I listen to quite a bit of music. It accompanies me in the car and while I’m home. It’s almost always on when I write. Music gets me motivated, inspires me and relieves some of the anguish and anger I sometimes feel. Studies have shown that music can help lower stress, improve memory and reduce physical pain and lowering anxiety. It also has had a positive effect for those who suffer with depression, seizures and attention issues. I’ve always appreciated music, and I’m glad to hear that it offers solace to those who have a difficult medical diagnosis.
What does this have to do with autism? I’m sure some of the conditions our children have can benefit from music including through Music Therapy. I know that my son is calmer when he’s got his favorite songs playing in the background. Ronan enjoys it when I sing to him too. Sometimes I sing his favorite nursery rhymes while other times I make up silly lyrics as I go. He stays engaged with me longer when I’m singing, and I relish every moment we have together.
When I’ve got my own music on, I find the lyrics of the songs I tune into very suiting for where I am in life. Songs I particularly like, and could easily refer to as my theme songs, are Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing and Muse’s Uprising. I’ve been known to crank either one of those songs and lose myself in the words (while dancing in my kitchen). My kids love to hear these particular songs, Ronan included. When they hear them, they know that Mommy’s gearing up to get some important things done.
My kids have a bit of the music bug in them, but I never realized how much music has touched Ronan’s siblings until just a few weeks ago. That’s when my typical son said he wanted to sing the song Sara Bareilles’ Brave to Ronan. How we’d love it if words would simply just fall out of Ronan’s mouth.
Ronan has a song he chooses to listen to every now and then, too. He plays Twenty One by the Cranberries on his iPad. He listens to this line of the song, “Leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone,” over and over again several times and for a few days in a row. It makes me sad to hear him replay that part of the song. Not every day is an easy day for that kid, though, so I give him the space and time he needs knowing when he’s ready he’ll invite me back in. When he invites me back in, the music choices we both pick have more upbeat and encouraging lyrics.
The songs I’ve been playing these last few weeks aren’t my usual get-up-and-dance tunes. They have more of a dark undertone. Like Ronan, I go through phases wishing I could tell people to leave me alone. Part of it is because someone told me recently that I sounded kind of angry about how things have gone for Ronan. Well, I am kind of angry. He’s had to endure a heck of a lot for a long time now. The kid works his butt off making gains at a fraction of the pace that typical kids. I don’t like the position he’s in nor how he got there. I don’t like how hard this is for him or for me for that matter. I hate that Ronan’s childhood has been destroyed and how his future doesn’t look so bright at the pace we’re going. I’m allowed to feel upset and would expect to be given the chance to say so even if I’ve said it once or twice already. I don’t spout anger without reason. I offer it as a hard lesson learned and as a warning. Call it righteous anger or just spitting mad; I say what needs to be said. And then I play some music hoping to let go of the negative energy.
It isn’t easy letting go of the negative, especially after someone else recognizes and points out how sad and mopey I’ve become. I don’t have a theme song for sad and mopey, and I’m not looking for one either. What I’d rather have is the ability to move through this phase of continuous difficulties, of constant reminders and to find a happy place again. I’ve tried to do that by turning to my music because music usually helps me work through difficult situations. It’s always been a soothing outlet for me even when I’m down in the dumps. But lately, I haven’t found any song, station or artist though that works. Oddly, I instead prefer silence. I seek quiet. And I feel a great need to be completely still. It isn’t my usual state to be so quiet and so still. But silence is what my head needs and what my body craves.
I’ll hopefully be back in my kitchen dancing again soon. My kids like to join me when I dance. I love it when they do. Soon, I hope, when I remember that I can let go of some of this and live through the rest of it.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.