I went to a concert on Wednesday. That alone isn’t post-worthy (especially the way I’m going to do it, without pictures.) It was an important night for me, though. After the last few years of getting steadily worse, I was able to pummel my social anxiety into submission long enough to actually have a really good time.
I don’t like referring to my issues as social anxiety, even though that seems like the easiest description. Recently, things as routine as surprise parties for other people have caused knots in my stomach. So concerts were out of the question, which is not the preferable way of letting your mind handle things when you love music.
So I turned to drugs!
It’s okay, they were from a guy wearing a collared shirt and a tie. I’d been sort of averse to the thought of being put on meds to deal with my problems. It turns out, though, that’s the wrong way to look at it. There are resources you can use to balance yourself while you overcome the issues at the root of the anxiety.
I did try a therapist briefly, and I’d recommend it before trying anything else. It did help, but I found that after the first session, I didn’t really have anything new to talk about. Yep, still nervous about driving to that restaurant because I don’t know what the parking will be like. Yes my stomach does start to hurt when I think about hanging out with a new person for the first time. Plus, I’m the kind of guy who, when asked to close my eyes and imagine a place of serenity, can’t keep from laughing for no reason other than that people don’t usually laugh when asked to do that.
Eventually I bit the bullet and went to see a psychiatrist. After giving him a half hour’s worth of embarrassing examples, he told me that obsessive thoughts seemed mostly to blame. Again, if you say that to people, a lot of them will imagine you having to wash your hands 30 times a day. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. My anxiety was far less when actually at whatever event I’d spend three weeks terrified of.The same way some people fixate on germs or routines, I fixated on thinking about what terrible things could happen to me at a social occasion.
Enter Lexapro and my foray into the world of prescription drugs. I hope that I don’t end up coming off as some pill-crazed maniac who thinks they’re the only way to fix your mental health. I also hope I don’t give the impression that Lexapro is a series of tiny 20mg miracles, because that lesson to the contrary was learned in a hurry. Several days after my first dosage, I laid in bed for an entire Saturday watching 1980s wrestling. I love Dusty Rhodes, but I hate sitting still all day.
The side effects just killed any motivation that my mind or body had to stand up for anything other than going to the bathroom. I sucked it up and gave it a chance, though, and after a few weeks I noticed an improvement. I started to worry less about things that were happening in the future, which for me was about as foreign of a feeling as humanly possible.
I’ll spare you the boring details of my dose changes and skip to the part when I go and see Modest Mouse.
Right away I could see a difference, in that I didn’t feel like throwing up for three weeks when we bought the tickets. We showed up in a very tiny room with way more people than I would have previously been comfortable with, but this was Modest Mouse. I bought a shirt and prepared to not care about anything but having fun for the first time in forever.
I couldn’t have kept myself from “dancing” if I wanted to, but the more important thing is that I didn’t care. This despite me looking like one of those novelty birds bobbing up and down drinking from a glass of water. That meant I was free to enjoy some of my favorite songs, like Never-Ending Math Equation and Bury Me With It. In between, Isaac Brock chatted with the crowd, who had no idea what he was saying because of his lisp. It didn’t even matter. When you’re going crazy to music you love with that much pot smoke wafting around, coherence isn’t a priority.
Here’s a video that I didn’t take. I was somewhere in there and didn’t faint!
It was a great set, too. When they played Doin’ The Coackroach I could have backflipped. When their three-song encore included A Different City, I could have wept. When they busted out Dance Hall and The Good Times Are Killing Me, I couldn’t do anything but flail around and be thankful that everyone else was too engrossed by the band to see me.
During the song I Came As A Rat, there was one girl who started crowd-surfing. It was just such a cool moment that I’m sure millions of people look at as routine, but I’d never imagined I could be at a concert, so close to people, experiencing something like that. And I swear to you, it looked like she got dropped on her head no less than three times. I kept seeing her feet fly into the air, but then she’d just pop back up seconds later. Then, people I guess got tired of carrying her around so they just heaved her and took out a group of fans like bowling pins. A++
Because Caitlin and I are both secretly 70 years old, we were not prepared for standing up in one spot upwards of four hours. By the end of the night, my neck hurt, my back hurt, my ears were ringing and I couldn’t have been happier. It was the kind of satisfied exhaustion I imagine you might get from climbing a mountain, if listening to music was at all like that. I’m allowed to make that analogy because some stupid joke about climbing the mountain of my anxiety.
The experience was an important one, because it showed me that I can do the sorts of things I always imagined were beyond my reach. In fact, I am probably going to see another one of my favorite artists, Astronautalis, in a month. The floodgates have opened!
I went to a concert, and I reached a turning point in my life. Sometimes all it takes is a willingness to accept that you need help. And a band you’re desperate enough to see.
Four days later my ears are still ringing, and it’s better than my stomach hurting.