There are plenty of possible negative perceptions that can be made when someone admits that they struggle with an anxiety disorder. They are perceived as vulnerable, unusual, unable to live their own lives outside of their own four walls. I myself struggle with an anxiety disorder. I was at my worst almost three years ago, when I had my worst panic attack, in an environment that I had grown up in.
I’ve attended shows since I was 16, spending most of my weekends in high school with friends at a venue close to home (RIP School of Rock), seeing artists like Cash Cash (pre-DJs), Cartel, The Ready Set, Stereo Skyline, The Friday Night Boys, and We Are The In Crowd, among many others. Being surrounded by music was all I’ve known, so when I had an extreme panic attack at almost 21 while seeing Yellowcard (one of my favorite bands) on their Ocean Avenue 10th Anniversary tour, I felt betrayed. I spent most of their acoustic set in the bathroom behind Starland Ballroom’s stage, unsure of what was happening. A security guard walked in to check on me twice to make sure I was okay as I leaned against a wall shaking, nauseous, and barely able to breathe. It was the worst panic attack of my life. As I heard Yellowcard playing through Ocean Avenue, I could barely find the strength to go back into the crowd and catch them perform at least one full song. In fact, I specifically left the bathroom to watch them play “Only One” and couldn’t even make it through the four minute performance without feeling like I was seconds away from passing out. Eventually, I made my way to the entrance of the venue, where two security guards gave me a chair and some water as they talked to my best friend and I, trying to help control my attack. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that it would just be best to leave, but not before going back to catch at least a small bit of one more song, “Believe.” Since then, attending shows has been nothing but a continuous battle with both my anxiety and myself. However, when you know that all you want in life is to be surrounded by music, you never stop fighting.
I’ve spent the last few years working on figuring out what triggers my anxiety and panic attacks, trying to not let them take the reigns of my day-to-day activities. It was a struggle at first, having panic attacks on a daily basis and feeling like you’re barely able to function. Doctors visits upon doctors visits was my life for most of that year. It was difficult for me to sit in a class for an hour, let alone spend my entire day in an office for my internship or a few hours at a show. I could barely sit in my kitchen without feeling like there was someone sitting on my chest. Medication helped, but I made it a personal goal to work towards not having to constantly rely on that. Although I have numerous friends who struggle with anxiety as I do, we all deal with it differently and I needed to figure out what it was that would help me personally get through it. For me, it was always the music. And for me, Yellowcard was always the artist.
Yellowcard has been one of my favorite bands since I was 11. They were the band I would turn to when I was angry and needed to clear my mind. They were the band I would turn to when all I needed was to smile. They were the band I would turn to when I was heartbroken. They were there when I felt happy, sad, anxious, confused, excited, and any and everything in between. And as I grew up, their music became even more important to me. Through my grandfather’s battle with Alzheimer’s and my other grandfather’s battle with lung cancer, I always found myself going back to their music. They were both my comfort and my escape.
Just about a year ago, I caught their performance with New Found Glory at Starland Ballroom and part of me was dreading that night. I had gone to other shows at that venue since the 10th-anniversary show, but there was something about seeing the same band in the same place that terrified me. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to make it through the entire show again and that I would never be able to fully enjoy watching Yellowcard perform. Throughout the car ride there, I was a disaster. But the moment Yellowcard hit the stage, everything changed. That show was what I consider my redemption. I screamed along to every lyric of every song that night and I enjoyed myself more than I had in years. Little did I know that would be my second to last time seeing this incredible band live.
When it was announced that Yellowcard would be releasing their final album and going on their final tour, I was crushed. You’re always told that all good things must come to an end, but I was not prepared for that to be in reference of a band that had meant so much to me. The day tickets went on sale, I bought them and didn’t think twice. Anxiety, panic, work – nothing mattered. I didn’t even bother asking any friends if they wanted to come at the time, I bought two tickets and told myself I would deal with it when the time came.
Last week was Yellowcard’s final New Jersey show and I still fully haven’t come to terms with the fact that it was their last performance in that venue where I had seen them at both my worst and at my best. That night, I screamed along to every song as if my life depended on it. From the very first song of their set, I knew I was going to be okay. When the first chord of “Believe” started, I knew there was no need to question myself or my anxiety or anything else. I was watching one of my favorite bands opening their final set with one of my favorite songs, one that had helped me particularly over the last three years, and in the back of my head all I could hear was “everything is going to be alright, be strong, believe.” And that’s what stuck with me through their nearly two hour set. Even when I had a minor panic attack during “Lift A Sail,” I continued to focus on nothing but the band on stage. Nothing but the band who had been there for me many times before and was there for me again that night. I refused to let my anxiety affect me.
Yellowcard’s final show at Starland Ballroom was nothing short of amazing. It wasn’t until their encore that all of the emotions sunk in. Before the band performed the last of their 20-something song set list, there was an overwhelming feeling of both sadness and happiness. The crowd screamed Yellowcard’s name for nearly five minutes, stopping the band from performing “Ocean Avenue,” their last song, because deep down none of us wanted it to be their last song. It’s simple to feel alone in a crowded room, but it’s nearly impossible to feel alone in a crowded room full of Yellowcard fans. The passion and love that each of us feel for Yellowcard is probably very different, but that night it was all the same. We were all saying goodbye to a band that impacted our lives in one way or another. That night, I had never felt more connected to a band or a crowd or a song in my entire life and I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.
So to Yellowcard, who may very well never come across this post, it’s extremely important for me to say thank you. Thank you for writing songs that have personally affected me over the last 13 years of my life. Thank you for being a band whose music I could always count on, no matter the circumstance. Thank you for being there through the most difficult year of my life as I struggled with constant anxiety, panic attacks, chronic migraines, and the loss of both of my grandfathers. Thank you for giving me the strength to believe in myself and everything I do. Thank you for continuously fighting to make your voices heard, and in turn making me feel like it was important to have my voice heard. Thank you for giving your all in every performance I’ve seen you give. Thank you for bringing me closer together with friends who share the same love for your music as I do. Thank you for always being my comfort and my escape. And thank you for giving us the proper chance to say goodbye when most artists call it quits without notice. This may be a goodbye that includes never hearing new music or seeing you perform again, but this is not goodbye to the music or the feelings you have left us with. I will never say goodbye to that. Yellowcard will forever be an important part of my life. So once again, thank you. Thank you for being Yellowcard.