Music, and its Therapeutic Purpose

Spoke to my brother last night about music.  It’s strange.  I, the “classically trained” one, know far less about practicing diligently than my brother.  He is self-taught on the guitar since high school, and is also considerably younger than me.  He’s a young adult now though.

“When you practice, concentrate on your fingers.  Think about every minute detail.  Your fingers, touching the string at the right spot, the pressure you’re using.”

I had just picked up a guitar lying around in my house when he said this to me.  I took a pick, and was playing a scale.  My fingers fumbled around, making all sorts of mistakes.

“When you play, you’ll make all sorts of mistakes in different places.  Just think about every time you make a mistake, what happened… what you did wrong.  And then focus more to fix the mistakes.”

This was totally alien to me.

“You know… for so long, there has been a disconnect between my mind and my body.  It’s been virtually impossible for me to even have the mental clarity to do what you’re saying.”

“Don’t worry about it.  Just lose yourself in the practicing.  Don’t think.  And just play whatever.  If you explore the instrument, you’ll naturally get better.”

Again… alien.  For years, I couldn’t practice in this way.  My practicing was… well… mindless.  I never practiced, actually, except to “cram” before a lesson.  How did I get to where I did?  No idea.  Was I talented?  I guess.  Maybe the beginning music was just easy?  I heard the songs I played way before I started them, with those Suzuki tapes.  And so I just got by.

I remember in college.  I began to find the viola fascinating, in that it had this capacity to “heal.”  Schizophrenia spoke through the notes, and music became a sort of yoga to me.  It made no sense though, and there was no way I could explain it at the time.

Overall, the art of performing music is a lonely, solitary one.  And I’m a terribly social person.  I hate being alone, because… there’s no reason for me to have thoughts in my head when I’m alone!  For example, in my solitude, I enjoy… visual art.  Lately, I’ve been making collages out of postcards.  Some I’ve received from various corners of the world, others are unused, new purchases.  I look at cards, and my intuition says “that one” … and then I take it up, cut out whatever it is that fancies me, and I put it aside into a pile… and then I’ll think, “put that one over onto this card” … and then I’ve created an abstract scene.

Something about visual art is freeing.  And maybe… it can be a way for me to express my delusions.  Or fears.  And it’s a way for my mind to be entirely blank and silent.

But I also think that I’m becoming more normal.  As my fear of music lessens, I begin to realize that I am, like everyone else, human.

It’s an odd feeling.  Because mental illness makes you feel something else.  Alien?  Unable to understand the basic “language” of emotion.  Someone says, “I’m sad,” and you think “wtf do you know about sadness, you bitch?  I cried till my heart turned purple, and then I slept for 12 hours.”  I remember one time, right before my first psychotic break, I cried bitterly while taking the train.  And then my nose started bleeding.  I thought my heart was crying.  This happened twice.

Psychosis kind of does that.  It fucks with your mind.  Perhaps, though, it’s simply an overactive imagination, ill-used.  For example, during my discussion of music with my brother, we watched a YouTube video of a man with Alzheimer’s, otherwise mute for months, coming alive when therapized with music from an iPod.  The video is here:

My brother and I agreed that music is perhaps a new frontier in mental health, mostly yet unexplored.  But then I had a fear:

“What if they start to discover ways to use music in ways to create biological warfare?”

Panic.  But my bro was unfazed.

“No, that would never happen.”

I suppose he’s right.  Perhaps this is just my anxiety, or my psychosis.  Or is it rather, creativity, misused?  Indeed, it might make a good sci-fi story, to create a scenario of that.

But I’m lazy.  Once the fear is driven from me, I no longer care.  Perhaps I could be hired to be a “think tank.”

But then again… I’m normalizing!  My fears are leaving me!

Still though, there is pain.  Yesterday, I played a song I wrote most recently.  It’s about a woman who is abused by her husband, isolated, and then bears sons who do the same to her.  As I sang the lyrics, I cried, babbling.  The song is so goddamned depressing, I can’t get myself to learn it.  My bro responded thus:

“You know, I don’t like to hear songs that are self-abusive.  I mean, you can write about negative stuff, but lyrics shouldn’t beat you up.”

Really?  I mean… the pain in the song that is expressed, is a very real pain.  One that I saw in my own home, with father reigning terror.  I have a close friend also, who was also terrorized by her former spouse.  My song gives her pain voice, so that she doesn’t feel isolated and alone.  Rare is it, that one can wield language effectively enough to give voice to the blank experience of panic and trauma.  It is a rare gift I have, I’ve discovered.

Regular people choose not to dwell on negative thoughts, because it brings them down, and that feels uncomfortable.  But with mental illness, we have no choice but to feel negativity, or discomfort.  It is as if our brains attack us, and we cower in fear.  Our brains… they attempt to erase our personalities, and substitute our very identities with a warped sense of reality.  Our brains tell us how the world is, and we are unable to discern it for ourselves.

Christians call it demon-possession.  Is it?  Some claim that prayer or energy work can remove this discomfort.  But for me, only Clozapine works.  Many people are disdainful of medications, perhaps because they were coerced into taking them, or perhaps because they have caused debilitating side effects.  And then others are simply ashamed of meds, due to societal stigma.

Honestly, I don’t care anymore.  Me, on Clozapine… I’m living my dreams now.  Nay-sayers can’t cause me to cave into stigma.

I’m considering music therapy, not only as a career, but for myself.  I have to find out… can it help me?  Or is it just a fluff profession?

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