Music, and its Effect on Me

I am tired.

I have been working full-time since December of 2014.  And truly, I have had a demanding schedule since January of 2014, when I had started my super-intensive peer specialist training course.

This is what I do now.  A peer specialist is a mental health professional, who also has mental illness herself.  I help clients by relating to them.  I listen, and share bits of my story when appropriate.  I go on errands with them too…  sometimes to the grocery store, other times to various government offices.

I like to think that my presence at my job serves to humanize the services that the agency offers.  I also bring my creativity and my interest in the arts into the game, by running a weekly recreation group.  We watch movies, and I have gathered some nice art supplies for clients to use.  We’ve also written some songs together… five at least.  We all feel so accomplished as we pen a real tune!  Perhaps that is the greatest gift I have to offer… music…

Or maybe not.  Music has been a double-edged sword, and I have been cut deeply by it too many times.  It is a curse in disguise, sadly.

It all began right when I started learning to play the violin, at the age of five.  Immediately, I clung tightly to classical music, but too much so.  I perceived all other genres besides classical to be utterly depraved and of the devil.  The very stuff of evil.  To hear other music… It caused me physical discomfort, and absolute bile to run through my mind…

Such disgusting music, and everyone is so evil and stupid for liking it.  Everyone is dumb, and society is a putrid, hellish place.  No one can be trusted, because they do not understand classical music.  But I do.  If they find out, they will hate me.

All this, solidly etched into my mind by the age of seven.  Of course, I did not have this vocabulary, but the above words summarize well my sentiment.

As I grew up, I managed to completely ignore music, except for the popular tunes that cropped up in movies.  And as for specific artists, I was completely ignorant.  Perhaps I knew of the Beatles by name, but I didn’t recognize any of their songs to be theirs.

How did I manage this?  Quite easily, as I had no friends.  Not one at all for a long time, and so there was no one to influence me.  From the fourth through sixth grade, though, I made a very nice friend, who is still my best friend today.  But she too was not too concerned with mainstream culture… we just would run around and play, and so forth.

I didn’t start listening to mainstream music until I left college.  I was forced to leave halfway through a masters degree in music, due to developing schizophrenia.  When returning home, I resolved never to play again.  And I became a rebel… I listened to something else.

I was really scared to do so.  I started out by listening to Queen, and only Queen.  They’re a nice hybrid-type band, and I was able to comfortably dip my toe into that non-classical ocean.  Eventually, I started writing my own songs, and attended open mics in the city.  I really gravitated towards the Sidewalk Café and the Antifolk scene, because really, I could play or do whatever I wanted on that stage.  Everything was welcome practically, as long as it wasn’t illegal.

My songs… they didn’t sound like other people’s.  Classical melodies, along with contemporary yet eloquent lyrics.  Certainly, I always get the respect from legit songwriters, given that my songs are structurally incredibly sound and complete, with no loose ends untied.  But they’re also square.  I hear non-classical music, and there is so much raw creativity sometimes.   People making weird sounds, or using weird lyrics to do something that has not been done before.

For me… that’s scary.  I’ve learned to approach music by coloring within the lines.  And so, the deviance is so difficult for me to appropriate in my own music-making.  I suppose the easiest route for me would be via lyrics.  I’ve learned, that I am more comfortable as a writer than as a musician.

Perhaps one day, I can write songs that would help to advocate the cause of mental health awareness.  It’s hard though.  I do actually write songs like this already, but they’re not popular with people who book gigs and stuff.  Also, no one has ever expressed serious interest in collaborating with me.  Like a band or whatever.  That has been discouraging to me as well.

I get my hopes up so often, that if I returned to music, I’d get noticed and then famous and then win it big.  And then I get competitive, and I hate everyone around me.  I don’t like being filled with hatred, so I prefer to keep music out of my life.

But… the silence gets to me sometimes.  Today, on the bus, I was sacked with thoughts, my brain attempting to eat itself.  I was really desperate… I tried to do some mindfulness exercises, but the thoughts got worse.  That’s usually what happens when I try to be “mindful.”

I got so desperate, that I decided to take a chance… a risk…

I put earbuds in my head and started listening to music.

I made a channel for Kate Nash, whom I had heard of through a few open mic friends.  And it totally calmed me down!  Instead of feeling disconnected and anxious, I now felt a calm spread over me, which then evened out my vision, my inner sense of balance… I felt at peace.

Perhaps this is what music is, at its best.  A force that enters a person and affects the moods, or uplifts.  But it’s sad, that I studied it so intensely, and yet I never understood this fundamental facet of it.  I examined it so closely, with microscopic perspective, and so my enjoyment of the whole Gestalt of it was also too microscopic.

I hope this can change.  Music is too beautiful a thing to have absent in one’s life.  Truly, music is not even a competition.  It is a tool that I can use, to help calm myself down.  To help me have a brighter day.  It can help to ground me, and create meaning in my life.

Today’s the day to start.

Eating Meat… It Keeps My Mind Sane

Lately, I have been feeling a bit sad.  Beyond normal.  Tinges of depression, I fear.

As extensive as my past is with depression, I have had the benefit of largely escaping it for the past five years.  What has limited me more recently is my schizophrenia.

But I am even getting tired of talking about it.  As empowering as it has been thus far, revealing the gritty details of my illness… it gets me down too.

At times, I watch documentaries on YouTube about people with disabilities and disfigurements.  My heart goes to people, and it is nice to see the human spirit triumph even in the face of challenges.

But maybe I am pulling myself too far.  Maybe I should stop watching the videos.

I’ve been watching for years.  But as I watched today, a thought hit me.  Am I a person who has a disability too?  An invisible disfigurement, if you will?

The answer is yes, possibly.  Indeed, I’ve been on disability for five years now.  And this is depressing.

But I don’t want to think of myself in this way!  I want to be strong and unimpeded and normal.  Thankfully, due to medications, I am now living this dream.

But now depression is potentially returning again.  I know I have been more distracted at work than usual.  I took the week off, and I’m hoping things improve.  I recently tried to attempt eating less meat, which in the past has caused me to feel depressed.  It’s happening again, I fear.

I guess maybe what could have started it was me, going online, trying to do some dating.  I haven’t been myself since that started about a month ago.  This is why I’m so afraid of dating.

Right now, I’m letting myself eat some extra grilled turkey breast now.  Maybe I’m saying the wrong things, talking about being distracted at work.  But I want to be safe.  And reaching out to all of you… that is me being safe.

Today, I said to myself: 2 steps forward, 1 step back.  That is a phrase that has gotten me through some tough times.

I think this blog post is a bit disjunct.  I just get scared.  I get scared that everything I have worked for will one day disappear again, and I’ll never be able to get it back.  The fear is so real, especially because… mental illness doesn’t “make sense.”

You can’t take medications, and be confident that they always will work for the rest of your life.

You can’t be 100% sure that you will have a future that is not in a hospital.

You can’t be 100% sure that you can remain stable enough to work thirty more years until retirement.

And so on.

Hey!  I had meat!  And now I feel better.

Uncanny, how food really determines how we feel.  It’s true… earlier today, still feeling down, I went to Bareburger and had an organic salad with chicken.  That picked me up… but I needed more meat in me.  I know a lot of vegetarians and vegans really tout the superiority of their diets, but for me?  I start to feel anemic, and the thoughts start.  The depression.  The psychosis.

I remember an episode with my mother’s dog.  Normally, he eats high-quality food, and he is chill, friendly and quiet.  And then one time, he ate some cheap IAMS or something.  He started barking and running in circles.  He turned into an annoying dog with the bad food!

I have turned my life around with food as well.  Four years ago, I was at my heaviest.  By changing what I eat… no more.  That’s another story though 🙂

What also helps me, is reading other people’s stories.  The more I write, the less I read.  Maybe I should take a break and learn something 😛

Another Boring Dating Story :/

I briefly was in correspondence with a guy from OkCupid… for about three weeks.  It started off pleasant, and then ended, standard fare… but I wish I was a bit wiser about its ending.  Of course, I’m now glad to be free from something that was not much destined to work out.  But at the same time, I behaved somewhat regrettably, and hope to have learned my lesson from this.

Although… was I wrong in my behavior?  Or justified?

 

******

 

I liked his photograph.  He was my type indeed… glasses, nerdy, and kind-looking, so I sent him a short but personalized message.  He wrote back eloquently.  In a week, we were talking on the phone.  His voice was charming and affable, and so it continued.

Within another week, we met for a date, which was “the nicest date I’ve ever been on.”  Such it always feels in the moment.  As the train pulled away, he never broke eye contact, and even blew me a kiss.  This got me smitten.  I ran out of the train station with an attitude of glee, and even a bit of tear in my eye.

Finally… FINALLY.  After all my years of mental illness, I finally can attract a man my own age that I am also attracted to!  Finally… all my suffering is at an end.  No longer am I my illness.

I looked up to the night sky as if it was heaven, and felt exuberance in my heart.  Mind you, I was not convinced it was love, but rather… a good beginning.

We texted and talked further… but I increasingly got an itchy sort of feeling.  The young man began to ask me if I wanted to date seriously.  Given that I only knew him for two and some weeks, I fretted.  Really… over the years, I have learned that the best of my friendships were the ones that evolved over a significant period of time.  Those who have desired closeness in a very short period of time are usually the ones who make me uncomfortable.

And such this was becoming.

In response, I told him I’d like to take time in getting to know him.  Then he said that he was seeing other people, and that someone else might get to him first.

Really?  Is that “serious” then, seeing other people?

This was too much of a headache for me.  I did my freakout, and then he said we could “remain friends” but not date.  He asked if I wanted to hang out on Saturday “as friends.”

As appealing as this sounded… nuh-uh.  As for his reason for not wanting to be with me?  My behavior regarding commitment was “wishy-washy.”

In reaction, I defriended the dude on Facebook, and immediately posted to all my friends:

“What’s the best thing about defriending someone you were considering dating from online?  YOU CAN TALK ABOUT THEM!!!!”

I soon got a text from the fellow, saying that he saw what I did, and that it was best that we would no longer talk to me.  He also recommended I change my privacy settings.

In any case, I continued on my tear of the fellow, writing about how he was a stupid hipster who should have his ear blown out by an airhorn Jackass style… and also how his criticism of me being wishy-washy was a misunderstanding…

See… when I talk to people about any sort of decision I am making, I speak openly regarding my decision-making process.  I will talk about the pros and cons of doing such.  This can be seen as “indecisiveness.”  There are indeed, some people who think before they speak.  I, however, think aloud.  Not to be overwhelming, but so as to involve the person in my decision-making process.

This dude didn’t understand that.  And so… farewell.

My only regret, as I said I had earlier, is that I was immature and bashful… not shy, silly, but full of bashing behavior.  It wasn’t mature.  And as much as my friends on Facebook were entertained by it, I thought to myself afterwards:

I wouldn’t want someone to gossip about me that way.

Even though the dude is no longer in my life, I still want to regard him with respect.  Because he’s a human being.  I hope in the future, I can be a better person for it.

 

*******

 

See?  I told you this was a boring dating story :{

Does Mental Illness Make Us Inconsistent?

Do you feel like “mental illness” causes a person to be “inconsistent?”
 
I’ll explain where I’m coming from… I think it’s an important topic:
 
I have usually been wishy washy with dating, and am not “confident” in saying “what I want.” Also, when I was in college, my professor called me “inconsistent,” mainly because I would play music, and the interpretation would sound different each time I played it, and in an uncontrolled manner. Certain parts would sound good, other parts not so good. My fingers would slip here and there as well, even though I had practiced well enough.
 
Over the years, I still see these “inconsistencies” and “wishy washy” moments in my life. In general, I don’t like making statements such as “This is what I want in a relationship,” and I like “this.” Instead, I try to be open-minded and spontaneous, but then that is determined to be wishy washy.
 
I’m noticing also, that this “wishy washy” mentality serves to my advantage in my new creative discipline of writing. My mind is flexible, and it formulates unique ideas and concepts because of this. But this “flexibility” is seen as a weakness in the “real” world, because it is indecisive.
 

I wonder… perhaps more and more of us are “wishy washy” these days than we think. We all have multiple interests and passions, and our feelings are one way one day, and another another. And yet we are supposed to fit into a cookie cutter of a mold… especially in schools and in the workplace. Going on a job interview or a college interview, and then you get shut down for talking about your non-related interests? HR recruiters, crossing out people who express an enthusiasm for going back to school, or climbing up the career ladder?

All of this perhaps is “inconsistent.”

I take huge offence to the word these days.

Are People Born With Mental Illness?

Sometimes, I wonder about how I was as an infant.  I know that I cried and threw tantrums constantly… I was not an easy child.  Even when I was born, I kicked the doctor in the groin.  He remarked to my mother,

“She’s a very strong baby.”

On the changing table, I kicked a lot.  My mother thought I would be a soccer player.

I certainly had a lot of physical energy, but my first memories really are of me being… afraid to move?  Simply trauma in my home, and fear of my father and his tirades.  Safety was found by running into a corner and curling into a ball until the storm passed.

But then I threw tantrums.  And I cried.  Even as a toddler.  I’d get on the floor and cry for a half-hour straight.  I’d do it at the park.  Or at the toy store.  Always, I was addicted to the fun, and I couldn’t be torn away.

I look back at my childhood, from this time and also later on, and I am frustrated with myself.  I scraped by with doing my homework as late as possible, and with larger projects my mother usually helped me a bit too much.  I rather wanted to watch tons of TV shows, and play video games.  Again, the addiction to fun.

Why did I want so much fun in my life?  I suppose… it was a way for me to escape my home life.  My dad was mean, and my mother was frazzled.  To interact with them, meant that I became burdened with problems far beyond my ability to comprehend.  So I avoided them by distracting myself with fun.

Although… I couldn’t do this forever.  As I got older, I got smarter.  As children do.

I wish I had been a better behaved child.  I wish I could have learned how to do my homework by myself.  I wish I would have been able to be more mature and self-sufficient at an earlier age.  Truly, I could only start working full-time last winter.  I’m thirty now.

But as I look back, I also realize something quite stark: This evidence of non-compliant behavior in toddlerhood, can indicate that I had mental grief even at this tender age.  Certainly, I remember the cloud of sadness in my heart back then too.  But for a long time, I didn’t even realize that this sadness was depression.  I thought it was just me, because I had always had it.

I think this is more common than we think.  The notion that one develops mental illness, or a behavioral abnormality in later life is prevalent… but then, what do we make of Grandma here or Uncle there who has a chronically dysfunctional personality?  Maybe Grandma has always complained of a weak disposition ever since she had a fainting spell as a child.  Or maybe Uncle has always defiantly accused everyone of bossing him around, telling him what to do.  Were these people ever “happy?”  Or “normal?”

I am not trying to paint people as paragons of mental sickness.  I do want to challenge the idea though, that mental illness is always something that develops in later years.  I think some people are born with a disadvantage.  Some people are born with rose-colored lenses plastered on their eyes, as I was.