Depression Goes to Summer Camp

 8:15 AM on Monday, January 16, 2018

My eyes open as my body wakes up from a restless sleep, the starts of a migraine ebbing behind my eyes. I groan at my clock, incessant blaring reminding me I have to get up and do something. I reach my hand out to stop the whining, squeeze my eyes shut and beg my mind to let me go back to sleep. 

billi jo hart depression

3:00 PM on Wednesday, February 22, 2018

I tread into my sunroom and examine my surroundings. Desaturated greens and light brown leaves show signs of neglect. I sigh. No energy to water today.

billi jo hart depression

12:15 PM on Saturday, March 16, 2018

“What a boring, cold day,” I think to myself as I tread through day-old snow on my way to an interview. The sky is bleak against the muddy white ground. Bright purple catches the corner of my eye so I turn to look, stunned by a sudden influx of…what is that? Excitement? I stop to examine a Summer Camp Music Festival lineup, taped to the storefront’s window. Despite the cold air whipping against my face, my mind allows relief as I fantasize about summer. The moment is brief as snow melts into my gloves, so I turn back to my grey world and trudge away.

1:45 PM on Wednesday, April 9, 2018

I walk out of my yoga studio and breath in the cool air, basking in the sun’s rays against my face. I could feel the weather slowly warming, day by day, giving me hope.

“Soon it will be warm!” I think, heading home for a nap. No energy left, I fall right to sleep.

3:15 PM on Sunday, May 20, 2018

I laugh out loud as I read through a post from a fellow SCamper on the SCMF Facebook Discussion Board. The posts have been getting more frequent as it gets closer to the festival. The excitement is palpable. I skip to my garage and look over the mess of camping gear thrown into a pile in the corner. An overwhelming task for sure, but I smile and begin organizing my gear. Three days before I leave, I’ll be ready!


7:20 AM on Wednesday, May 23, 2018

I hop out of bed before my alarm, mind racing with to-do lists, surprisingly clear despite the excitedly restless night of sleep. I race around my house, making final preparations for the weekend to come. Costumes and shiny jewelry laid out on my bed, as my boyfriend overlooks with loving judgement.

“You’re carrying all that you know,” he says with a laugh. I smile contentedly, that’s just fine with me.

5:00 PM on Wednesday, May 23, 2018

My stomach feels like it’s on a rollercoaster and my heart is beating faster than usual as we drive to Three Sisters Park. My eyes are wide open as I take in the countryside, waiting for familiar signs to welcome me back Home.

7:35 PM on Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Tears form in my eyes when I see the red and white Three Sisters Park sign in the distance, boasting its Memorial Weekend event: SUMMER CAMP MUSIC FESTIVAL 2018. Shivers run down my spine as I look back at my friends, smiling ear to ear.

“WE MADE IT!” I yell. Cheers rock my van as we pull in to staff check-in.


6:00 AM on Thursday, May 24, 2018

8:43 AM on Thursday, May 24, 2018

Cheers echo in the distance. The crowds want in.

While I was gone, apparently there was a snake at my campsite?! Snaps thanks to @ChaseBabyHo.

Approximately Noon on Thursday, May 24, 2018

My phone has died, but the gates have opened. My heart swells as I see the seas of SCampers flood down the road. Sweat soaked tie-dye t-shirts pass me pulling cart after wagon after makeshift cooler caddy as everyone hurries to claim their favorite camping spot.

summer camp music festival adventure hart

Evening on Thursday, May 24, 2018

A headache blares behind my right eye, likely caused by heat exhaustion. I lazily sway in a hammock nestled under the treetops surrounding my home base. I smile happily despite the pain as I watch more people stake down their spots in the southwest field near Moonshine. I’m grateful Camp Counselor Robert extended an invite to join forces with his camp in the trees. The sweltering heat made the field look like an oven. A light breeze played happily with my hair as I drifted off to sleep.

summer camp music festival campsite adventure hart


8:16 AM on Friday, May 25, 2018


My eyes snap open, cheerfully startled by a passing SCamper. I stretched my limbs out and examined my dirt-caked toes. Thankfully I felt no signs of a headache as I got dressed for the day in a rust-colored halter and clinking accessories. I placed a white captain’s hat on my head and smiled inwardly. Perfect.

summer camp camp counselor jojo

11:40 PM on Friday, May 25, 2018

Rez’s goofy ear-to-ear smile greets me as I walk into the Church for our daily Camp Counselor meeting. I can hear happy chatter in the other room from the Camp Counselors and various media team personnel milling about. These are some of my favorite people at SCamp, as well as some of the hardest working and resilient humans I know. Talent oozes from this building in the form of awesome video, photography, editing and writing skills.  In the meeting we go over our day plans, and I sit back and listen happily.

“I HAVE BIG PLANS,” I think to myself as I reposition my photo gear across my shoulders. The meeting adjourns and everyone disperses to capture the fest.

Matt Rezetko’s cheesy grin in all its glory during Crosseyed and Phishless‘ set on the Starshine Stage.

1:45 PM on Friday, May 25, 2018

The Camp Counselors all meet behind Moonshine Stage in preparation for announcing moe.’s first set (an annual tradition). CC Kevin fiddles with his shirt nervously as he practices what he will say to the crowd. Our time is up and we file onto the stage, waving and cheering to the crowd as they cheer back…it’s a bit of a rush really, although the 1 minute of fame is all the attention I can comfortably handle. Kevin’s speech is punchy and sweet, and we all gather to give him high fives and congratulations once we file off the stage.–b9z53fZhSy81sWt7LmU4lknLWdJyJDitUuYvxc8-2BTmIVag

3:50 PM on Friday, May 25, 2018

I run to my tent to rally my boyfriend, Tim, who was passed out after pulling an all nighter.

Mad Zach baby, get up!” I say to him, lightly shaking his leg. He does this thing where he will open his eyes, look right at you and even respond without being fully conscious, so I continue shaking him for a minute before I finally give up. Slightly disappointed I head off to the Vibe Tent with my best friends, Clennon and Rachel, with a resolve to wake him up once I return. My disappointment is short-lived as I dance around in the back of Vibe, stopping every so often to take a picture.

“This set is DOPE,” I thought as I whomped my mid-afternoon away.

6:45 PM on Friday, May 25, 2018

I clutch my boyfriend’s hand as we make our way to the Moonshine Stage for Tipper. I seem to have a fit of uncontrollable giggles and my boyfriend keeps looking back at me and laughing at my stupid cheesy grin, which only intensifies my laughter. I’m not necessarily a Tipper fan, I prefer music I can hold on to otherwise I get lost in my head. But tonight I have the time of my life, hiding shyly against Tim’s chest when the stage’s visuals threaten to overwhelm me.

billi jo hart summer camp music festival

Sometime in the night on Friday, May 25, 2018

The lights are a blur as I’m dragged along endless roads. I’m not sure where we’re going, my boyfriend has the game plan. My heart beats quickly and excitedly as I greet each person I pass, reflecting smiles and waves and feeling endless connections of happy, open hearts. Music sounds from every direction and the smell of festival-food wafts into my nose through my silk bandana. This is my happy place. This is my home. Rachel wants to go shopping, so we wander into a shop called The Fairies Pyjamas and examine his wares. I spot a shirt I fall absolutely in love with, and suddenly find myself laughing away as Tim and the shopkeeper attempt to help me manuever my arms and head into the corresponding holes. I look down and nod my head, signaling that this is what I will buy. I wasn’t intending to shop tonight, in fact I generally have a rule that you should wait to see all the vendors before making a selection. But hey, the heart wants what it wants, and I want this.

summer camp music festival billi jo hart

Showing off my new digs from #SCamp18. Thanks to The Fairies Pyjamas for hooking it up!


11:55 AM on Saturday, May 26, 2018

I race to the Church for my daily meeting, brain clouded from sleep and mild exhaustion. I’m momentarily stunned as I’m passed by a group of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in my life, arms glittering in the sun and adorable butterfly wings adorning their exposed backs. Phew. Has anybody else noticed just how fucking…ATTRACTIVE everybody is at SCamp? Heart-melting women and jaw-dropping men at every corner expertly spinning hula-hoops or balancing in impressive Asanas. It’s like a circus of beautiful people. Once I arrive at the Church, I embarrassedly make my way to a back row and listen happily to everyone’s plans for the day. When it comes to my turn, I admit quite contentedly that I’ve decided I won’t be carrying my camera gear this year. Instead, I intend to focus on truly living it, relying on my phone’s camera and Go-Pro to capture the moments for documentation. There were plenty of photographers on the ground, the festival surely wouldn’t miss me.   

summer camp music festival sunset

Who needs nice camera gear when you have Earth porn like this all weekend?

Afternoon on Saturday, May 26, 2018

It’s SO HOT. Just the walk from the field to Church wore me out. Once I got back to my campsite I collapsed into my chair and spend my afternoon chatting happily with my friends. Some may balk at the idea of spending hours at the campsite rather than hopping from stage to stage, but it is kinda my crew’s style. We toss crazy stories from the night before back and forth and will the blazing heat to dissipate so we could begin wandering around the grounds.

summer camp music festival

Meet Clennon, the new poster boy for Naked Juice

6:45 PM on Saturday, May 26, 2018

Cypress Hill takes the Moonshine Stage and I feel a deep rumble shake the ground, heavy bass vibrating my chest. We sit and watch them for about twenty minutes, our spot along the treeline giving us a perfect view of the stage. However, soon we must take off to get ready for fiDlin (Tim Anderson), Chase Baby (Chase Scott)  and Truth AKA Trouble’s (Donti Allison) performances in the Soulshine Tent (if you didn’t see missed out). Tim DJs for both of them, and I’d consider myself to be fiDlin’s biggest fan and certainly in the running for top fangirl of both rappers.

summer camp music festival

Proof that my boy Ian is on top of his shit with his utility cart.

8:00 PM on Saturday, May 26, 2018

Did anyone catch the sky change tonight? I must have taken like 30 pictures and videos of it, it was gorgeous.

Once we got to Soulshine, I was able to catch CJ Run and Mother Nature’s sets. I vibe with Mother Nature. They totally kill it, their energy flowing through the crowd and drawing in curious passerbys.

9:30 PM on Saturday, May 26, 2018

The sun has set by the time Donti takes the stage, and the updated lighting in Soulshine blows me away. It looked like glitter and diamonds floating along the tent, and I spent my next two hours completely mesmerized, humming along to familiar beats and rapping poorly to songs I knew by heart.

The crowd filled with tons of people from my city, Champaign-Urbana, so I hugged each one and grooved along to Chase Baby’s buttery, flowing, almost unreal lyrical mastery.

summer camp music festival billi jo hart

10:00 PM on Saturday, May 26, 2018

I was able to roam around the Soushine Tent to view the various artists that had their work on display. I was drawn in by the vibrancy and emotion each piece gave out, tempted to purchase something at every display I looked at. Resolving myself to stop by tomorrow to make a final decision, I wandered backstage to congratulate my boyfriend and friends on their phenomenal performances.

summer camp music festival soulshine tent

Artwork by Lauren Elizabeth Schildberg

Sometime in the night on Saturday, May 26, 2018

The forest is alive with happy chatter and glowing LED lights creating an ethereal, ambient glow along the dark treeline. I can see stars glittering softly through the leaves when I look up and when I breathe in, I’m comforted by the smell of burning sage and a potpourri of other scents. Smiles. I feel happy. I feel love.


11:50 AM on Sunday, May 26, 2018

I wake up with a start and take in my surroundings. My unrealistic organizational system for the tent has devolved into a crumpled mess of clothing and treasures in each corner. The air mattress has slightly deflated overnight and it takes a considerable amount of effort to carefully roll over my boyfriend and open the tent door. His sleep remains impressively undisturbed as my knee threatens to crush him while I make an uneasy exit into the sunny woods I’ve had the pleasure of calling my home the past four days. I’m greeted by smiles from the pretty girls that camp next to us, their joyful energy quickly filling my heart and erasing the exhaustion that was attempting to overcome me. I grin back and take a seat at my campsite, diving into my new book, “Śrī Īśopaniṣad,” that I got from a rather nice passing monk the day before.

1:30 PM on Sunday, May 26, 2018

My morning passed quickly and soon enough the Moonshine Stage erupts with the bluesy-rock stylings of Los Lobos. One thing I like about Summer Camp is that it exposes me to music I wouldn’t normally listen to. The promoters’ eclectic taste is honestly one of the best parts about the festival, and I feel quite content allowing the music to surround me while my legs stretch out onto my sleepy boyfriend’s lap.

3:00 PM on Sunday, May 26, 2018

My afternoon is once again spent hiding away in the treeline, avoiding the heatwave. I find it fun to pick out the single day SCampers, freshly washed and bright eyed, excitedly tugging their gear to the limited spots available,  eager to start their only day at the festival. The field quickly fills to the brim and I wonder what the forest must look like now, with tents pitched in every last available spot. I gaze at my site and silently give thanks for the spaciousness our setup has afforded us.

3:30 PM on Sunday, May 26, 2018

Victor Wooten Trio takes the stage and I feel my shoulders move to the punchy bass. A new friend that camped next to us stops by and allows me to adorn his forearm with a glittery temp tat, his initial apprehension replaced by surprised adorement of his new “ink.” I grab my final tattoo and gift it to a woman sitting in the campsite next to ours, feeling pleased as her eyes light up in excitement as she admires the glittery gold mandala that would soon decorate her body. I dance my way back to my campsite suddenly ravenous, and enjoy a peanut butter coated rice cake. Surprisingly these got better as the weekend wore on. The styrofoam-like texture now a familiar, satisfying crunch that filled my stomach without weighing me down.

summer camp music festival scamper

My new friend shows off his dope temporary tattoo!

4:15 PM on Sunday, May 26, 2018

I giggle mischievously as I snap a picture of my roommate Roy, fast asleep in his camp chair, chest struggling to draw in breath while his head is slumped over obstructing his airway. He snorts once, head thrown back and mouth agape, body finally winning and allowing a deep inhale to fill his body. Everyone at the site is worn out from the miles of walking and dancing over the weekend, but the glow of pleasure still hovers above our heads, tickling my scalp with well-being. I feel a slight soreness in my cheeks from the constant smiling, and decide it was time for some light afternoon yoga. I connect my breath with my movements as I flow through an Asana, breathing in energy, and willing my body to release the fatigue gripping my overworked muscles. My body glides naturally through each movement, and I feel an unusual amount of flexibility as I sink deeper into each pose. This festival has worked it’s magic, I think, as I release into Shavasana and a deeper meditation to complete my practice.

summer camp music festival scamper

This is not a good position to pass out in.

8:15 PM on Sunday, May 26, 2018

Tycho begins to resonate across the field and I leap from my chair excitedly. I rush to the bathroom, anxious to get back and enjoy the show. I numbly take in my stall, quickly checking to make sure at least the seat was clear of excessive toilet paper and resignedly grip the door as I squat expertly and complete my business. The festival has gotten a LOT better at keeping the bathrooms clean, even in GA, and even though the TP holder has been emptied long ago I am able to use the wipes I have tucked away in a ziplock bag in my Summer Camp fanny pack. As I’m leaving, I hear a defeated whine from one of the stalls as a woman realizes her toiletpaper-less fate, but I reassure her from behind the black-painted door and hand over one of my unused, single-serving wipe bags I made for moments just like this. I exit the trailer fulfilled by my deed, the faceless stranger, a true unsung bathroom hero.

“Ahoy Captain!” someone calls to me, so I tip my hat in a greeting and skip back to my campsite for the rest of Tycho’s set.

9:00 PM on Sunday, May 26, 2018

My friends and I head out to the vendors in search of a hand fan. These seemed to be in trend over the weekend, and for good reason: it was HOT af. Why I decided to wait until the last day, at night to get one I still do not understand. We wandered aimlessly, booth by booth until we finally found a basket of them tucked among glittering gemstones and random trinkets. I carefully examined each one before making my final selection, a gorgeous pink and orange fan accented by glitter and my favorite plant, the Monstera. The wonderful woman offered us a free SCamp ’18 commemorative keychain, and allowed me to take a second one which I immediately offered to my roommate with a smile. He laughed softly with joy as he inspected his gift, before carefully tucking it away in his purse.

summer camp music festival billi jo hart

Unfortunately I immediately lost the first fan I bought and had to go back for a second. It’s still really pretty though.

10:00 PM on Sunday, May 26, 2018

I twirl around in front of the massive Pyramid Stage, dancing away to DJ Belly, a friend of mine from CU. My arms lift happily overhead as I slyly look over my shoulder at my boyfriend, teasing his gaze with a flirty hair toss and wink. We’re pulled deep into our own world as we bask in the thrill of our carefree love, his hand gently pulling me into a cradle. I smile deeply as my friends join in, one after one, until a standing cuddle puddle forms and everyone embraces in the dancing lights.

“I love you guys,” I say, the words reflected back to me as we break away, refreshed by the display of appreciation for one another.

11:15 PM on Sunday, May 26, 2018

The last day is always bittersweet. The night’s schedule was full of final performances and vendors to see, food to eat. I slurp happily on my third lemon shakeup of the weekend, considering the rumble in my stomach and wondering if it was time to grab a snack. My laziness makes the decision for me as I lay back on the grass, allowing the simple sugars to quickly break down and put my stomach at ease. This was the best weekend of my life, and I suddenly find my eyes overflowing with tears of happiness as I look up at the night sky. I’m flooded with gratitude for the Universe, and as if in reponse, a soft breeze wraps around me in a warm embrace. I stretch my bare toes out and feel a tickle of satisfaction travel up my legs into my chest, releasing an invisible cloud of positivity that I watch disperse among the crowd, mixing itself with the vibrations of the music, the night, and my people.


That night I drift off into a deep sleep, my usual anxiety replaced by well-being. I’d developed a sense of grounding over the weekend, each positive experience forming a new root that sank deeper into the Earth below, drawing nourishment from the Mother that eased me to rest. I did not dream that night, I did not need to.

screen shot 2018 06 24 at 5.54.54 pm