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Going to a metal show is one of the most amazingly effective coping skills for my mental madness. I’m able to drown out the dark, at least for a few hours, with crushing riffs and a lot of headbanging.

I still don’t understand the appeal.

What? Metal shows are amazing!

Concerts are anxiety-inducing nightmares of noise and smelly crowds.

Well, I’ll admit there is an element of apprehension about being stuffed into a small, enclosed space surrounded by headbanging strangers. But they’re all there because they dig the same bands you do.

I get nervous just thinking about being encircled by all those perspiring bodies, hair flinging up into my eyes. Statistically, some of those people don’t follow decent hygiene habits.

So what if it smells? It’s so much f*cking fun!

It’s an absolute deluge of worry and panic.

Look, I’ve been to metal shows that were truly cathartic, a purging of all the negative, hurtful crap in my life.

How in the world does being crammed into an auditorium—with only a few exits, under a wall of “crushing riffs,” surrounded by the smell of weed, beer, and body odor—how is THAT experience a coping mechanism for depression?

I’m not entirely sure, to be honest.

Well, at least you’re honest.

Part of it is that the music is so loud I can’t even think.

How is permanent hearing loss a good thing?

I’ve gotten completely lost in the metal at a live show, partly because I can’t think about thinking. All the people around me just fade away. I’m floating inside each song, just as free and weightless as if I was wading out in the open sea.

You float at metal shows?

Abso-f*cking-lutely! Floating in the midst of the thundering, controlled chaos that is a metal concert. Drifting inside the eye of a category-five hurricane.

But the bullsh*t “convenience” fees, the long lines, the obnoxious drunks.

You know, I don’t run into a lot of obnoxious drunks at metal shows.

Seems like a lot of money and time and mental energy just to escape depression for a few hours, depression that’s going to greedily claw its way back into your skull as soon as the lights go up.

Well, if you’re going to a metal show for that reason, you’re missing the point entirely.

What point?

I go to metal shows because it’s fun! The fact that it helps with my depression is incidental.

Incidental?

Icing on the cake.

I do love cake.

From an outside perspective, I must look pretty preposterous: vigorously hammering my head forward, eyes closed, hair flying everywhere, headbanging to metal as it saturates my ears and drowns my senses. But I’m able to fall into that experience as it unfolds. It’s meditative.

Headbanging is meditation?

Well, there’s this photo from a Yob concert that I think—

Yob? What’s a Yob?

Yob is a kick-ass metal band from Eugene, Oregon. There’s this black-and-white photo from one of their concerts. The band is headbanging on the stage in the background. The crowd is headbanging in the foreground. Small venue. Dimly lit. You can feel the energy of the music bleeding out of the picture.

What does that have to do with meditation?

There’s this guy in the right corner at the front of the stage. His head is slammed forward, the only guy with his arms raised above his head, fists clinched. I immediately thought, “There! Right fucking there. That guy gets it.”

Gets what?

He’s in that space, swimming in the song. He’s connecting to something unseen. He’s finding catharsis. From his perspective, there’s no one around for miles.

Because he’s floating.

When I’m in that same space, depression and anxiety are sidelined. They’re reduced to mere spectators to this amazing spectacle of devastating tunes cracking my skull and crushing my bones into dust.

Metal shows sound painful. And the depression comes back. It always comes back.

But I’m not banging my head as a method to cope with depression. I’m there because . . .

Because it’s so much f*cking fun!

Hell yeah!

So, it’s not about some secret headbanging meditation method?

And it’s not really about headbanging, either. You can have the same experience at a Dolly Parton concert—live music as a medium to focus only on the immediate and float inside that space.

Smelly crowd or no smelly crowd.

You can float either way.