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.

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One thought on “Music, and its Effect on Me

  1. I remember a boy of 16 in a drug rehab program with bad PTSD (His father was a dealer, nuf said) who had grown up hearing little but Rap and Mexican gangster ballads. One movie night a few weeks before Christmas at the program (it was residential) we played “Amadeus.” When the kids made holiday wish lists, his had only one word, “Mozart,” so that’s what he got. The first time I saw him truly at peace was when he put one of those tapes in his Walkman, sat back, closed his eyes, and just listened. Music is awesome.

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