What You Didn't See When I Was at a Rock Concert With My Chronic Illness

I went to a rock concert this week. I painted my arms with “pre-existing condition.” I wore jeans, a tank top and Wonder Woman Chucks. I saw four bands. I headbanged. I screamed. I pumped my fists in the air. I gnashed my teeth as Otep urged us all to resist the persecution of our most vulnerable. I smiled. I cried. I laughed. I yelled. That’s what you saw. You saw a woman rocking out to an amazing set of bands.

What you didn’t see was the hours of preparation that it took. What you didn’t see was me doing the bare minimum in an effort to not wear myself out prematurely. What you didn’t see was me making sure that I could bring my pain medication with me into the venue. What you didn’t see was me holding on to my purse for fear that anyone would steal my irreplaceable medication because doctors will not give me a replacement prescription for pain medication if it’s stolen. What you didn’t see was me stopping headbanging so that I wouldn’t make my neck too sore to continue during my favorite songs. What you didn’t see was the amount of coffee I had to drink before the concert just to cut down on my fatigue.

You saw me leave early. What you didn’t see was the torn or pulled tendon that I’d gotten just from jumping and bending my knees. What you didn’t see was the bruises that appeared after I tried to massage the spot. What you didn’t see was the fear that I’d done something worse than that. What you didn’t see was my leg giving out completely. What you didn’t see was my eyes welling up with tears from the pain. What you didn’t see was my husband rushing me to the ER afterword. What you didn’t see was the wheelchair I needed once I got there. What you didn’t see was the crutches that I was sent home with. What you didn’t see was the bruises the crutches left.

What you didn’t see was the fatigue and pain I was left with. What you didn’t see was the amount of rest I needed the next day. What you didn’t see was the difficulty I’ve had moving around since. What you didn’t see was the swelling and stiffness in my neck. What you didn’t see was that I was still recuperating from moving homes a few days earlier.

You didn’t see everything that I did just to prepare myself for the concert. You will never know the full amount of effort I put into just seeing Otep. Just being there, squished between strangers and friends, was exhausting to me. Being there at all was a risk because people think that I “look healthy” and am “too young to be disabled.” You won’t ever know what I really had to do for that concert and you never will.

I’m still disabled. I’m still chronically ill. I will still go through all of that to go to a rock concert. I will continue to live.

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