Saturday, May 22, 2010

Musical Therapy

in 2004 i had open heart surgery. in the long run it was a success, but in the immediate post-op aftermath, my cardiologist, Dr. Dumbfuck (which in English translates to Fatally Incompetent), didn't actually look at any of the echocardiograms he had me wait hours to take, 3 days in a row, and so nobody knew my heart sac was filling up with blood, until my heart almost stopped working one day, and this time when i went back into the hospital, i guess the insurance company weighed the risks of making me leave again asap, and this time they took care of me until my heart was healed. i lived.

in 2005 i had a nervous breakdown, but i'm too sarcastic to ever go fully crazy, so while i was a bit incapable of taking care of myself, i wasn't fully incapable, and therefore i was a day-patient (I didn't have to live at the facility, i could go home at night, not that i wanted to) for 3 weeks at a rehab/mental health facility. the famous one wc fields went to.

we had music therapy on fridays. the woman who facilitated the class looked like a ballerina and was nice and calming. she let people play songs that they related to, as a form of therapy. my closest friend at the institution was, unless he was bullshitting, raised by his grandpa in a cult, had been in Desert Storm, and was an ex-cop. he was on twice the normal dosage of whatever it was he was on, and the side effect was that he basically had amnesia. even though he looked like a jock and i always try to look like a sloppy ne'er do well, he seemed to be sweet on me, he'd get me soda refills at lunch and stuff like that. but he forgot me and got reacquainted with me every day, liking me more on some days than others. One Music Therapy class, the facilitator let him put on one of his songs, and it was Marilyn Manson's "The Beautiful People." Here are some of the lyrics:

The beautiful people, the beautiful people
It's all relative to the size of your steeple
You can't see the forest for the trees
You can't smell your own shit on your knees

There's no time to discriminate,
Hate every motherfucker
That's in your way

Oh god, it was so funny to see the pretty ballerina smile and close her eyes and nod her head along with the music. "Okay, that was really interesting, very expressive," she said, when the song was over. A middle aged women who was normally really quiet said "I liked it. It reminded me of the rock music we used to listen to when I was younger."

Every song that played during these sessions yielded such fascinating reactions. The Eagles "Desperado" made a lot of us cry. it's really a beautiful song, tacky as it is. I love these lines:

Now it seems to me, some fine things
Have been laid upon your table.
But you only want the ones
That you can't get.

Ohhhh you aint getting no younger.
Your pain and your hunger,
They're driving you home.

When it was finally my turn to play a song, I chose Elliot Smith's No Name #3. I love the chorus:

a good old fashioned fight
so come on night
everyone is gone
home to oblivion
home to oblivion
home to oblivion

But my friend with the amnesia and the history of falling victim to brutal institutions (a christian cult, the army, the police force), he put on the wrong song. He put on No Name #4, which goes like this:

For a change she got out before he hurt her bad
Took her records and clothes
And pictures of her boy
It really made her sad
Packed it up and didn't look back
I'm okay lets just forget about him
The car was cold and it smelled like old cigarettes and pine
In her bag I saw things she drew when she was mine
Like this one here
Her alone nobody near
What a shame lets just not talk about it
No it doesn't look like you
But you did wear cowboy boots
That's your fame
There's no question about it
Once we got back inside
With one ear to the ground
I was ready to hide
'cos I don't know who's around
and you look scared
it's our secret do not tell okay?
Let's just not talk about it
Don't tell okay?
Let's just forget all about it.

This song sounds to me, obviously, like it's about an abusive relationship. "That was a very pretty song, Robin," the ballerina said, "Are the lyrics significant to you in any way? do they remind you of something that's happened in your own life?" The empathetic therapist thought I'd been in an abusive relationship, and i didn't want to embarrass anyone by admitting that it was the wrong song. I told her, "uh, i've never really listened to the lyrics. i just like how it sounds."

the music therapy class would never hear my own real song choice, the song about going home to oblivion.

it was a strange 3 weeks. most of the people in my group therapy sessions were on the make. we were in a nice, warm waiting room of our real lives, but recovering from psychic incapacitation takes too long and is too sad.


  1. i love this story, even though it is sad. you write so beautifully about your own experiences; i wonder if you've ever thought of doing a collection of autobiographical stories/essays? or even a zine...xox

  2. Thanks! well, i wrote a lot of autobiographical essays for years in my zines i did 1993-2001 ... which is kind of funny because i was so young then i had a lot less to write about. & i enjoy doing it occasionally on this, my little online zine :), but i'm more interested in fiction, in general.