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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Challenging My Depression (4)

I will be coming back to some of the issues I have already raised; to look at them in more depth. But at this point I want to talk about music. I have to admit I am not a musician. I was a choirboy for 12 years, and used to be able to sing well, even when my voice changed to tenor, and later on to baritone. More recently, however, the medications I take for prevention of asthma have had an impact on my vocal cords, so if I sing, I embarrass myself, or I end up coughing and gasping for breath. I do keep trying, but mostly when I am on my own. I did try to learn the cello for a couple of years, but got RSI in my left wrist - so that was pretty much the end of that.
I do have a residual keen ear for music. And music has played an important part in my challenging of my depression. The main opportunity is when I am on my exercise bike, which I do two or three times a week. I set up the iPod with noise reducing earplugs, find something that interests at that moment, and away I go. I have listened to Rolling Stones, Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Queen, Clannad, The Cranberries, Bond, Jacques Loussier, Gerry Mulligan, Bill Frisell, EST, Bach Cello Sonatas, Mozart's Horn Concerto, Philip Glass, Nico Muhly, Ravi Shankar, Alistair Fraser and Emma Haas, and lots of Crowded House. There is some influence from the style as to how quickly I peddle, but so what? At the end of 40 minutes I always need a recovery rest for 20 minutes, so I lie down and go on listening - and often fall asleep with the music still playing.
Whatever the music, my mind ends up feeling at peace. Any problems with muscles, pain, tiredness seem to float away. My legs may be temporarily less under control from the sustained effort of peddling, but I feel good in myself. The background I suppose is that the exercise is not just rebuilding muscles and fixing up my body image, but it also floods my brain with those chemicals we all crave - endorphins. The music seems to help me do the exercises I have to do, but also seems to have a very similar effect to that produced by the exercise - stress, frustration, tiredness, sadness, worries about work projects all seem to be more settled. Problems seem less worrisome, and solutions to every day things come to me much more easily. I guess being more settled like this is something to do with mindfulness, a sort of meditativeness induced by the music.
Look (or perhaps listen), I am not saying that you can treat depression with music alone. But it is a crucial part of recovery. Listen to lots of music - vary the styles to reach different parts of the brain and access a wider range of memory. Use your earphones so you don't drive others mad.
You still have to seek help, and make sure you are getting the best professional care you can get.
Add it to the list of things you can do for you. Don't try to be too choosy - "I just can't decide what to listen to" "Its too many things to think about" "I can't make lots of decisions when I feel like this" "I don't need the hassle". Just reach for the first CD and put it on. Spin the dial of your iPod and see what comes out. You can always switch to something else.

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