When Strength Isn’t Enough

Trigger warning: this post contains some discussion of suicidal ideation, prevention, and issues relating to ableism and depression.

I’m currently berating myself.

On Sunday morning, at 12:50am, when I managed to get my car inside and stumbled in, I swore to myself that I was done with live music. I had left home at 9am the previous morning, and spent 12 hours curled up on the floor because there were no seats, and I wasn’t able to hold myself up. I wasn’t able to leave, either – there were far too many people between me and the door for me to stumble out, my bad leg twisting under me if I put weight on it in just the wrong way (being, most every way).

I don’t mind the extra stuff I have to go through to make concerts safe for me – I don’t enjoy waiting outside for hours in line, just to ensure that I’m near enough to the front to be able to get a seat or a spot by a wall I can lean on. By the time I get in I’m already sore, and already tired. I have to spend most of the day dressing myself and I have to make sure I have extra medication, that I can reach everything in my bag in the dark – these things get jeopardised by overzealous bag checking, where everything gets crushed and reorganised and I have to wipe my bag down with antiseptic wet wipes and check my autoinjector for damage just to remind my brain that it’s not dirty, it’s not broken, it’s okay. (Bag checks are not legally enforceable requirements. Touching bags during bag checks is battery. Good luck complaining about that.) I like supporting my friends, who aren’t terrible, and honestly? It’s the only time I can justify leaving my house that doesn’t involve purchasing medication or a doctors appointment.

 

Live music is nearly intolerable when I’m curled up on the floor, my head exploding with new pain every time the strobe lights flash in my eyes, my legs numb because despite the padded jacket I brought to sit on the hard floor is still pressing on my nerves, my spine crawling with synesthesic agony every time someone whistles or an overdriven guitar tone slides up on a high minor chord. The thing that pushes it over the line from a discomfort I’m willing to endure for my own personal gratification (in enjoying music) and in supporting my friends and all the other musicians and people who take time out of their own lives to put on shows, is when that isn’t good enough.

See, despite everyone else managing to ignore the person at the back, not getting in anyone’s way, not making a fuss, one person was offended. That person had a microphone. By the time he was on stage, I was exhausted, and it was all I could do to not cry. It wasn’t good enough for him that I was there, that I had paid for entry and waited outside for an hour and a half in the cold, that I put up with the pain and the anxiety and the smell and that I was doing my best.

I assume that he didn’t know how insensitive he was being when he directly addressed me, calling me out for not standing close to the barrier with my arms above my head, hands formed into horns because when Ronnie Dio wanted something special he didn’t realise he would start a trend of conformity that would buck the entire idea of “something for us, the people who don’t fit in”. I assume that he didn’t know how it would make me feel, to be singled out and stared at because I wasn’t participating in the same way as everyone else, in a way that pleased him. I assume that he didn’t know that what he was asking was physically impossible for me, or that at that point I was only able to understand that he was talking to me because the music had stopped, and I could guess his words from the way people reacted, from how he was pointing to me, from how he singled out another person, just after.

I don’t know what he was thinking he’d achieve, but I got home and I swore I wouldn’t go to another show. I was done. In effect, he’d driven me away, because what he said, no matter what his words were, was ‘you’re not welcome here’.

 

Then I remembered I already had tickets for another show, and the other reason I go, that I book my tickets in advance and pin them up in chronological order on the board where I see them every day, is to have something to look forward to. There are days when the only reason I hold on is because I have that something. There are times when I literally repeat, over and over in my mind, ‘I can’t kill myself today. I can’t give in. I have to keep going. I can kill myself after *insert event here*’.

By saying I’m not welcome, not only did he basically ensure that he lost a potential fan, and definitely ensured that he would not be getting merchandise sales from me, but he also told me that because I can’t participate in the correct way, I shouldn’t be going to shows. The very thing that keeps me alive, the tiny light that is meant to be a wedge in the depression that comes with having debilitating physical and mental illnesses, my only form of social interaction, is a thing I’m only meant to have if I can participate in a certain way, being the way he approves of and the exact same way as everyone else in the room. (I imagine Dio raging, along with every other rock and metal musician who claims to value individuality. When did we become sheep?)

 

So today, I forced myself to stay awake, and I hovered over the ‘get tickets’ button, and I closed down my computer, and I didn’t buy tickets, because I didn’t feel like I should take away a ticket from someone who could go, who could talk in the meet and greet, who could stand and do all the things.

And then, I came back. I didn’t sleep, so I was even more tired, and I bought tickets, and I organised a plane and a hotel, and now suddenly I’m one of those people who flies across the country to see a band. And because of that one man with a microphone, my brain then started telling me that I’m stupid, that I’m crazy, that I shouldn’t be doing this because I can’t cope, because I don’t deserve it, because I’m not like everyone else.

 

And, in a few days, or weeks, I will hit a new low point, and the thing that will stop me will be ‘I have to keep going, because I am going to Sydney, and I am going to this show’. And then, the dark part of my mind will go ‘but you can’t talk, and they’ll think you’re weird, and you will have to sit on the floor because it’s GA and there will be no seats, and people will point you out because you’re not the same as then, and you’ll feel like this again.’

 

I guess I’ll have to deal with that, somehow, when it happens. But if someone had decided that maybe calling out every single person who wasn’t pressed up against the barrier and trapped in a crush of moving, sweaty strangers and telling them off in an effort to badger them to join in, that part of my mind wouldn’t have anything to say. I wouldn’t have doubted myself when I first went to buy my ticket. I wouldn’t be making this post and I wouldn’t have to explain, over and over, why I didn’t enjoy the show. And, I would still be supporting local bands. As it is, well, the best thing I can do for me is if they’re on the bill, I don’t go. If I don’t know who the local support will be, I don’t go. If it’s going to be an unusually significant effort or commitment from me, I don’t go. My priority has to be to minimise harm to myself, because otherwise there’s not even a chance of getting better, however mythical that concept may be.

 

However, that is at the expense of not just that one singer, or his band, but the entire industry, because if I can’t get priority entry, if I can’t get a safe place to sit, if I can’t get through without a demeaning experience (and not just bag checks, but waiting in line for merch/drinks and being ignored for half an hour because of not being able to talk, being hit on and unable to tell people to go away, my disability being mansplained…), then I am not welcome, and I will not go. Not because I agree that it’s not the place for me, but because I have to look after myself, and that includes the only way of protecting myself from being pointed out from the stage because of my disability – not being in the situation in the first place. It’s not me that’s missing out, though, even though people would say that they don’t want people like me there anyway while claiming not to be ableist – it’s everyone who relies on ticket sales and merchandise and word of mouth for their business. If someone asks me how I enjoyed the show, I will say I didn’t. I will say why. In the bubble that isn’t the internet, where it may make a difference, I will name names.

 

And, if I don’t kill myself first, I will find something else to look forward to, to set milestones for in a last-ditch effort to survive long enough for medicine to catch up and help me pass as a sheep. A very metal, individual, sheep.

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