One of the few things I’ve always regretted about my life is that I was not given a single grain of musical talent. I love music……almost all kinds of music. But I’ve never been able to learn to play an instrument or read music, and my singing voice is such that when I make a joyful noise unto the Lord, I pray He doesn’t mind the caterwauling too much because that’s the voice He gave me.
Music has a special appeal for many people with bipolar disorder, and we are often drawn to the arts whether we have any real aptitude for them or not. My one and only claim to artistic talent is my way with words, and I tend to think of my writing as rather pedestrian at that. I cannot paint a picture or draw anything more complex than the rear view of a cat (think of a snowman with pointy ears, whiskers, and a tail), make a sculpture, or design a dress. But I absolutely adore music, and I envy those who can make it.
My love affair with music goes all the way back to earliest childhood, when I listened to my parents’ Glenn Miller and Teresa Brewer albums with the same enthusiasm as I did my sister’s doo-wop music. From there I went on to appreciate classical, country-and-western, rock-and-roll, world music—Latin in particular—and jazz/blues. In fact, just about the only kinds I can’t stand are gangsta rap, and that awful screaming otherwise known as “death metal”.
Unfortunately, there’s a flip side to my love of music, and that is the fact that some of it is triggering. I made a CD once that’s called “Music for Depression”, which contains songs such as “My Immortal” by Evanescence and the theme from the movie Somewhere in Time that make me cry, so I have an excuse for doing it. Then for the times when I’m up, up, and away, I have an entire iPod Shuffle devoted to hard-driving rock-and-roll and the so-called “hair bands” of the 1980s (think Whitesnake, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Bon Jovi etc.).
I even have a CD of all the music I want played at my funeral, from traditional Catholic hymns such as “Dona Nobis Pacem” to Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”. Who says bipolars never think ahead?
I still haven’t figured out which comes first, the chicken or the egg, when it comes to playing ‘mood music’—whether I play it as a result of being manic or depressed, or whether the music itself triggers me. Maybe it’s different each time, or maybe it’s simply a combination of the two (which I suspect is closest to the truth). But whatever the reason for playing a particular type, music is as essential to my life as air and water, and it sings to places in my soul that the spoken word will never reach.