Exposus Maximus.

Without any prompting from my therapist I decided last weekend to be uber-brave and go see a show in Utrecht. My friends are in the country and since I have avoided going to see them play for quite some time I thought I should just go for it. Anxiety be damned!

I had the whole day to get pretty worked up about it, but sort of managed to keep myself under control, sort of. First challenge was the train there, which was actually quite doable. I did forget to eat, but hey, minor issues. Arrived in Utrecht where I had to navigate the worst train station in the world, also doable, and then had to find the entrance to Tivoli Vredenburg. Still doable.

Then it started. I had never been in there before and am, or used to be, more of a small bar/ club kind of person. This is a monstrosity with a hospital feel, a 1000 stairs and no vibe. Of course they had to play on the 7th floor of said monstrosity. So slightly panicked and out of breath I started the big climb. About 3300 stairs later I arrived at the right room, typically called Pandora. I entered the Box and felt alright again, managed to make some small talk and sipped some water. Beer was a bridge too far at that moment. Work in progress.

I’ve become pretty good at the sober dancing thing so once the gig started I bobbed around and was actually really enjoying myself. Next to me an 80-year-old guy was busting some serious moves while holding on to his wife/girlfriend/leaning prop for dear life. Quite comforting. But then towards the end, in mid conversation with someone, I realised my mouth was ridiculously dry, and that I might have stopped breathing somewhere unknowingly. Still bobbing I noticed that I was warm, sweaty and quite nauseous. A lovely panicky cocktail of all the horrible body feels that come with anxiety, washed over me. Luckily the show was over just a little bit later and I could go back stage and find a chair to cling to.

At moments like this I am very happy I am passed the whole shame of the thing and can just say “ok I am not feeling so well” instead of internalising the whole thing and making it worse. So that is what I said and one of the guys responded with “that sucks, but you know what to do to help yourself” and amazingly, this really helped. Because that is true, I do know what to do. I can help myself most of the time now. So, I decided to snap out of it, and did.

Of course, it was not over. I then followed as the boys got brought to the umpteenth floor with an elevator, through hundreds of doors that only seemed to open with tags, for something called a “session”. But even that and a windowless room, I survived, be it slightly clammy. I even thought it was quite funny, normally I laugh at myself after the whole ordeal but now I could see the ridiculousness while it was going on. Maybe, just maybe, these meds are finally working? It does feel like it!

So in the end my victory was threefold, I saw my friends play, survived with some anxiety but did not succumb to it and then made it home. I was/am ridiculously proud. Now that I have successfully tackled this mini trip I can basically handle everything. I might even take a plane next. Exposure therapy might be the key. Never going to Tivoli Vredenburg again though. What a nightmare!