8. Music is my food of life*

*To pre-empt complaints from Shakespeare experts, I know I have misquoted Twelfth Night.  To be totally honest I thought it was ‘food of life’ until I googled it (yes, I am allowed some non medical googling).

The not so small print : please remember everyone is different, different ages, different lifestyles etc.  Not everyone will find that rock music (with some expletives in context) helps their PD symptoms.  Others may find that their ‘magical music’ has slightly less contemporary kudos.

Control – that is something which PD takes away.  I am therefore constantly looking for ways to have some control over my symptoms and manage them in some small way.  I had read a lot about music being beneficial.  However, up until then I had tapped along to my usual playlist.  Little did I know that my brain craved a different genre to 80s boy bands.

So the journey of discovery went like this :

  • Normal evening relaxing* in front of the television.
  • Music awards show on.
  • A band comes on and starts playing and I sit forward in my seat.
  • Crickey oh riley, what is this.  Literally a ‘ping’ in my brain.

*To digress for a second.  Sitting still is not something PD does very well.  Muscles fire on and off, it feels like they are flexing ready for action.  Writing it like that sounds as if it is quite a positive feeling.  It probably would be if I was about to start the 100 metre sprint.   However when the rest of me is exhausted, it is not conducive to relaxing.  My arms and legs feel like they want to punch the air.  I often spontaneously start to dance or run around the house whilst everyone else is sitting still.   Just to clarify that is often more relaxing than relaxing.

Back to the blog …

I would have gone down to Woolies with my £2.99 to buy the LP there and then, but for various reasons (including the words Woolies, £2.99 and LP) I didn’t.  I, however, was impatient to get my hands on this musical elixir.  Fortunately as the modern world has made us all quite impatient, I (well my 14 year old) could also immediately, buy and download it onto my device.

Since then I have used a ‘musical selection thing’ (probably not the correct terminology) to select other tracks.  I have a growing playlist.  I don’t know what it is about the music, whether it is the beat, rhythm, sound structure – I have no idea.

NB friends have found different musical genres and bands help their symptoms, so put your playlist on shuffle and see what you like.

Deafness may end up being one of my PD symptoms, not because those alpha synuclein proteins* attach themselves to my ears, but because I listen to music quite loudly (please listen responsibly).

*The alpha synuclein are protein clumps in the brain which are a factor in PD (Apologies, that was an attempt at a bad science joke with almost no scientific knowledge.  I have no idea if they affect hearing – I just stuck them to the ear for comedic affect.  Also, apologies if this is inadvertently factual).

Music is one way I can have a teensy teensy amount of control over my symptoms and I am grabbing it with both ears.  It’s a little victory, PD is not choosing the tracks, my A&R rep is my brain.

To be totally honest I’d listen to paint dry if it helped my PD.  Handy then that my brain has chosen some excellent music.  I am choosing to listen to the music, I am doing something proactive, which has a positive affect on my symptoms.

  • When dexterity is bad and, for example, when I’m peeling potatoes.  My fingers sometimes feel like they are working through treacle, they are slow and it takes concentration to move them.  I put my headphones on and sometimes the dexterity problems ease a little and, whoopee, properly peeled potatoes for dinner.
  • When my walking is bad, and PD is being particularly irritating, one of my tactics is music. I always carry my headphones and regularly put my music on to get me walking again.  It is ironic that when walking with teenagers, I am the one being anti social with my headphones on.  I have found sometimes the beat can get me into a rhythm of moving forward and walking again.  It is amazing when it works.
  • When my arms become rigid and stiff, I put on my music and headphones.  I can sometimes start to dance with fluid movements at my own personal silent disco.  Forget Zumba, Ballroom or Ballet, my dancing is more randomly eclectic.  I feel better and my movements become more flowing the more I let myself move freely to the music.

Music is my saviour in many ways – it is my escapism – and it evokes feelings of movement, freedom, focus and fluidity.  Everything that PD is not.  I sometimes describe listening to music as feeling like ‘my eyeballs have been polished’ (not a medical term), i.e. that I feel bright eyed and bushy tailed.  Which to be honest is smashing.

So now I have discovered that music is so important, I’d better continue with the, slightly incorrect, Shakespeare quote.  Music is my food of life … ‘play on’.

PS : a slight disclaimer.  Music can sometimes be distracting in a busy environment when trying to multi task.  For example I once asked a disinterested shop assistant in a fashion store if she could turn the music down, she looked slightly confused and was probably thinking why was this ‘presumably inebriated*, staggering,  tremoring middle aged woman holding a velour jumpsuit complaining about the music’  *often the staggering, shuffling walk can be mistaken for being drunk. Just to clarify – I wasn’t.