Gemma Styles: On Glastonbury - And The Kindness Of Strangers And Friends...
Rainbow cannons, muddy dancing... and panic attacks?
Well, I am still exhausted. Thirty thousand steps per day in lots and lots of mud is a sure recipe for some very sore legs - and despite the well-publicised mud and rain, I've just reached the peeling stage of my poor sun burnt face. But don't cry for me, Argentina, cos Glastonbury 2016 was really a great place to be.
There were some amazing highlights, from personal ones being unwashed idiots round our campsite, to the speech Years and Years' Olly gave during their performance - along with the rainbow cannons, that one certainly got a few tears going. And on a less emotional note I really loved that rainbow fringe jacket.
The only lowlight for me (aside from the joint-stretching mud treks) came on Sunday evening in an incredibly packed Craig David crowd; I'd been to get a drink or something and got separated from my group. After texting for directions I could clearly see where I was supposed to get to in the crowd - just near the conveniently located Simpsons flag - but the usually-friendly Glastonbury crowd were far too excited to start singing about the girl they met on Monday to let anyone through. By the time I'd "excuse me"-d my way through part of the crowd I realised I wasn't going to get any further - and nobody wanted to move to let me back out either. I'm not the tallest and couldn't see any sign of any of my friends and after a few minutes utterly trapped in place... I had a huge panic attack.
Honestly I haven't had one like that for several years and I'd forgotten how utterly debilitating they can be. I had pins and needles all over my chest and face and felt like my whole body was buzzing. I was trying to continue texting my boyfriend but my hands were shaking so badly I couldn't see the screen. As my knees buckled, I was rescued by some lovely girls who (thank goodness) spotted me looking deathly and Good Samaritan-ed their way to a spot in heaven. Angels!
After being stuck for a while in a sea of pissed off faces as I tried to escape, I couldn't have been more grateful to those girls and their friends who spent 15 minutes helping me wave random objects and try to spot my boyfriend. When he eventually found me I burst into tears and there were cheers from the glitter-covered group he'd enlisted to help spot me on his travels.
The whole thing made me think a lot about the people in my life I rely on for support and how lucky I am to have them. If you don't have any experience of anxiety conditions or similar then it can be hard to understand; it's not a question of just not liking what's happening, you really can't move or think or breathe. I was very very crowd-shy for the rest of the evening and freaked out when someone tried to get me back in the middle of a performance. Lucky for me I have the most amazing person in my life, who doesn't make me feel crazy, and just made sure I was happy and safe until I'd calmed down properly - which was several hours later.
Anyway - that was just one little experience in my Glastonbury, but equally it made a huge impact on me. While that was a drama, there are plenty of ways that anxiety can cause small ripple effects into everyday life and people who accommodate these as part of your friendship are so special. There are lots of people around who talk about experiences like this and offer advice to those suffering - I just wanted to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to everyone else out there who takes care of us when we need it. And if you spot someone alone in a crowd looking panicked... maybe check if they're okay rather than worrying about them getting closer to the front than you. Promise they'll appreciate it.