Posted on 29 June 2015 by Michael

The Day the Music Returns

This post is being published at 4 am CDT; but I’m in Maui, so it’s 11 pm.  Just got here.  Boy am I tired.

As I am on vacation, I hope the posts about Anxiety and Depression can take a breather.  Heck, wouldn’t it be awesome if my meds got my brain better by the time I got back?

So, for the next 10 days or so, I hope to be reporting on vacation-type-things of what I am doing, what I am thinking, and what I am reading along with tons of cool photos of this Hawaiian island.

But something pretty cool happened today in relation to my bumpy path to better (mental health).  So I thought I’d share.

First, the context.

Three months and a week ago today I was sitting at my computer.  I had my quality earphones on, and I was listening to some music that had me bobbing and weaving.  I either looked quite rhythmic or quite ridiculous.  I don’t care which.

I thought about writing about the experience, because I was really connecting to the tunes in a joyous way.  The melodies and the words tapped into me in a way I hear some people of faith speak when they feel deeply moved by a jubilant religious or spiritual event.  (I am not religious; I am an atheist)

The incredibly moving joy I was feeling that day over three months ago bumped into something else quite odd deep inside me.  I couldn’t identify what it was at the time.  So I didn’t record the feeling; doing so would have felt incomplete.

Anyhow, I’m assuming I was listening to a few of my favorite songs, which usually included Richie Haven’s “Follow,” M83’s “Midnight City,” Wye Oak’s, “Civilian,” Nneka’s “Focus,” and plenty from U2’s catalog.  I imagine my heart and my mind being brought someplace higher.

Flash forward one week …

It’s a Saturday morning and the day is shot.   I am writing two blog posts about the just-returned chronic struggle I am lucky to have with Anxiety and Depression.  (I think the return was the “something else odd deep inside me” from a week before.)

The first blog entry simply retold of the experience earlier in the week when I ran out of my office cube so my colleagues wouldn’t find me as a panic attack began to boil over into embarrassing proportions.  The second post was entitled, “The Days the Music Dies.”  It concisely described my lifelong struggle with these illnesses that hang together in my head.  I ended the post with the lines, “And Depression has been in my rearview mirror for quite some time (knock on wood).  So, queue up Slow Dancing ala U2 and Willie Nelson.”

But at the time I was really already listening solely to what I called “Power Anthems for the Anxious and Depressed.”  Soon, music would no longer figure into any of my days.

As I am typing this, right now, Rebecca and I are on the second leg of two flights that will get us to a 10-day vacation in Maui.

On the first leg I watched “From the Sky Down,” a feature-length film documenting 20 years since U2 made one of their best — one of the best — albums ever: Achtung, Baby.  In the film, only one song gets played in its entirety: “One.”  And that happens only after 90 minutes of interviews, mixed with concert footage, funky cartoon sketches mimicking something one of the band members is remembering, photos shown Ken Burns-style, and partial songs played by a DAT machine in the room where the song “One” happened by pure accident.

At the critical point in the film, with passengers surrounding me, earphones in, a huge, giggling smile on my face, I realize I’m listening to music.  I notice I’m bobbing and weaving.  I either looked quite rhythmic or quite ridiculous.  I don’t care which.

Here’s the situation:  The Edge is describing how one morning during their Berlin recording sessions, he approached Bono with a sample for a song they were working on.  The working title was “Sick Puppy.”  This song would later be named “Mysterious Ways.”

A cartoon style scribbling covers the screen as the following gets written out as if on a chalkboard, “Sick Puppy >  >  Verse > Chorus > Verse > Chorus.”  Then the camera goes between the first chorus and the second verse, some notes get played, “Bridge 1” gets written in brackets.  Then in another pair of brackets is written “Bridge 2”  before what will become a third Verse.  The Edge comes back to the screen talking and pointing at the interviewer, “Okay, this is the bit that I was saying  …. this never made it into the song … [a few seconds later] … but there was another new bridge.”

A melody is playing loudly from the DAT machine off camera.

Letters for musical chords begin to show in the foreground as if written over The Edge’s chest, one at a time, “A minor,” then “D,” then “F,” and last “G.”  The Edges eyebrows raise in glee as he hopes the interviewer has just heard what he should have.

At another time, shortly later, Bono is sitting in the same room listening to the same music clip.  He thinks he hears something odd.  He looks to the side as if deep in thought.  He adjusts his clothes in a way that makes it seem he’s trying to process what he’s hearing.

The Edge’s interview comes back, same music playing.  He simply says “Wow!”  He had simply been wanting to point out to the interviewer that he remembered he was on to something some 20 years back.  Now, listening to it, he gets it.

Music continues playing, same chord progression.  Back to Bono.  He looks at the interviewer and simply says, “That’s a bit mad.”

Another clip:  You hear Adam (somewhere else in the building) talking about how there was something uplifting in that clip.

Then finally, we’re back with Bono.  You realize one of their long-time producers, Flood, is in the room.  They are jointly wondering if that was the first time that melody was played.

The interviewer [off screen] says, “And that turns into …”  Bono breaks in, nodding his head up and down, “One.”

At that moment I was laughing, cheering quietly.  I removed my earphones to describe the scene to Rebecca; she’s never seen it before.  She asked if she could listen.  As she listened, we both smiled at, to, and with each other.

This was the first time I’ve happily listened to and deeply connected with music in over three months.

Am I getting better?  (U2 fans:  I was not just trying to play off the initial words to the song “One.”)  That question’s wording was complete coincidence.

Yes, I think I am getting better.  Depression has disappeared, other than those infrequent flare ups like a few days back.  Anxiety levels are also down a lot … but still noticeably present.  Yesterday, I did not have to take an extra chill pill until 9 pm.  Perhaps that was because I was on day one of a two-week vacation.  But still, it fits into a pattern of needing chill pills later in the day than before.  And, partially because of the reduced need for chill pills, I’ve got higher energy levels.

I’ll admit, today I have taken two chill pills.  But getting from Point A to Point B is always a bit stressful for me, especially when it involves crowds, airplanes, and a number of children shouting and crying.  (I think we can chalk today up as an anomaly.)

In any case, I want to celebrate or at least acknowledge what could be moving further along that bumpy path to better.

Raise a non-alcoholic glass and say it with me, “Cheers!”