For anyone in ‘the know’ you’ll spot that the title of this post are lyrics from a Black Crowes song – Thorn in My Pride. Like Crohns – an invisible disease, my love for rock and heavy metal isn’t visible if you look at my exterior.
When suited and booted for work in the City, or when I’m in ‘Mummy-mode’ attending parent events at my children’s school, the tell tale signs that I’m ‘one of them’ is kept under wraps and my tattoos are covered-up, skull earrings taken out and the other paraphernalia withdrawn from public view. But, come the evening – mainly weekends, if I’m not hosting my own rock radio show on Mosh and Destroy (www.moshanddestroy.co.uk), or listening to one of my fellow DJs shows, I’ll be off to a gig somewhere – mainly in London.
Up until the end of last year, when my Crohns seemed to really ramp-up, I was going t0 approximately three-four gigs a month. Now, not through choice, this has reduced to one or maybe two every couple of months, as for every gig I’ve been to in the last two years, there’s plenty of gigs I’ve had to miss, or others where I’ve had an attack at the venue and had to leave while the band is still on stage.
If you’ve read my other posts and understand the urgency of my condition you’re probably wondering why I’d put myself in a situation where I’m stuck in crowd of thousands with minimal access to decent toilet facilities.
Believe me, I’ve asked myself this too on countless occasions, but when something’s your passion, or is the thing that ‘gets you through’, you don’t give up.
Music – heavy metal in particular, has been my obsession since my early teens, and live music and attending gigs is my thing, however, living with Crohns Disease has made this more of a challenge and something I see as my nemesis which will not beat me, or stop me doing what I love doing – hence My Angels, My Devils.
Having said that in the last six months there are three standout gig-related ‘incidents’ that I haven’t forgiven my intestines for…
The first was in December, 2012 – Stone Sour at Brixton Academy. At this point I was one week post diagnosis and had been on prednisone (steroids) for a week too. Much like every gig I attend on a ‘school night’, I packed my ‘gig clothes’ bag so I could get ready at work and then go straight to the venue (I swear my work’s reception staff think I’m a hooker because at least once a week I’d enter the building dressed in my corporate get-up and then leave the building several hours later clad in ripped jeans, skyscraper heels, red lipstick and leather jacket), however, I woke up on the morning of the gig and was immediately in pain. I struggled to work in the hope it would ease throughout the course of the day, but instead it worsened and at 5.30 pm I had to concede that the only rocking I’d be doing that night was on the loo.
After getting myself across London and home on the train I met my other half at the other end and literally played tag-team with him. As he got out of the car to get onto the train to go to the gig, I got into the car and drove me and the kids home. How I could see with the tears streaming down my face I don’t know. I wasn’t distraught because I’d missed a gig I really wanted to see per se, or wasted the price of a ticket, but upset because my hubby had to go alone and that I really thought that after getting a diagnosis and starting a course of treatment I would instantly start to feel better – how naïve (I know that now).
The second gig I had to miss I still can’t really think about without being gutted. It was Opeth supported by Anathema, playing at Union Chapel, Islington. All elements of this gig were set to be outstanding – the band (who I love), the venue, and the fact it was an acoustic set. Again, I didn’t feel great during the day but powered through until the end of the day. This should have been enough of a sign for me to swallow my pride and say I can’t do this but me be me, I battled on. Irritatingly I made it through all of Anathema before I had to literally run for the toilet.
Now, for anyone who’s been to Union Chapel you’ll appreciate this is no mean feat. Running the gauntlet on this occasion involved negotiating various narrow stone staircases, running through the bar where Mikael (lead singer from Opeth), was stood chatting to people – of course I couldn’t stop, and then on the final furlong I was greeted with a mile long queue to an outside portaloo – NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I don’t know how I held it in but I did.
After this episode I returned to my pew (I was in a church after all), with my zip undone, sipping water like a women possessed just as the band came on. I remember the first song but after that everything was a blur as the next stomach spasm came on full force. At that point I finally had to say to my hubby and friends I had to go so we hot-footed it out of the venue as other bemused gig-goers looked at us muttering ‘philistines’ under their breath (of course they weren’t it was just my own self conscious paranoia). Once outside I then had to get across London and home – a journey which took one and half hours and again was punctuated with many tears.
The most recent episode etched on my brain was at Download Festival (a heavy metal music festival) last month, of which, attending this event and staying well for the full three days, had been a point of both focus and stress for me.
As anyone who is into heavy metal knows, this is the biggest event of the year where the great and good from the rock world convene – not going, was NOT an option, however, I had built this up to be one of my biggest challenges to overcome and time and time again, over many months, I’d try and rationalise with myself how I, with a chronic disease not fully under control, could contemplate standing in a field with 120,000 fellow metalheads and only a handful of portaloos?
Casting aside ridiculous ideas such as incontinence pads, only drinking liquid for the entire weekend, or blagging my way into the disabled loos (not so ridiculous as IBD is a disability), I decided to take another course of steroids and hope for the best.
Friday went without incident, on Saturday my stomach behaved beautifully, but by Sunday afternoon it had had enough. At one of the busiest times – during Airbourne, my stomach somersaulted and I knew I was in trouble. I quickly dragged my hubby to the loo-queues and waited patiently to get inside a portaloo which I have to say, all things considered, weren’t too bad at all. But once I started that was it, my stomach was on a roll and I knew I had to leave. Trouble is I was designated driver that day so if I left everyone had to come too. In the end my lovely friend Kirsty volunteered to come back with me to the B&B (yes I wasn’t camping), and then drive back to the festival – what a star…
But, if you’ve ever been to a festival, you’ll know getting offsite isn’t a quick process so with the unwanted incentive of ‘touching cloth’ I navigated the crowds of people like a Border Collie slaloms through the polls of an agility test – I was up and out. We did attempt a pit stop at a block of loos situated halfway between the arena and car park, however, they were so blocked and disgusting that the thought of using my bucket I had stashed in the back of the car, was much more appealing.
Once off site and driving like the wind I made it back to the B&B in one piece and although I missed Rammestein – another band I love, the relief of making it back to the privacy of my own room, was a reason to celebrate in itself.
I now have a self-imposed hiatus on attending gigs over the summer and will start back up again in Autumn, by which time I hope my bowels will start to behave and dutifully observe gig-etiquette. If not, if you see me in a loo-queue, please be kind and let me go first 🙂
Maybe IBD sufferers should have a badge like pregnant ladies… instead of ‘Bump on Board’ ours should say ‘Dump on Board’?