I’ve always been very musical. At 5 years old I conducted the Royal Philharmonic orchestra (Not really of course.. My parents had taken me to a performance, and I was so into it I stood on my chair and waved away like I was the conductor) At 6 I was invited to join the local Boys’ Choir. At 7 I started Piano Lessons and at 12 I played Jazz Improvisation at a local club as a recital for a class I was taking. I played Trombone in the Junior / High School Band, and eventually taught myself the Guitar. Here’s the thing though… In spite of years and years of lessons, I can’t read a note of music. It’s just beyond my capabilities and I play entirely by ear. To learn a piece for a recital or for the band I would have someone else play it for me from the music, and then I would repeat it back from memory. I was always into listening to music as well. From my earliest memory, music was a constant, and had a huge impact on my life. And the music that has the largest presence on me was the style and genre of my very young age. I was born in the early 60’s, and late 50’s to early to late 60’s is what moves me the most. It’s always been a controlling force for me.
And… I’m bipolar. And I’ve learned that music is not only influential, but is a indicator as to the level of a manic episode. For you see, there’s always a song playing in my head. From the moment I wake up until I eventually go to sleep, I have my own personal soundtrack. It may be a song I heard on the radio or played on my IPod. Or I could just start the day with some random tune for no apparent reason. It could be Jazz, Classical, folk or rock and roll. Not the entire piece, but a small number of bars or a verse or two. But music isn’t the only thing that plays in my head. I can have a dialog / monolog ongoing and repeating a theme over and over. For example, reviewing what I want to go over with my PDoc on my next visit. I have the whole conversation planned out, but usually just focusing on a few key items. Over and Over again. And I can get a particular phrase repeating over and over and over… Usually just a snippet of some random thought. An example of this would be one time when I got a bad haircut my mind locked into “What the hell was she thinking” stuck in my head for days afterwards. These are not ‘voices’ I’m hearing… it’s just background thoughts that are clearly my own. None of this however interferes with my cognitive thinking. I perform at work, I have conversations with others, I can even sing along with other songs without interrupting the activity going on in the background. Interestingly enough, each of these phenomenons have their own space in my brain. The repetitive phrase is always in the front of my head. The dialogs are always in the back. And the music dominates the center at all times. It is a physical sensation, much like a migraine headache that can be identified to a particular location. Like I said, the music is a constant, but the other two can come or go. My litmus test is whether I have one (Music) or two (Music and snippet) or all three. The more I have going on at once, usually the more manic I am. I’ve learned to be aware of the number of things going on at once and use it to understand where I am in my episode. On the depressed side, there are no conversations, there are no repetitive thoughts, there’s only the music… Sad, somber and depressing music. And the more depressed I am the louder and more disruptive it becomes.
Is this a symptom of my particular brand of bipolar illness? Or something steming from a different Dx such as OCD that I’m just not aware of yet. Or just some idiosyncrasy or quirk I happened to be born with. Whatever the reason, it’s very clear…
I’ve got the music in me.