Tranquility Through Music

Tibetan Music

I’ve always loved music. My folks turned me on to it when I was a little kid with their albums from Reader’s Digest of the Great Classical Pieces and other such delights. Kinda corny stuff in a way but it got me listening to classical music at a very young age, and then piano lessons for several years in the same vein taught me to appreciate the sounds I was listening to. In fact I was so into classical that when rock and roll came to me I found it too simplistic for my tastes at first. Obviously that changed.

Now my tastes are very eclectic and I love all sorts of music, except that stuff they play on elevators or when you’re waiting for a phone call to pick up. I don’t really consider that stuff music myself. but then a lot of what I listen to would be considered off the wall by many people I’m sure. I like what might be termed space music, “new age”, electronica, or world music a lot, as well as folk, jazz, blues, alternative, eclectic, classical and definitely rock and roll. But I tend to gravitate towards music that feels healing to me.

My partner and I have been involved in a fun project for the last few weeks. He’s been taking all our CD’s and cassettes and putting them on a computer storage unit we have so that I can access them all from iTunes on my MAC and I’m now able to play most of my favorite albums online with only the click of a mouse button. I’m listening to all sorts of things I haven’t heard in years. Wow.

It’s amazing what it’s doing for me. I listen to old stuff I used to hear in high school or college, and it takes me back there, as does the music that takes me to other times and places. It’s a nostalgic journey as well as being in current time. Because of the set up of iTunes I can go thru all my albums, of which I have over 400 now, and just find things arbitrarily or in some sense of order depending on what I want. I browse. This way I hear things I might not generally listen to.

Right now I’m listening to Kitaro, a Japanese New Age/World Music performer whose music sets a tone of quiet energy in my mind. It helps me feel like I’m in a different reality while still being in my own world. I can listen and travel with the music as I write this piece and it gives me pleasure and peace of mind. Both of them are things I need in my daily life and since I’ve been putting all these albums on iTunes I’ve been listening to more and more music every day.

I’m particularly fond of music that takes me to other worlds and countries so I have an extensive collection of what I call World Music only mine’s not just the fusion of cultures you hear from white folks all the time, which I’m not knocking – I love it in fact. But I have a lot of actual music from around the world that I listen to. I call it folk music at its core since it’s often the folk music of the culture I’m listening to. It gives me insight into the rhythms of that culture and how they move and dance.

I used to dance a lot with my music but I don’t tend to do that so much as I’ve gotten older. I need to get back to it I guess. It’s good exercise and makes me feel good to do it. And anything that makes me feel good is a good thing I figure. But I don’t have much room to dance where my computer is set up tho I have some space I can gyrate around in and enjoy it. We recently figured out how to jack the computer into the stereo system so I can have the music playing all thru the house. Now I can dance!

I tend to spend a lot of time in my mind and music really helps me to tone that down and let my demons rest some of the time when I’m engaged in listening to it. It keeps the bad thoughts away so well in fact that I find I’m listening to music most of the time these days whenever I’m around the computer, which is a lot of the time. Keeping the thoughts in line is an important part of my ongoing health routine. I need to stop ruminating so much and focus on what’s good in my life , which I do mostly, and music helps me do that.

I suffer from a myriad array of symptoms that keep my mind occupied with thoughts of doom and gloom too much of the time. Having so many illnesses, from chronic pain,to Bipolar Disorder, to arthritis and fibromyalgia and more, I’ve found that I need to take a multi-pronged approach to my healing. As such music plays a vital and indispensable part of that. I’d let go of it for too long and finding it again has made a huge difference to my life. It’s a great gift.

I hope you have a place where you can go to listen to the music that you find to be the most helpful to you in keeping yourself in a good state of mind. It’s a gift to have it available to us at all sorts of times when we need to calm down or relax and let go of our worries and difficulties. It’s such an easy thing to do for so much enjoyment and benefit. I’m an inveterate music fan and I hope you are too.

Musically yours,

Steve

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Chaos Theory and Chronic Illness

 

First off let me make it clear that I’m neither a mathematician nor a physicist, so what I say about Chaos Theory comes from a lay person’s perspective and what I learned in a college course I took some 20 years ago when I went back to school for a year. I learned a lot that year and was voted the Strange Attractor (a Chaos Theory term) of my study group for my insight into the subject so I have some validation for what I say. Simply put I see Chaos Theory as having 4 major components to it. It posits that things described by it are 1) Random and 2) Unpredictable, but also 3) Repeatable and 4) Boundaried. I see these elements of it all around me and in particular in my Invisible Illnesses and I’ll try to give some ideas of why I think this to be so, and how it can help you in your life.

I find it helps me to think of things using Chaos Theory a lot because it gives me a context for some things that are so out of my ability to cope with that they truly challenge my reality structure. Illness is certainly the major one of these in my life. Relationships can be another one for some people I think. And work can be, even gardening which I talk about in my other blog tho I haven’t added Chaos Theory to it, yet… If I think in terms of the way Chaos Theory puts things in context for me it helps me feel more in control of this and less like I’m in a small rowboat floating on the sea without the proverbial paddle. I have a context for my struggles and can feel a sense of being able to monitor things at least if not control them.

First  off I’ll start at the end of my list and say that illness is clearly boundaried,  by our bodies and our minds,  and then by our societies and relationships. We live in a context in other words. Pretty simple I guess but significant. Using any of these parameters is useful at times, depending on what you’re experiencing. If you can see, for instance, that your depression is in your Mind, and not in the society or reality of Fact around you then maybe you can come to terms with it as a mood disorder rather than your true Reality as I so often struggle with myself. It’s so hard to get out of my head and know that it isn’t really Real but just the latest mood I’m in at the time. So this boundary is helpful to me and keeps me from going over the edge sometimes. It helps me stay sane.

Secondly it’s Unpredictable. I frequently don’t have a clue when I’m about to experience one of my Invisible Illnesses. They come over me and take me away and I’m lost. But knowing that this is true helps me when it happens as I realize that it’s Repeatable. It’s happened before and will happen again (Unless it’s a new symptom of course and that can happen at any time unfortunately). It’s the repeatability that helps me here in the unpredictability of it all. Since I know what it’s like to have an episode of chronic back pain I know what to expect and since I know that I can take counter measures to alleviate my conditions. I can take meds first of all. And I can stop what I’m doing that may be causing me harm. I can take a break and rest for a bit. If I know these things always helped when I suffer the back pain then I can do something about it and that’s the key to some sense of control even tho it’s illusory it’s also real.

And finally they’re random. And that’s the hardest part of it all for me. I’m a control freak and I’ll admit it. I’ve noticed that many of us who suffer from chronic illness have control “issues”,  because we’re so out of control with our illness that we seek it out in other areas of our lives, whether it be in our relationships or simply in insisting on what foods we want to eat and where to spend our time and how. We have to have some areas where we feel in control because we don’t have it with our illness. So when an illness is so random it throws us off kilter. It makes things so out of control it really  can be scary and frightening. But again, knowing that is the case is the key to self mastery. If you want to gain some measure of autonomy at any time and know that you always have to be prepared for it, you can again take counter measures to protect yourself. Whether it’s carrying a few pills for breakthru pain or for migraines as I do, or learning some meditation exercises you can count on it to help you when you have a panic attack, there are things you can do to help yourself. Knowing it can happen randomly then becomes less of an issue and you can learn techniques to protect yourself and be safer.

So all together now –  You can know that things happen in repeatable ways within certain boundaries and that they are random and unpredictable so you can plan ahead and learn the terrain of your illness. Study and educate yourself on what you’re dealing with and learn how others have dealt with it and you’ll have the tools to deal with things when they happen to you. Of course it’s not so simple as I make it sound. It’s really hard in fact. But you can do it. Being awake when you deal with your illnesses is the strongest way to cope with them. And awakening to the tools and techniques and concepts of how I’m looking at Chaos Theory can be a valuable way to interact with your life in general and your illness in specific. Think about some of the things and please give me some  feedback if you find it helps you or if you think this just shows I really am crazy. I don’t mind… I just want to help people to feel better and have more tools with which to address their illnesses. The more you know the better off you are in my opinion. So try this on for size and see if it helps you. Life is inherently Chaotic but knowing that makes it easier to cope with it, and that makes all the difference.

Chaotically yours,

Steve

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

Note – I borrowed this page from the Invisible Illness Awareness Week blog. I give them full credit for developing this idea and think it’s a great way to share some ideas and information. You can visit them at: invisibleillnessweek.com, linked below. Thanks to them.

1. The illnesses I live with are: Chronic Intractable Pain, Bipolar Disorder Type II with Ultra Rapid Cycling and Mixed States, Depression, Migraines, Asthma, Fibromyalgia, SAD, Sleep Apnea, Prostate Cancer (in remission), ED.
2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: Asthma – at birth (1950), Migraines – 1976, Back Pain – 1977/1988/1995, Depression – 1980, 1988, Bipolar Disorder Type II – 1995, SAD – 1998, Fibromyalgia – 2000, Sleep Apnea – 2012.
3. But I had symptoms since: I was born in some cases like the asthma obviously, but the bipolar disorder and depression too. I also have had overall pain for a long long time. The Sleep Apnea is new but I think I’ve had it a long time too.
4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: Giving up Control.
5. Most people assume: I’m fine. After all, “I Look Good”….
6. The hardest part about mornings are: getting out of bed and trying to move. I hurt….
7. My favorite medical TV show is: House of course. He’s so brutally honest it hurts to watch sometimes but it’s worth it. And I’ve loved Hugh Laurie since his English comedy days…Like Black Adder and A Bit of Fry and Laurie.
8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: My Computer. It keeps me connected with the world, and lets me write my journals.
9. The hardest part about nights are: Sleeping and waking up in pain too often. Needing to pee and not being able to, again and again.
10. Each day I take _49_ pills & vitamins. (No comments, please)
11. Regarding alternative treatments I: I’ve found that whatever works is worth trying. I’ve had success with Naturopathy, Acupuncture and other alternative methods. But some are bunk so be careful.
12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: Invisible. Sometimes I Want to hide it…. Pity is awful.
13. Regarding working and career: I can’t do “Jobs” anymore, since a bad breakdown in ’95. But I miss working terribly. I used to always identify with my Work. Now I have to identify with Me. It’s a challenge but it’s worth it.
14. People would be surprised to know: That I am as ill as I am. It scares me sometimes. I”m sure I’m going to die young (I’m only 62 now…)
15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: Asking for Help and Receiving it.
16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: Going outside alone when I was severely Agoraphobic
17. The commercials about my illness: Are annoying or don’t exist, but a few capture some aspects of what I feel like I’ll admit.
18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: Having spontaneous sex.
19. It was really hard to have to give up: Hiking in the mountains and going backpacking.
20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: I’ve started gardening again since I moved in with my partner in his house. It’s grand.
21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: Go for a looooong hike in the mountains with my partner.
22. My illness has taught me: To be more compassionate towards others and towards myself. And Patience. And learning to simply BE and not DO. But I have a lot to learn still.
23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: “But you’re Energy Feels so Good and Peaceful….” ( especially when I have a Migraine…)
24. But I love it when people: Help me out without my asking them to. It happens a lot with my friends and those who know me and I love them for it.
25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: Give It Time…
26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: Take a deep breath. Life goes on…
27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: How cruel people can be with judgements about my illnesses and why I can’t do the things they think I Should.
28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: Take me out of the house when I was too scared to do it alone.
29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: I’m just starting with it so I can only say I think it looks like a good idea and I support it wholeheartedly. Check out their link in this question.
30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: Like maybe you care. Do you? ( Can you tell I’ve been burned too many times…? 😉

Thanks for taking the time to read this long list,

Steve