For someone with IBD, music festivals are a minefield of anxiety and potential digestive disasters. You’ve probably gotten used to looking at the line-ups longingly, wishing that you could go but feeling like it’s impossible. Guess what, you digestively-challenged, die-hard music fans – it’s possible! We’ve put together a list of top tips for going to musical festivals with IBD, so read on and starting saving up for your ticket.
1. Find a Bathroom Buddy
This is by far the most important! You need to go to the festival with at least one very close friend. Before you buy the tickets, ask them if they’ll be your bathroom buddy. You’ll probably ask someone that knows all about your IBD already, but they may ask, ‘What’s a bathroom buddy?’ Explain to them that it would make your experience way less stressful if you guys stick together and if you need to bolt to the bathroom, they come with you. Losing your friends is one of the worst things that can happen to you at a festival because finding them again can take hours. But if you and your bathroom buddy always duck out together, that’s one fear eliminated!
2. Supply Yourself
Come prepared! Bring along a travel size pack of tissues (bring a bunch of packs if you’re going to a three-day festival with camping), wet wipes and just in case, extra underwear. Carry them with you all the time in case the portable toilets run out. If you’re really worried, ladies can wear an overnight pad and guys can double up on underwear. Just knowing you’re prepared can prevent an anxiety-triggered emergency. Be sure to pack a few loose grocery bags so you can inconspicuously transport anything messy to the bin. If you’re camping, sleep by yourself in a one-man tent so you feel free to get up and go to the bathroom whenever you need to. Also for camping festivals, bring along a little bottle of potent air freshener. Just in case you have crazy gas in your tent and then a friend pops by to visit – it could save you a second of embarrassment!
3. Eat Right
If you have any food triggers, don’t assume there will be food at the festival that’s safe for you to eat. Make a shopping list before the trip and bring an abundance of safe, healthy snacks and meals. This is especially important for three-day camping festivals, but it’s relevant to one-day events, too. Some tasty, non-perishable foods are nuts, cans of tuna or salmon, carrots, beef jerky (a lot of these have sugar and preservatives, so be careful if you’re sensitive to those), bananas and peanut butter. Bring A LOT of everything because you’re going to be very active and you can go through little snacks very quickly.
4. Drink Respons-IBD-ly Unless you’re newly diagnosed, you probably know exactly where you stand with alcohol. If you’re going to a multiple-day festival, you can usually bring your own booze, so it’s easy to avoid triggers. But the one-day festivals present a problem because there’s not a lot of variety. Find out before you go what will be on sale and figure out what you can have. You’ll see everyone drinking their frosty-looking alco-pops and refreshing beers, but keep your eyes on the safe option.
5. Be Tough and Ruthless
It’s common knowledge that festival crowds are mixed. Unfortunately, there are always a few jerks among that mix. If you take a long time in the toilet, they’re the ones that shout ‘hurry up!’ or even bang on the door. It’s horrible, rude, inexcusable behaviour and it’s potentially traumatising for someone that’s having major Crohn’s or Colitis problems inside the stall. There’s nothing you can do to stop the jerks, but try to find a way to brush it off. If they bang, concentrate on deep breathing or bring your iPod along and pop some music on. If they say something rude to you when you finally leave the toilet, tell them you were cleaning it for them (boom!). Or just ignore it completely – you’ll never see that person again and even if you did, you wouldn’t recognise each other. If you need to go urgently and the line is really long, you can always ask people at the front of the line to let you go. It’s embarrassing, but if you tell them you’re feeling really sick, most people will let you go ahead of them.
6. Bonus Tip
This won’t work at all festivals, but it’s worth a try because it’s happened before. Get in touch with the festival organisers via email and explain your situation. Tell them that festivals can be terrifying for someone with IBD, but you’re desperate to go and have a great time. Then ask them if you could use the handicapped toilet in an emergency. They may ignore your email, they may write back. If they write back with an affirmative, print out the email and keep it in your pocket. If there is an emergency and the bathroom lines are long, show the email to the guy guarding the handicapped toilet and do your business!