Haunted by the empty seat that should have been his girlfriend’s, Keith Anderson shares the moment he hates.
On Tour with the Rolling Stones
Confused thinking. Sleepless nights. Unknown feelings. Difficult lifestyle.
That was my personal life in the spring of 2002. Lost to explain what I was experiencing, I was thick headed about recognizing my mental illness.
I still tried to enjoy parts of my life, although it was a struggle. And I used to love traveling , especially to see a concert.
In the early spring, the Rolling Stones announced a tour, Forty Licks, to celebrate 40 years as a rock band. I was and am a huge fan, having seen them in 1999, so I went online and purchased two tickets for me and my girlfriend. We were set to see them at the first concert of the tour, in Boston on September 2nd. It’s a great city, with food, people and history to love.
I had one problem. I hadn’t told my girlfriend.
My life got worse that summer. Sleepless nights became sleepless weeks. I slowly began to cut off relationships. Solo lunches became common. I continued to practice law; work was the one aspect of my life I’d thought I was still capable of controlling and understanding. It was my “after work mind” that was in a deep fog.
As August rolled in, I started to feel pressure. I still hadn’t told her. I didn’t understand why because I was unable to rationalize the situation, which confused my mind even more. Nothing made sense.
I love the Rolling Stones. My girlfriend was the most special wonderful woman I had ever dated. I remember one evening early in our relationship, she wondered why I would want to be with her. To me that was simple—she was all I’d ever wanted and she even had a cool name. I told her simply,“ I want you in my life.” Words that didn’t and don’t come easily for me.
We were supposed to be sharing this excitement, seeing the Stones in concert together. Still, I stayed silent.
I read my journal from 2002 a few days ago. I have kept journals off and on since 1986. The words from that summer are not lengthy, but are very unsettling: ugly, scared, lost.
It’s the last week of August and I still haven’t told her. The concert weekend arrives, I disappear and go to Boston, alone, telling no one where I’ve gone.
I walk around Boston with no purpose, emotional, my tears flowing constantly. When I sit on a bench in Quincy Market, I’m shaking, crying, trying to hide my private display in a very pubic place. What is happening to me?
Concerts are exciting. Fans from around the world come together for the Rolling Stones. People gather at the venue. We wear Stones shirts from past tours. People laugh, share a special time. It’s a true Worth Living moment.
Not in Boston. Not for me.
I take my seat beside the empty seat that should have been my girlfriend’s. Unknown emotions surface. I am not crying, just experiencing an outpouring of feelings I’d suppressed or hidden. Tears flowed. I am still haunted by that vision. The empty seat. I hate that moment of my life.
“I look inside myself and see my heart is black
I see my red door I must have it painted black
Maybe then I’ll fade away and not have to face the facts
It’s not easy facing up when your whole world is black”
~”Paint it Black”, The Rolling Stones
Oh, the concert—I guess it was good. But enjoyment, even a Stones concert, was impossible at the time. My mind simply could not process joy.
Needless to say, upon my return home, I had questions to answer. Where was I ? Why did I go alone? What happened? I had nothing to say because I didn’t understand. Not knowing made my mental turmoil even worse, made me restless and more anxious as I searched my unraveling mind for an explanation…to no avail.
Six months later I had my mental breakdown.
With months of therapy, I began to understand my behavior at the concert.
I came to realize that my work as a lawyer allowed my professional mind to pretend I was full of self-confidence, self-esteem, and self –worth. I’d been fooling myself that all was well in order to continue practicing at a high level.
My personal mind had come undone, starting in Boston.
Why alone though?
My girlfriend was special, I was not. She was wonderful, I was not. She was a superstar, I was nothing. I didn’t deserve to be happy, didn’t deserve to with her. My going alone was a result of my non-existent personal self-worth. I was meant to be alone and have no life. Going alone also provided me a way to escape, to hide from everyone. Hard to explain, but mental illness is a tough one.
I have been to six Rolling Stones concerts and they map out my life with depression quite well.
“Give me a little drink from your loving cup.
Just one drink and I’ll fall down drunk
I’m the man who walks the hillside in the sweet summer sun”
~ “Loving Cup”, The Rolling Stones
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