Four to the floor
There is nothing more frustrating than spending weeks preparing for a meeting with a big client at work and then 30 mins before the meeting seeing a meme about rape, being reduced to tears and having to run from my desk to the bathroom to look myself in there to try and regulate my breathing and calm down, get my mind away from my anxiety and onto my presentation. How about being sat behind someone on the bus and hearing them chomping a burger, the eating noises reminding you of the sex noises you heard when you were raped, rummaging through your backpack desperately for your headphones to find you left them at home. Imagine not having the energy to go a concert that you were really looking forward to because you had been crying for an hour over a documentary. Imagine a friend sneaking up on you for a practical joke and scaring you so much that you burst into tears and almost piss yourself. I wish I didn't have to worry about stuff like this. I wish I could not let things get to me.
I’ve been living with post traumatic stress disorder for a long time. It really affects my life, but most people can’t really tell that I have it because I seem pretty ok on the surface. I go out with my pals, I’m confident, I put on clean clothes every day, shove some makeup on my face, and I hold down a full time job and a relationship but as much as I try to hide it I often find myself suddenly in extreme distress and full of anxiety over an article, a tv show, a piece of music, or a conversation. Flashbacks come to me in the night, and through sounds, smells, places and images. I find it debilitating and I just want to find a way to get through my life without my PTSD slowing me down.
I’ve tried loads of stuff to get over PTSD. The main problem for me is learning how to relax. Relaxing might be a simple concept for some people, just come home, put your comfy pants on, stick a pizza in the oven and get Netflix on tv right? Sometimes that works but it’s not immersive enough to really relax me. My brain is still going on and on with the terrible anxious thoughts and I’m never 100% focused on what I'm supposed to be doing. I tried yoga, but I went to a class once and I had a bad time. I walked into the yoga studio and hated the yoga music, the candles and the general smugness of everyone there. I hated being told to ‘just clear my mind’ as if it was as simple as flicking off a switch. I stood there watching everyone smiling with their foot in the air and felt angry with myself that I wasn’t as calm as they were and then I couldn’t stop my mind from racing. ‘Fuck this’ I thought and left.
I tried having a massage but it was yoga music again pumping out of a little cd player in the corner of the room, and a woman who I didn’t know softly put her hands on me and I just freaked out. ‘Get off me! … Uh, sorry, it’s just um not for me’ I apologised getting dressed, wanting to rip my skin off. I left there feeling even more frustrated than I did when I went in.
I went home and put the kettle on. When I was younger my mum always used to make me a cup of tea to calm me down. ‘Camomile tea will probably sort me out’ I thought. The label hanging off the teabag said ‘Appreciate yourself and honour your soul.’ I stared at it. What the fuck does that shit even mean? Honour my soul? I just want to have a cup of tea and calm down. I felt like everything that was supposed to make me calm was annoying and frustrating to me.
I decided to ditch the tea and go for a beer. I went out to meet my friends in Bergen. There was a night happening at Østre called Ploink and we went down there because it looked pretty good. I was still mad at the tea bag thing and the yoga thing but being around my pals was calming me down a little bit, I just hoped I could get through the night without another anxiety attack.
I went into Østre, and got on the dancefloor. The DJ’s were set up in the middle and everyone was dancing around them having a blast. Being in a club that plays techno is not like being in any other sort of club, no one is there to judge what you are wearing or who you are with, everyone is just dancing and happy, and they don’t care what they look like or what anyone thinks about them, they just want to be immersed in the beat. I took off my jacket and let myself go. Techno is music to dance to. I let my body move in whatever way the music told it to, my feet in a constant rhythm and pattern. I became unaware of anyone else in the room and just focused on the beat. Something was happening to me, I started to feel in control, I started to feel calm. The music was taking me on a journey and I was just dancing all my anxiety away. Is this what meditation is? Am I honoring my soul now? I felt amazing.
I began to realise that techno was so much more than just dance music and started to get into it even more. I went to Berghain in Berlin and had the best night of my life. I felt transformed and completely refreshed after a night of dancing to techno. I felt better than I had done in years.
It made me wonder what it was that was so calming? I think it's mostly because techno music
has another perspective on time and chronology. Instead of the usual verse / chorus / verse / chorus / bridge chronological order of things, there is something endless going on. The beat goes on and on. Four to the floor, without end. The fact that any one particular track ends at one point and begins at another, it doesn't matter; the music is endless.
I had always longed for something that would be powerful enough to switch off the thoughts that plague my mind. Listening to music was always one of my coping mechanisms, but it had to be the right kind of beat. Now, I’m no neuroscientist or psychologist so I’m not going to sit here and explain to you exactly what happens in the brain when we listen to music but we have all felt the power of a good beat, the release of tension in the groove, the anticipation of the next strong beat and the excitement in the pulse of track. When I’m dancing to techno, I feel it, I’m free.
This story was originally written for Bergen Techno Zine.