Living to a Soundtrack

This is me – me living to a soundtrack.

I am 37 years old and in 2015 was diagnosed as autistic. I am also male, have survived cancer twice, spent time homeless, was relentlessly bullied as a child and teenager, am an ex drug user, am a stepdad but an estranged father, and am a musician of over 20 years’ experience. These and many more experiences form a part of my identity and every one of these has a soundtrack to it.

A song, an album or an artist for that moment or that time.

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Soundtrack:  Buying New Soul – Porcupine Tree

It is 1:30 pm on the day following a near shutdown and I have finally managed the task of making myself something to eat – pasta and a pesto sauce from a jar.  Anything else would be ultimately too complicated right now and I need to conserve spoons.  These aren’t the spoons you eat with, rather the spoons you start the day with known as spoon theory.

My experience with shutdowns is one of everything becoming confusing. I stop being able to speak much more than a few words and my body movements and responses begin to slow down.  However, my mind is running at a speed I can’t keep up with.  I can’t sort things into a way that will allow me to find answers or make decisions.

This is big fear time.

Panic attacks impending.

This is the time where as a young boy I would go into full blown meltdown if I felt I was unable to escape the situation.

As I got older I was able recognise this happening and leave a situation before things got too bad.  But there’s always times where this is not possible such as in full time work, and this can be dangerous.  For the majority of us there is no escape from the need to work.  Therein lies the issue of the daily stress festering and building while my thought’s start climbing and clambering to a crescendo.

And then I shut down, or worse I go into complete panic.

My last full blown panic attack happened halfway through last year. I was in a meeting at work and because of the subject of the meeting my thoughts were exploding in my mind like bombs of self-doubt and paranoia, until I was suddenly a passenger in my own body.  My consciousness crawled in behind a driver who took me out of there and down the end of the street to the river.  The driver sat me there sitting forward with my head between my legs on a park bench.  Over an hour later I was in control enough to realise people had been trying to contact me on my phone.  One of those was my partner.

I called her but was barely able to speak.  But she knows me, she knows to just talk to me slowly and give me time to process words.  For that I love her.  She also knows to give me clear simple instructions.

She told me that I should go back to the office and our regional manager would be waiting to take me into another room. I could safely sit and take some time out.  I went back to the office, sat for a bit then left work early. I went straight to my bedroom, shut the door, drew the blinds and pulled the covers over my head where I didn’t move for some hours.

And this was what I managed to avoid yesterday.  Somehow over the years my body has been able to put itself into some kind of backup system just prior to shutdown.  I can somehow manage occasional words if needed, I can drive myself home if it’s a short distance albeit slowly and sticking to the kerbside lane.  It’s not foolproof, however yesterday I was able to maintain that.

How?

Yesterday: Close the office door, put some headphones on, listen to Buying New Soul by Porcupine Tree.

My life is surrounded by music.  Every moment has a song or artist associated with it. It shapes my mood and I use it to manipulate how I need or want to feel based on where I am at in a given moment.

Buying New Soul is a musical journey of 10 minutes and 26 seconds that starts with a hypnotic piece then moves up and down.  I could describe the song but it’s easy enough to find.

It’s the feeling from the song that’s more important.

This piece grounds me when I’m running on backup power.  I find the tears begin to well up, I get lifted slowly, brought down from a crescendo then up again before being lowered gently back down.  I can feel this song through me.  It holds the back of my neck and head and cradles it gently, pushing the emotion and fear out of my eyes and easing the pain in my chest.

I don’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t obsessed or at least infatuated with music.  A simple song has always created an involuntary response in me which has meant careful tailoring of the music I listen to at any moment to suit my mood or emotional state.

This is me – me living to a soundtrack.

I am 37 years old and in 2015 was diagnosed as autistic.  I am also male, have survived cancer twice, spent time homeless, was relentlessly bullied as a child and teenager, am an ex drug user, am a stepdad but an estranged father, and am a musician of over 20 years’ experience.  These and many more experiences form a part of my identity and every one of these has a soundtrack to it.

A song, an album or an artist for that moment or that time.

I aim to explore these moments and my story through music, either a piece from the time or what I may be listening to right now to.  This is a personal exploration to connect my passion for music to my stories.

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