Surviving festival season with fibromyalgia

It’s 1:30am and I’m sitting in a damp field. Around me are thousands of people, jumping and dancing to the music I can hear loudly from a far-away stage. From my spot on the ground I can see nothing through the darkness but a sea of skinny jeans, every where I look. I watch each leg intently, prepared to protect myself when they walk towards me, stumbling and tumbling in the darkness. I don’t know the band on stage. I mean, I’ve heard them before but in this moment, in this disconnected moment where everyone is so alive, I don’t know them. I’m sore, I’m cold and I’m wondering why I keep coming to music festivals.

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Fast forward to the next night. It’s 8pm and the sun is setting on a truly glorious day in Portugal, which I have mainly spent lying in the sunshine and eating bread and cheese. I’m back in the same field with the same people who have come back for more of the same sounds except that this time, I am one of them. My hips are swaying, I have a 1960’s swing in my step and Brian Wilson is playing the hits of the Beach Boys. Over-excited and bursting with joy I make a space for myself in the crowd and, sangria in one hand and camera phone in the other, I dance for an hour and take snapshots of this once-in-a-lifetime moment. There are so many incredible hits and there is so much love that I didn’t realise I had for Pet Sounds. This moment is amazing. This moment where I am stood, in a field, dancing and singing my heart out.

I quickly have a word with myself. Remember this feeling, Sarah. Remember how good it can feel.

I dance into the early hours. Sure, there is more sitting on the ground in a sea of skinny jeans because let’s face it, I’m not superwoman. But as people in our group start to leave I shout to R beaming, “I DON’T WANT TO GO! I FEEL WELL! I *NEVER* FEEL WELL!” And so we stay, and I get to enjoy this rare moment of health. It’s like an out of body experience, I feel light and it’s wonderful.

We sit on one of the benches and people-watch for a while, drinking sangria and eating crepes at 2am. I try to remember the last time I didn’t feel any pain in any part of my body. I can’t, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that it’s happening now and, on reflection, I really should have taken a damn photo.

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On my third day at the festival there was more dancing, albeit a significantly smaller amount. There were more ecstatic moments and there were more moments of sitting on the ground hoping not to be stepped on. There was a bit of disappointment as I had to sit through songs I love, there was a lot of laughter and delicious food, and there was some sitting on a hill browsing Facebook whilst other people partied to a band I didn’t care about.

These are my festival moments. They’re the same highs and lows I remember from last year and the year before. And now, after three years of practice, I finally feel like I’ve got this festival survival business down. Here are my top three tips.

#1: The smaller the better 

Big festivals are great; there’s an abundance of choice and something to suit your every mood. But ultimately, they’re an overwhelming display of things just out of reach. Pick a small festival where you can stand in the centre and see the stages, the food and the toilets. If it’s in sight, it’s in reach. You can do it.

#2: Know yourself and trust yourself

You know you better than anyone, so trust yourself and be bold. If everyone is going to Glastonbury and you know you can’t do it, don’t do it. If camping in the rain is too difficult (or, quite frankly, unappealing) then go to a city festival in the sunshine. Wear layers, leave early, drink less, drink more, lie at the back, dance at the front, wheel your way to viewing platforms, throw your walking stick in the air… handle it however you need to handle it and do whatever you need to enjoy it. Know yourself, trust yourself and take care of yourself.

#3: It can’t be perfect 

It can’t be perfect, and it won’t be. There will be moments where you sit on the ground at 1am as your friends dance next to you and drunk people fall over you. Those are not the highlights. The highlights are swaying in the sunshine to songs that warm your heart and, ultimately, warm your bones, joints and muscles too. Those moments give you energy. They’re the moments that make you feel well and, as chronic pain patients know, that feeling doesn’t come around very often.

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7 thoughts on “Surviving festival season with fibromyalgia

  1. Sounds like you had a great time! I love festivals and live music too. 🙂

    I recently went to two outdoor Farmers markets and even though I paid for the outings later with increased pain and fatigue I enjoyed myself for the time I was there and sampled all sorts of delicious organic handmade foods. I found that there were innovative things vendors sold there that were good for my health as well as being tasty and I would never have known about them if I hadn’t found out about those places and tried them out! I bought a loaf of the best sourdough bread ever, a chocolate croissant, freshly made verde salsa, fresh peaches, plums, and a few organic vegetables, strawberries that were just out of this world, as well as some sparkling Kefir waters that taste great and really do what they claim in terms of probiotics! Everyone was giving free samples and I wish I had had more money so I could have bought other things as well! It was so hard to choose and prioritize which itens to try now and which to come back for another time, as everything was so good!

    I can’t always eat, so those times when I can I really enjoy my food!

    These outdoor festivals always remind me of the 60s, a time I have really fond memories of when there was more a sense of community.

    Those moments when people come together are rare nowadays in a time when so many are compartmentalized in their separate cars, homes, and lives and glued to their mobile devices.

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