A Sociologist Explains Why You Get Depressed After Festivals

A lot of people would pick the birth of a child or the occasion of their wedding as the best time of their life, but the most fun I’ve ever had was spending four days on a boat. There’s a reason people that attend the floating music festival Holy Ship end up talking about their experiences with a sort of cultish devotion. Nothing I’d experienced to that point in my life had prepared me for the endorphin-aided endurance test of partying my ass off for basically 96 hours straight in international waters—and sometimes on private islands—with a seemingly endless supply of champagne.

There were seemingly no noise ordinances, and essentially no laws when we were out on the open ocean. (Though technically the captain of a ship can incarcerate someone suspected of committing a crime, shout out maritime law!) So electronic music blared 24 hours a day from any one of seven stages. Words do no justice to the absurdity of my time aboard the Ship.

When I disembarked, and began the journey home, my head was spinning, but that was nothing, compared to what I would feel in the coming week. I may have overindulged a bit, I admit, but this was no ordinary hangover. A wave of depression overtook me that had an actual impact on my daily life. I wasn’t getting out of bed. I was making up bullshit excuses to bail on plans for no reason. I only ate at the brink of starvation. It felt like Holy Ship took my soul.

A beach party at Holy Ship/Image courtesy aLIVE Coverage

The highs achieved at music festivals are often no match against the lows you feel afterwards. Is that so surprising though? One moment you’re in a fairytale world where everybody accepts you for what you are, and the next you’re forced back into the monotonous routines of daily life. Even aside from the chemical comedowns, there’s just this sense of loss and loneliness that comes back with reintegrating into the rhythms of the day-to-day.

Dr. Rob Gardner, associate professor of sociology at Linfield College in…

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