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The "LIVE" Music Enviornment and Autism...with some ADHD in there as well! By Shanti Roy

 

Posted by Kelly Green on January 18, 2011

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I have been going to see live bands for about seven years. That does not seem like much but for the first five years I went to see live bands obsessively. There was a sort of community in the punk/emo/hardcore scene that I constantly would seek out, sometimes going to three gigs in one week. I was also a band photographer and would go to desperate measures to take photos of bands. Some things I couldn’t get away with anymore. Maybe because now I know that what I was doing wasn’t always appropriate – bah! It was really just climbing onto stages, up speakers and sneaking my camera into gigs where there was a restriction. Oh and pretending to be a house photographer which stopped after I was caught out by the manager. Weeks later I was the official house photographer and even built the venue a Myspace page.

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I was always stressed at gigs. I always have a feeling like I was starving in my stomach. I always had headaches. Then it got worse.

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After being on an SSRI for 9 months I began to get even worse hypersensitivity to light and during that same time I was exposed to strobe lights. Of course stubborn me wanted to see You Am I four nights in a row.

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The first night I was stressed which I thought was because the strobe lights would wash out my photos. The second night I was pretty much on edge before the show even started. Oh then I had one of the biggest possible meltdowns at a gig I’ve ever had. Then was pulled onstage and taken upstairs and learned a great deal about the medulla in the brain stem by You Am I’s road manager. Also, watched a bit of Music Max. I went back the third night, saw The Vines, talked to Craig Nicholls, missed You Am I (was talking and drinking with a friend) and went back the next day. Another meltdown occurred followed by a synestheisa experience and a shutdown. Although it could have been my very first temporal lobe seizure.

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Since then I’ve really struggled to go see live bands. My light sensitivity is really extreme and my sound sensitivity has worsened. Thank you very much Ritalin.

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They’re not the only problems though. My social awkwardness and constant autistic shutdowns (regressing to a child-like state) and inability to stay focused on watching a band for long gets in the way too. Oh and there’s also the TLE.

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At the two last gigs I went to was Grinspoon and You Am I at the same venue, different nights though. I had the usual awkwardness which reveals my true social issues although I don’t try to hide my symptoms. If I can’t think of anything to say I don’t. I don’t hold back the stimming or repetitive movements. Or even staring blankly at the ceiling. I had a few drinks at You Am I’s show too. Well, six beers. Immediately I felt the preaura of a seizure; the rising burning in my stomach and neck, the tingling and burning and sharp twitches of my limbs. No actual aura this time. Usually it looks like sheet lightning. And I don’t blame the alcohol. I could tell a few hours before I went to the venue that I would have a seizure. Usually it’s three days seizures free then they come back.

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Not long after You Am I had taken the stage the limb jerkiness returned as well as a new symptom which involved sharp spasms of my head. My legs wouldn’t stop moving about and I still have two bruises on my knee from it. Then all the music made swirls of pretty colours. The interesting part of synesthesia is that I will always remember the moment I experience it. I can see it all visually right now. I kept turning my head toward each guitarist because I never can focus on just one thing (sensory processing disorder: I experience every sense at once while neurotypicals can filter the unimportant stuff out). Also, I have ADHD. Each guitarist had their own colour scheme.

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I may have possibly seen a black panther on the stage. There’s a slight possibility. My memory is a bit hazy. That’s TLE.

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While that experience was bad it wasn’t as bad as the Grinspoon gig. They had strobe lights going every 10 seconds from the second support act onwards. On the TV screen outside it looked like a fierce lightning storm on the stage. My seizure was almost clonic tonic. I have actually had one or two before. And by the end of the show my right eye hurt and drooped. That has happened before. In fact, all of which I’m describing happens to me quite a lot. Even today. I could only exercise for an hour because my body just didn’t want to move that way. And my right leg just stopped and if I tried to keep moving it I would experience a dull pain.

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So what is this future of this band photographer? This lover of the live music scene? At this moment I’m really not sure. I need to be able to get myself away from the stage when the seizures happen. I would rely on other people by TLE seizures look like my harmless hand flapping, although I can tell the difference. Hand flapping and other stimming involves lose and controlled movements that help to decrease stress. TLE body jerks are very fast repetitive movements which spread throughout my body, causing paralysis on my right side and the inability to speak and a decrease of emotions.

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With all these symptoms being so clear it’s hard to believe people think it’s all in my mind. But I don’t push them. I don’t talk to them about it, only in this blog post and I trust my autism and ADHD fellow forumers enough to talk to them about it.

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Seizures aside there’s still a lot of anxiety I have at gigs. The whole environment is visually overwhelming. The clutter of crowds and the noises that come from them as well as the noises from the stage. The closeness of people in the mosh pit. And the drunk douches that make some joke about me while I’m having these episodes. Then when I meet up with old friends that I’ve not seen in a long time of course they try to initiate conversation with me.

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I’m good at the greeting, slightly awkward with the hugging part. But what really throws me off is: “so what have you been up to lately?”

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Immediately I freeze and draw a blank. Then my mind grabs at past memories in the dark in a feeble attempt to remember. Now I know that many of my interests sound boring to others but mean a lot to me. So when I could have said things like this: neuroplasticity, reading about future physics, reading a Doctor Who novel, drawing Cybermen, spending time on astronomy, etc.

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I would really be saying: you know…stuff.

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As much I want to talk about it there’s something in my brain that is stopping me.

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I really wish I could talk to people more at gigs but it’s the whole environment, the sounds and visual clutter that interfere. I can’t construct my thoughts into clear sentences and my words spill out of my mouth and I trip over them, or some get stuck in my mouth and I stutter a great deal. I can barely keep focused on anything for long or hear anything, including the band on the stage that I was really excited to see. I would be both nervous and excited weeks or even months before. I would think both audibly and visually about possible situations that I might be in. Sometimes I can’t help thinking negative things but then I would force myself to think more positively. It’s a common coping mechanism for people with autism because they don’t really like change and need to prepare for any new situation. With me I don’t prepare for most things so I’m usually stressed out. Even when I do prepare things don’t work out the same. Eh, it’s a good cure for boredom and a good way to fall asleep at night. I have problems with that too.

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Usually away from gigs I don’t care about this stuff. I just sit in a corner with my phone and make large explosions while I blast asteroids with my ray gun. But at gigs and especially around bands I want to have slightly better communication skills. Maybe it’s time I started to practice them? Oh but I used to have so much anxiety about it. And really I could only talk to bands when I was drunk and I really shouldn’t drink that much anymore. I always think what damage I’m doing to my brain after I drink. Also, at gigs under all that stress I would start acting like a six year old autistic child again as a way to cope with it. There’s also the seizures that rob me of all emotion and comprehensible speech.

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Hmm, hopefully I’ll have reached a solution by my next blog post.

 

You can find Shanti's Interesting and INFORMATIVE Blog here~~> http://latedx.wordpress.com/

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