Staying one step ahead of the symptoms that come with the depression side of Bipolar Disorder isn’t an easy task to achieve. It can be exhausting. It can be draining. And it can seriously rearrange what I want to do with my days.
I’ve been battling a Bipolar depression episode most of this month. I have lots of tools at my disposal to help me in this battle. I don’t always have the best time at accessing the wherewithal to *use* all those those tools I have at my disposal, but this month I think the tool that I’ve been most successful at battling depression symptoms with has been music.
I’ve always enjoyed listening to music. And I’ve always loved to sing. When I was fourteen years old I began formal study of singing. I studied singing for two decades. I never wanted to be a professional. I always attended voice lessons because I enjoyed them.
I didn’t know at fourteen that I would develop Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder in my twenties. Since the onset of those two conditions I have found that those voice lessons that I took for those twenty years were extraordinarily helpful in managing my moods. I find it just about impossible to feel emotionally lousy when I am engrossed in singing beautiful music.
All those years I was studying singing I also really wanted to learn piano, but my family could never afford to buy a piano. My parents felt that if you were going to learn piano then it was important to have regular access to a piano to practice on. I agreed with them, so I didn’t get piano lessons. Even so, I’ve always loved the idea of learning piano.
This month while I have been feeling pretty low on a regular basis I’ve been puling myself back out of those lows from the depression side of Bipolar Disorder with signing. In particular I’ve been signing along to the Broadway cast recordings to musicals. My singing training was mostly classical, for opera and classical concerts. I also sang a lot of musical theatre in my voice lessons.
This month I’ve been choosing the Broadway cast recordings that have subject matter that’s pretty heavy. I have a history of acting in theatre, both straight plays and musical theatre, so when I sing along with those Broadway cast recordings I let myself really get immersed in the stories those musicals are telling and go full-on in acting the roles I’m singing. Even though I’m standing in my kitchen with cats watching me.
I have found this month that singing the scores to shows that have pretty dark subject matters help me manage my moods better than the lighthearted musicals. As I’m singing I really pay attention to what’s happening to the characters in shows like Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, and Spring Awakening. Then I compare what’s happening with me to what’s going on in the lives of those musical theatre characters. Even when I start the day not feeling well *at all* I still have to admit, every time, that I am not facing the issues those characters are facing.
I’m not fighting for my life in the French Revolution, or in the war in Vietnam. I’m not facing the horrors that take place in Spring Awakening. I’m living my life. And compared to all those options? I’v got it pretty darn easy. Singing along with those shows gives me a fantastic dose of perspective. Add that dose of perspective the amazing melodies I end up singing to help myself feel better and well, by the time I’m through to the end of any of those musicals I feel a whole lot better.
Last year I purchased a nice electric piano for myself. All those years I didn’t get to study piano but I still wanted to. And still do. So, my new electric piano has been sitting here patiently waiting for me to start learning to play. So, while I’m still fighting the good fight against these depression symptoms I’m finally taking some time to start learning to play piano.
It’s been a long long time that I’ve wanted to learn piano, but I’m still here in this life. So, it’s not too late. I don’t expect to become a virtuoso pianist, but I have a feeling that making music on the piano just might become another tool I will be able to add to my arsenal to help myself through these occasional seasons of Bipolar depression.
I feel so grateful to life for providing me with singing lessons when I was young, with the ability to get my own piano last year, and for the existence of music in the world. They say that music soothes the savage beast, and I’m feeling really pleased today that Bipolar depression symptoms are the savage beast in my lief that I am able to soothe with making music.
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