Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz were four songs into their set at The Fillmore in Detroit when my revelry was interrupted by a thought:
What would happen to me if a gunman walked in right now?
The terrorist attacks at a concert venue in Paris had just happened. I had tried to prepare myself for this before the concert, knowing the thought might come up.
I shook my head, as if the physical act would dispel the thought burrowed in my brain.
What if he was down there?
Focus, Kelsey, I told myself. I trained my eyes on Miley, dressed in a silver moon costume at the front of the stage.
What if he was…back there?
I turned around and pictured a man with a gun, standing behind my balcony section. My eyes darted around for an exit. There wasn’t one.
The room started closing in on me, and my chest tightened. My heart started beating in my ears. I tried taking deep breaths, but the sensation that I was in danger was all too real in my head. I looked at Nick, standing next to me and oblivious of my mental barrage, and tried to tell him I had to go to the bathroom, but he couldn’t hear me over the loud music. I rushed out into the hallway with a goal: Get to the bathroom, splash cold water on my face and sit down.
There were five people in line for the tiny bathroom. I couldn’t get in.
The next time I opened my eyes, I saw blood red carpet and a few pairs of feet. I felt so calm, I thought I was in bed at home. But then I realized: I was in Michigan.
I looked down at my phone and saw a text from Nick.
“What’s going on?”
“Cheap” Damn you, autocorrect. “Help”
I lost consciousness again, and when I opened my eyes, I saw two faces fading in and out of my vision.
“Am I on psychedelic drugs?” I asked myself.
“Is she on psychedelic drugs?” the EMS man asked Nick at the same time. “Why might she have passed out?”
Nick explained to the man that no, I was not on drugs. I have trouble in crowds, and this situation is not unusual – this past summer, at Bunbury music festival, I felt the same sensation and had to vomit. I thought it was just the combination of heat and dehydration.
The EMS man turned again to me, still woozy on the ground.
“I’m going to ask you some questions to make sure you’re OK.”
“What’s your name?”
“How old are you?”
(This always takes a second regardless of my state of consciousness)
“Who’s the president?”
“Who’s the next president?”
I smiled bigger.
“Oh boy, I’m definitely taking you to the emergency room!” he chided.
He really did want me to go to the emergency room.
I heard Miley’s voice in the background. I looked forward to this concert for months. Miley embraces a raw freedom and sexuality that I deeply admire, and I did not want to have to leave her show early.
“Can I try to stand?” I asked.
“OK,” he said.
Nick and the man helped me up.
“See? I’m fi-”
I opened my eyes again and was staring at the ceiling.
Nick said this was the scariest part – my eyes rolled back and I fainted for 30+ seconds.
“OK, the blood is not making it’s way from your heart to your head. Just lay down and relax,” the EMS man told me.
While I laid on the floor, Nick held my hand and the man asked me some questions about my health. I told him I’ve been a vegetarian for about two years.
He nodded his head, saying the two-year mark was when most people need to start taking supplements if they weren’t already. He said he wishes he could be a vegetarian, but couldn’t give up meat. He joked with me about my Hillary answer again, and we both laughed.
He took me to the first aid room, where Nick got me a Mountain Dew and Cool Ranch Doritos. It was a winning combination, and I began to feel like myself again.
We told the man we really wanted to stay for the rest of the show, and he said he could get us into the disability section so I could have some space, rather than going back to the crowd. We left the first aid room, so grateful to have met such a kind helper on this snowy Saturday in Detroit.
Nick and I sat at a high table, much closer to Miley than we were before. I was still shaking, a bit traumatized and worried that I might faint again. But Nick kept his hand on my back the whole time, calmed me down and brought me at least four bottles of water.
In the past, I might’ve seen a night like that as a waste of money and a waste of time. Instead, that fateful night transformed me and Nick. The trust I already had in him quadrupled, the knowledge that there will always be helpers warmed my heart, and the mind+body connection – where a panic attack shut down my body – showed me I need to take better care of both my mind and my body.