be the future).
I really manage to pick up on the atmosphere of my environment, and while that can be crushing at times, especially when I start to absorb other people’s pain and can’t detach myself from it, or separate it from my own, it does have its uses. It’s a skill that I’d love to develop and learn to master, at the moment it can cause me a lot of grief, and I can’t find the ‘on/off’ button. But this weekend I was able to use it to my advantage, the more hyped and playful people got, the more I got involved and felt at ease, and my inner wild child came out to play.
My mum tells me my dad observed and remarked at a children’s party once that it was me who was winding all the other kids up, getting them all hyper and silly and encouraging the gorging on sugar! (a born addict I tell ya!) Evidently I’m still very much in touch with that part of myself!
Anything and everything that made me dance into a state of euphoria and grin my face off kept me going, even as the sky water poured down on us, nothing was getting through my shield (or waterproof mac and shades) of ‘fuck yeah, this is what we live for!’ There was so many beautiful moments of feeling the bass rattle through me, laser beams shooting over me, connecting with glowing and gurning strangers, and stomping around nature and trees with wild abandon that just made me feel so alive and connected and at home with myself and the world. Planet festival is quite a place to be!
I got a bit tired and grumpy as the level of debauchery and carnage peaked and the collective stumbling of the weekend warriors got a bit overwhelming on the Sunday, and I had a small panic as a very friendly and overly generous stranger shoved a bottle of poppers (amyl nitrate) under my nose- it was hardly gonna awaken the sesh monster in me and send me on a spiral of debauchery and self destruction, BUT it was enough of a violation of my personal space to give me momentary anxiety and I had to work hard for about 2 hours not to throw a shit fit at my growing annoyance, claustrophobia and vulnerability. Despite my lovely crew starting to need a wee bit more help in performing basic human functions like walking, eating and remembering what they wanted to see and when, getting more easily confused and forgetting to sleep once in a while, I managed not to punch any of them, so well done me (and them).
So today is my 33rd birthday. I woke up alone, (even the cat had fucked off to catch the early bird while it was catching the worm) and I felt a bit lonely, after having been with all those beautiful people and constant noise and colourful stimulation. And I got a bit sad because I haven’t planned anything, rather sensibly, because I didn’t know where my energy levels would be at, but it’s a beautiful sunny day and I felt I should be out ‘there’, somewhere, doing alll the ‘things’, because I am an exciting and beautiful, sociable person! (when I’m not being a shy, introverted shut-in). I spoke to my mum on the phone who reminded me there’s more sunshine to come, and that it was perfectly reasonable to take today as a rest day, especially after having stomping around fields for 3 days, living off sweet potato fries, protein shakes and chewing gum. And so I did what any 33 year old would do on a Tuesday; I did some adulting! I unpacked my festival stuff, aired my sleeping bag, washed my festie clothes, did some dishes, and ate left over pizza and a cookie for breakfast. I opened some cards and pressies and sent thank you texts and responded to birthday messages.
And now I shall potter round the garden in short shorts and a ridiculously small crop top from China and a sequin cap that says Pow! on it, (because I am a sophisticated grown up now) and a new silver star bracelet, a beautiful present from my friend! I shall enjoy the feeling of the sun on my skin, and being on my own, in the peace and quiet, (apart from the blaring drum and bass I’ve put on) feeling safe and smug and grateful for the gift that is life, and appreciate that growing older is a privilege denied to too many. Then a bit later there will be a picnic lunch and cake with my mum and sister, those who have seen me through this life so far, and know just how much I have to be grateful for now.
I’ve also had text messages from beloved friends and family who’ve just remembered its my birthday, who’ve ‘nearly’ got round to posting my card/pressie, and haven’t got round to getting me anything ‘yet’, I am loving the honesty, thank you for keeping it real with me! Life can be chaotic, and its all too easy to punish ourselves for forgetting and missing out on occasions and events and feel inadequate. We’re all human, even the super efficient ones, and we’re all doing our best, and even when we’re not, who are any of us to judge, even ourselves?
I’m another year further away from the year I thought I’d finally have my shit together, and rather than panic, I’m embracing the truth that I am just a little bit more together inside, a bit more at peace with who I am, and how I am, and today I’m gonna give myself the grown up present of being present, and calm- having survived another amazing weekend sober- and rest, with the mantra ‘Pace yourself, it’s earlier than you think!’
Besides, it’s only 3 days til the weekend… til the sober sesh monster is back out in her dancing shoes… and until then I just got given an amazing new speaker.. sorry neighbours!