PTSD and me: Music

When cancer hit, as I said in my blog “The Cancer Bomb“, suddenly I wasn’t happy being just a mum, I wasn’t content with cooking, baking, or any of the rest of it. The depression that hit me was suffocating; my life no longer made sense, I had no idea who I was or what I wanted anymore. So, I would walk.

Headphones in. I would walk, and walk, and lose myself in music. I would feel emotions through the rhythm and through the lyrics. I used music as a barrier, to distance myself from life going on around me, to block noise and conversation.

I now understand that this was an avoidance strategy which was actively maintaining my low mood.

Over time I began to avoid certain songs, albums or artists. This avoidance of music spiralled and resulted in me being unable to listen to much of my favourite music, as it made me feel anxious and uncomfortable.

Music had become associated with trauma memories and was acting as a PTSD trigger.

Like many people I would also listen to music in the car… I couldn’t listen to the radio (usually a Radio 2 listener) as I couldn’t listen to news stories about cancer, I couldn’t listen to Smooth as that was the station they played at the cancer centre, I couldn’t listen to Rock FM as the loud presenter style was jarring to my emotions, 80’s music stations were too upbeat and cheerful. I needed peace, calm, tranquillity.

I began listening to Jazz FM, it was soothing, it just washed over me and made me feel at peace.

But this was just another avoidance pattern.

My psychologist suggested audio books, I responded that I tended to fall asleep with audio books, not the best idea while driving, so he said that I should find some new music that I’d actively enjoy, rather than passively listening to Jazz FM.

I trust him to know what he’s talking about, so that’s what I did… I bought or downloaded greatest hits albums of a handful of bands that I liked but had never really listened to properly and some of bands I’d heard of but didn’t really know.

And I started to enjoy music again.


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Hi, I'm Karen, creator of which is home to my poetry, art and general ramblings. I am the author two collections of poetry, 'Kaleidoscopic Beauty' & 'I am the Stars in the Sky', and the children's book 'All That Glitters' (not yet published). I also enjoy running.

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