Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How Music Saved Me

I have always depended on music to keep me grounded. When I was younger I listened to calm, quiet music. I was a huge fan of Mannheim Steamroller, Yanni (go ahead and laugh), Enya, and other meditation-friendly artists. Later I got into Led Zepplin and '80s rock - Metallica, Def Leppard, and other such bands. I still steered toward the slower, ballad-type songs. I needed things calm and collected to keep my mind in check.

In mid 2012 I started to break. And I mean a MAJOR break. And my taste in music changed. The slower, quieter music didn't work any more. My mind was so loud and chaotic, it just provided a quiet "room" for the colors and voices to bounce around in. I started listening to louder music, even some rap, which I had abhorred up until then. My mind continued to shatter and everything got louder and even more chaotic. I had zero control over the voices; my only option was to drown them out.

And physically I was breaking as well. I didn't know what it was at the time, but I developed chostochondritis in which the connective tissue in the rib cage becomes inflamed. Every day at work was agony as I lifted and filed and sat in a computer chair. And I could "hear" what people were thinking about me, and it wasn't pleasant. Often these voices were louder than the real ones and I was having trouble telling them apart. finally, on September 26, 2012, I left work in the middle of the day and I was never able to go back. I was in pain, physically and mentally, and I couldn't take it any more.

I had no way to pay rent. My roommate had moved out. I had tentative plans to move in with my parents, but the thought of packing was as terrifying as the thought of going back to work. For the first time in more than a decade I had serious thoughts of suicide. I even had a plan, but fortunately that plan needed preparation so I had a couple of days before I could die.

And that was when I heard the song, the one that saved my life. I was listening to Pandora on my computer and Linkin Park's song "Crawling" came on. It was loud and harsh and made the noise in my head fade just enough for me to hear the lyrics:
There's something inside me
That pulls beneath the surface
Consuming, confusing
This lack of self control I fear
Is never ending, controlling
Crawling in my skin
These wounds they will not heal
Fear is how I fall
Confusing what is real
Those words said exactly what I was feeling. And for the first time I knew, I was absolutely sure, that someone out there was going through what I was. Instead of going through with my plan to kill myself, I sent a message to a friend I knew in the psychiatric community and asked her if she knew anyone in the area who specialized in schizophrenia. She directed me to Dr. Nielsen, who has been my psychiatrist ever since.

My favorite band now is Linkin Park. So many of their music has lyrics that speak to my soul. And despite being on meds now that quiet my mind, I still prefer the loud, harsh, almost grating music that saved me almost 5 years ago.

You can find a list of some of my favorite songs on my YouTube channel. The list is always growing, of course. And if you don't like loud music you can always look up the lyrics. Meaningful lyrics are an absolute must to make my Favorites list.

Music, no matter what sound you prefer, is a powerful too in fighting mental illness. If you haven't found something that works for you, keep looking. There is literally a world of tunes out there.

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