A Story of Musical Hallucinations (When music mostly died for me)

Music notes birdI don’t know how long it’s been exactly, but I’d say at least four years.  It was back then that for me the music stopped sounding good, or at least it stopped invigorating my soul. How to really explain it, I do not know.

I was a dancer from the first days that I remember. Music was central in my life. Live jazz played in my grandparents’ music room. Classical music in the dance studio. I liked Rock and Roll the whole time, too. Really any music satisfied me, and I could dance to almost anything, even the buzzing of the street lamp, or the sound of a rope slapping the flag pole in the wind.

Up until the music died for me, it was my connection to a higher power. Since then, all is just so quiet and dull, and even slightly dead. Even if I put the radio on, or crank up the stereo, my body will not move, or if I force it, the movement lasts only seconds or minutes max before it slows to a stop, fading away as if it was never there to begin with.

So what happened to me four years ago? I’m straining my brain to remember when I started hearing music that wasn’t really playing. I knew it wasn’t playing. I didn’t turn any on. It started with jazz, and moved to classical, then got very strange. Was it then Indian Pow Wow music? Music from the Middle East? At a point it even sounded just like DJs chatting over each other with faint radio in the background.

When this mystery music started playing I got scared. I told my therapist what was happening. He chuckled and told me I should pull out some paper and write it down. I cursed him. He didn’t understand how painful it was.

Time passed and I began to be tortured by that music in my head. To make matters worse, it started to repeat. That’s when a song I finally recognized filled my head day after day. “Where the Streets Have No Name.” Again, just a portion on repeat. Its introduction, repeating, repeating, and repeating. I’d try playing the actual musical piece by the band U2, hoping it would stop as a result. It didn’t.

My psychiatrist thought it was seizure activity. Luckily he didn’t think it was a joke. He sent me to a neurologist. She didn’t think the musical hallucinations were seizures, though. She rather thought they were psychiatric based. Seizure hallucinations? Psychiatric-based hallucinations? I didn’t feel depressed or manic, really, though I was disturbed. Schizoaffective disorder was not even considered.

Strangely, the neurologist did believe I had seizures. That’s what one of my four EEGs indicated. But they weren’t seizures in the traditionally known sense, but ones called Simple Partial seizures. Such seizures don’t make you lose consciousness, or even necessarily convulse, but in my case perhaps caused psychic and/or sensory disturbance. My guess. Not my neurologist’s.

My psychiatrist must have been right, because when I was put on an anti-seizure medication (also a bipolar moodstabilizer), and my dosage reached a therapeutic level, the music seemed to cease. It wasn’t just a coincidence. You can’t believe how much of a relief that was! At least for a short time.

I swear that since that music in my head died, music as I knew it died everywhere around me to a large degree.

I miss the music and the dance! It’s like needing a quarter for the juke box, but only having nickels to spend. I am lucky, though, that at least I haven’t lost words. They seem to continue to flow. More than they ever did before. My new music has become these words, put together in various ways with accents here and silent rests there, sometimes flowing quickly, other times not. My new dance is the movement of my fingers on the keyboard. It’s like I have a combination of 10 legs and arms total moving around a floor (keyboard) in various directions. It helps to slightly make up for the loss of my old music and dance, but is far less beneficial as an exercise, for sure. And though my writing gives me much pleasure, I have yet to feel closer to my higher power from this finger “dance”.

There were perhaps two occasions since the instrumental music stopped that I heard it again, but those moments were fleeting. They almost felt like nighttime dreams. They were experiences only permitted by a secret section of my mind that shut off when the sun began to rise, and then were almost forgotten.

mouse keyboard notesI sometimes wonder what it would sound like if each key on my keyboard was a musical note. What would the typing of this post sound like? Phillip Glass? John Cage? Or something even more abstract? What would a coordinating dance with the whole body look like?


12 thoughts on “A Story of Musical Hallucinations (When music mostly died for me)

  1. Vandana September 27, 2017 / 4:12 pm

    It must have been utterly devastating for a dancer to not feel music anymore. I have my earphones plugged on almost all the time I need to de-stress. But I guess writing is definitely a good way to gift your soul what music no longer can. I write my verses purely for my soul.😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight September 27, 2017 / 4:18 pm

      I can imagine that poetry can touch the soul. Occasionally I write pieces that especially touch me. Other times I just feel satisfied that the words flow without too much difficulty.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Vandana September 27, 2017 / 4:40 pm

        True! I sometimes colour pictures which is quite invigorating!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Cogitator September 28, 2017 / 6:48 am

    Great piece (sorry the pun). It’s astounding how mental issues impact each of us in unique and devastating ways. This is like a before and after story. But perhaps the after story is not finished yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight September 28, 2017 / 1:28 pm

      Hi Cogitator. I have been amazed, too. I do hope that music will return to my life, and dance, beyond just my fingers on the keyboard.

      Thank you for reading this post!


  3. zlotybaby September 29, 2017 / 1:12 pm

    I’m sorry about your story! I was forced to do music deprivation before, for similar reasons. Especially when I’m agitated I can hear parts of a song playing over and over again in my head. When I struggle with insomnia occasionally, it’s the worst. Apparently it’s just something that many OCD people have and “nothing to worry about”. Pfff, try not to worry when you hear music which isn’t there!

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight September 29, 2017 / 1:18 pm

      It is mean and ignorant when people discount such experiences. It was the beginning of the end of my client relationship with my therapist.

      I’m sorry you’ve experienced something very similar.

      Liked by 1 person

      • zlotybaby September 29, 2017 / 1:21 pm

        I think they minimize it because “normal” people occasionally experience something similar. They don’t understand it can be actually worse than intrusive thoughts.

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight September 29, 2017 / 1:35 pm

        That’s so true! My musical hallucinations were way beyond intrusive thoughts.

        Liked by 1 person

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