Invisible Disability (RSI) & Gigs

Current news: I have an MRI scan for my left shoulder on 22nd January 2016. Hopefully the odd crunching and lack of flexibility I have had in the shoulder for years is revealed. Maybe the underlying damage was the reason the shoulder injury got so bad so quickly, and has not gone away.

In 2015 I was fortunate enough to see two of my favourite bands, Walk off the Earth, and then a few weeks later Anathema. Both gigs were amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but due to my RSI I am not able to enjoy concerts like I used to. It is frustrating having to avoid clapping, as even clapping for a few seconds can set the pain signals to high alert, never mind clapping near constantly over several hours. However, there is the additional issue of the social situation, as clapping at gigs is the norm, and not clapping stands out.

Many years ago I went to see W.A.S.P. in concert, along with a friend I went to the front, directly in front of Blackie Lawless. It was at the Manchester Academy, small stage, so I was within arms reach of the man! Blackie was great, but after he seemingly made eye contact with me several times I started to become self-conscious. Not because singers looking at someone is unusual, but I realised I probably looked strange due to keeping my arms hugged across my chest to keep them safe.

Over the next two songs my embarrassment grew as Blackie made eye contact several more times, I felt like he was not only singing to the crowd, but that he was challenging me to join in. Eventually I gave in to the pressure, I unfolded my arms and joined in the arm waving and clapping. Blackie seemed to smile, maybe because he had conquered me, or maybe it was just coincidence. I decided I would worry about the pain later, and since I always had some level of discomfort to outright pain it may as well be on my terms.

Logically to anyone looking at me I would stand out in a crowd, after all I look healthy/normal, but also like somebody who was obviously not enjoying themselves; I generally strive to consider other peoples’ perception. As I realised how odd I likely looked, and also how awkward I felt, I waited till Blackie’s eyes were elsewhere then I withdrew from the front.

invisible disability

Even though I stood at the back for the rest of the concert I still had a good time. However, I still felt like my sensible precaution to avoid a severe RSI pain attack had reduced my potential enjoyment. During the drive home I pondered whether I was being overly sensitive in considering whether members of the band really were taking notice of me, or that I would ruin their experience of the gig. I suppose over time I could be perceived as a being miserable idiot, because of the comparison to everyone else around me, who were clearly having a ton of fun clapping and singing. Maybe it is like the big concert scene in the movie Queen of the Damned, when Lestat is on stage and you can tell who the vampires are due to them standing perfectly still.

The trouble is I’m not a vampire, despite my nickname, I cannot regenerate the damage to my arms and now left shoulder. Besides with so many different versions of vampires, I don’t fancy the identity crisis that I’d gain.

My conclusion at the W.A.S.P. gig was twofold:

  • Going to the front of a gig risks being banged about, and sadly I need to accept that it is a factor for me.
  • That if I am going to place myself in front of somebody then I do need to consider my affect upon them. Not in the sense of a rule that their feelings totally override my own, but in the more mature sense of considering that their feelings matter, and I don’t want to feel like I am causing others issues. If I place myself in a social situation, but then I deviate from the norm, then I am breaking a social contract.

A massive ramification of having an invisible disability is other people. Their perception affects me if only because of their questions, and sometimes disbelieving attitudes or outright dismissive opinions. So even if I wanted to pretend that peoples’ opinions don’t matter, they do, since they directly affect me. Thankfully I have a great bunch of friends, and even support at work has been great.

Thankfully at both Anathema and Walk off the Earth I was able to have a good time, to not feel awkward, to not put myself in the position of breaking a social contract.

For those wanting to read more about invisible disabilities: worth it for the references 😉


Author: Batjutsu

Writer, role-player, games master, martial artist, programmer, disabled but not giving up.

One thought on “Invisible Disability (RSI) & Gigs”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s