Festivals aren't all glamor and fun. Whether you're a proud patron of Coachella, Lollapalooza, Fyre Festival (too soon?), or any other music and arts extravaganza, you know that a lot of money, time and effort goes into the #BestTimeofYourLife.
But remove the (literal and figurative) rose-colored glasses, and you'll uncover the real blood, sweat and tears that go into the festival experience. And we all know someone who ends up in tears...
Like the recent LA vs NYC piece (go back and read it if you haven't) I asked people from around the country to share real experiences of the thorns behind the flower crowns.
The identities of these festie-besties will remain anonymous - because we all have jobs, duh - but the tales of triumph and defeat actually took place. Enjoy.
1. “I broke my front tooth at EDC."
I went with my sister and younger brother to the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas a few years ago. They say that families that rave together, stay together… which played out when I accidentally bit a Camelbak too hard, popped off my front veneer, dropped it in the dust, and forced a group of strangers to take out their cellphones and “find the damn tooth!" Meeting new people was hard after that, especially when they were met with the smiling face of a snaggle-toothed carnivore adorned with glitter and sweat. The next day, I thoroughly cleaned the veneer and stuck it back in my mouth to find a surprisingly seamless fit. It was so seamless in fact that I forgot it was there when I went to brush my teeth… and watched my $1000 veneer fall down the sink at the Wynn. My favorite part of the whole story is opening the hotel door for the handyman and kindly explaining that there was, “Something of mine he needed to retrieve… now."
2. “I accidentally insulted my friend's girlfriend at Electric Forest."
You half-expect people to be on drugs at festivals, and sometimes you just can't tell. But after meeting my friend's girlfriend and hanging out for a few hours, I realized she'd definitely gone cross-eyed and needed help. “Those are just my eyes," she said. I was mortified.
"They say that families that rave together, stay together… which played out when I accidentally bit a Camelbak too hard, popped off my front veneer." Photo Courtesy of Indigo East
3. “I lost everything I owned at Coachella."
My sister and I share a purse at festivals -- it's just easier to carry things that way. That year, we thought it'd be “smart" to bring our passports as a second form of ID (should we somehow lose our licenses), and carried them inside the purse with both of our car and house keys, all of our credit cards, a thousand dollars in cash, new iPhones, and all the swag we'd picked up at the brand parties. And then -- just as you probably guessed -- we lost the purse. The consequences were dire: it ruined the rest of the festival (it was the last day at least), and we had to have our car towed to the nearest dealership. Since we'd lost all our cards and ID's, we had no form of payment (or proof of identity to get new cards at the bank) so I had to go around the party house Venmo-ing people I'd just met for cash to pay for it and the $250 new car key.
Luckily, one of us still had our phones. We kept calling the iPhone that was left in the purse until, at the dealership, an angel answered it. We ubered to his house 20 minutes away, cried our eyes out, and paid him for being so honest.
4. “I checked myself into the Medical Tent at Outside Lands."
The line-up at Outside Lands in 2015 was amazing -- even Elton John performed! Too bad I missed it. Apparently, after just one show, I'd taken the liberty of running away from my friend group, hanging out with complete strangers, took a nap in a field, and suddenly woke up to run away… leaving my phone in the grass. I have a few memories, one of them including yelling the word “bed" to a paramedic. When I came to, I realized I'd checked myself into the Medic Tent claiming it was nap time, and proceeded to sleep through the entire festival. The next day my coworker asked how Elton John was. I had no comment.
"You get invited to a lot of celebrity after parties at Coachella — but they don't always turn out to be as great as you'd expect." Photo Courtesy of blog.zalora.com
5. “I missed Drake's Coachella after party… and was shamed by my Uber driver."
You get invited to a lot of celebrity after parties at Coachella -- but they don't always turn out to be as great as you'd expect. After Neon Carnival one year (at like 4 am) we got invited to Drake's mansion. My friends and I were tired and didn't want to risk driving 20 minutes at surge prices to get to a party that might get shut down by the time we arrived. Plus, we were stuck in crazy traffic getting out of the event parking lot. Our Uber driver overheard us and asked for the party address. We told him we'd give it to him if he drove his brand new Mercedes over the concrete median, thus cutting the traffic line. He agreed, we gave him the address, and we went home.
An hour later, we get a text from him laughing, saying how incredible the party was and how bad we fucked up. It was the greatest night of his life… and the worst of mine.
6. “I accidentally became a peeping Tom at Reggae by the River."
I was sitting on a rock in the middle of the river, only realizing later on that the other people in the river weren't dancing but… you know. In retrospect, that would account for the angry looks they were giving me. But I honestly thought it was some discriminatory thing so with my “warrior mentality" I decided I wasn't moving. It's not every day you're involved in an orgy without realizing. One less thing on the bucket list.
7. “They locked me inside of Coachella and I had to climb a fence to escape."
I decided to volunteer one year with an organization in exchange for free tickets to Coachella. Sounds like a fair trade, right? Wrong. Crazy shifts and hard labor under the scorching desert sun weren't exactly “a walk in the Polo fields," and the comfort level of the volunteers was not prioritized. But the worst moment came the day after Coachella ended, when we had to tear down the booths and art installations. After working for hours in the blistering heat, the organizers finally released us… waving goodbye as they drove away in golf carts toward the staff camping/parking area (which was about a 30 min walk away). When we finally crossed the fields, we found the exits fenced and locked, leaving us with literally no way to get out. We tried calling for help, but the area was an empty wasteland of techno dreams. We had to the climb the goddamn fence to escape. Lesson learned: I now buy my Coachella tickets like a normal person.
"I almost died because I burst my appendix the day before Coachella, but a healthy dose of inebriation powered me through the festival." Photo Courtesy of REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
8. Security caught me with a fake “catheter" of wine.
I tried to sneak a full 3L bag of white wine into a festival… inside my pants. I almost got through security, but at the last second I got stopped and asked to lift my shirt up. The massive bag of yellow-ish fluid was poking out of the top of my pants. Thinking on my toes, I told the security guard it was my catheter bag. She gave me a puzzled look, and it became evident she had no idea what a catheter was... so she shouts across the crowded security line to her manager, "Can you come take a look at this gentleman's catheter?!" Hilarity ensued.
9. “I got appendicitis at Coachella."
I almost died because I burst my appendix the day before Coachella, but a healthy dose of inebriation powered me through the festival. I didn't know it was appendicitis until much later afterward.
10. “I stumbled upon something in the dark at Burning Man…"
I'd arrived late at night and took a quick walk on the dusty playa, taking note of several of the art installations. A small kinetic piece caught my attention, but it was too dark to see. I walked right up to it for a better look, squinted my eyes to try and force them to adjust, and finally gave up. When I turned on my headlamp, the bright LED revealed the installation to be a human couple. “Welcome to burning man," they said.
11. “I lost my wallet (and mind) at Wakarusa."
I woke up on day two of the festival to realize that my wallet was missing. Remembering exactly where I must've left it (near a stage while making a potentially shady business deal with an unknown wook...) I rushed back to find it gone. Some festival security took me to lost and found, but it hadn't been turned in. Completely defeated (and no longer in any state to search for a small brown wallet at a muddy festival) I spent most of the day anxiously dreading the logistics of getting home without my ID or any money. At sunset, I randomly asked another security guard, who got on his radio and said, “I'll send this happy camper your way." I have never been so ecstatic in my life. Turns out the lost and found was in a completely different spot than what the first security guard told me. It had been there all day and I would've had such a great day if that asshat sent me to the correct tent in the first place. But the polarization of my emotions made the rest of the night more incredible than it could've ever been otherwise.
12. “I was handcuffed to a stranger for 8 hours at Further Future."
I met a group of friends (many of whom were firefighters) and made one of them my festie-bestie. We were so attached at the hip that his friends thought it would be funny to attach us at the wrist… AKA handcuff us together. I spent the next 8 hours walking around the Nevada desert getting to know that human very well. At one point, I figured out I could contort my hand out of the handcuff, but kept it on because I was actually having fun. Though the desert heat made the metal burn.
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."