Brain Healing and Music

   My entire life has been surrounded by music.  I don’t play any instruments, I’m probably tone deaf because I’m really awful at singing, and I’m not familiar with names of bands except from when I was younger and I had to know names to make the correct overpriced purchase of an album.  But I really like music. I remember singing to the Young Guns soundtrack in my mom’s car with my feet barely long enough to bend over the seat’s edge.  NKOTBwhen people used to have the patience to say their whole name, was huge in our house.  I had a puzzle in the shape of a heart or circle with them on it.  I loved that stupid thing. I wrote a fan letter once, probably in crayon I was so young.  They sent a really disappointing letter of appreciation or whatever.  That’s probably when I realized they sucked.

   s-l300One of my first cassettes was Madonna, the other was Phil Collins.  I don’t remember which was first but man, I loved those tapes.  I wore them out.  Papa Don’t Preach? No idea what I was saying in any terms but I knew those words and had no problems belting them out just like the rest of the True Blue album.  I can’t remember which tape of Phil’s I had, maybe the Best Ballads or some other hits album.  It was old, used to be my mom’s but I think I stole it and she let me keep it.

   Music was everywhere for me, it always has been.  It was inside my head from the moment I woke up until I went to sleep and sometimes there was background music in my dreams.  Some mornings I’d wake up singing Love me, Love Me and I’d be in a not-so-gloomy mood.  Sometimes Cobain would wake me up to make me wonder what the point of anything was and sometimes a song would last just long enough for me to get dressed, leaving me unaffected.

   I miss those days.  The morning my AVM popped in my head, the music stopped.  I listened to it in rehab and in between when I was home waiting to go back for surgery, I’d sit in bed listening to the Beatles– Rocky Raccoon is my fave Beatles song in case anyone was wondering– and rub my belly, singing to JJ as he kicked after each cashew I ate.  After I had him I’d lay him on the bed between my legs and study with music on.  He was always calm during Beatles and Zakk Wylde’s BoS but surprisingly not so much during Zeppelin which I still find bizarre.

   I continued to find joy in music directly after the stroke but like the bruit that disappeared with my dreams, I found more maddening silence in my head. There are literally tears in my eyes as I think back to the moment I realized how silent my life had become.  You have this thing “living” inside your head without your knowledge and you become a person despite it or maybe in some ways because of it and then suddenly when you are relieved of it, you find you are lost without it.  It’s depressing, frustrating and irritating.

right-brain-left-brain
Photo cred: this interesting article on the right vs. left brain dominance myth

   They say the right brain is where the magic happens.  It’s where you develop those other senses, the ones that keep your mind occupied when the real world can’t satisfy it.  It’s where color and sounds blend to make a world that exists only to one of us.  I have no way to tell if I had previous bleeds throughout my life or certain types of unnoticeable seizures (I have my suspicions) but the big bleed had dulled the color of my right brain and sounds could only be imported, not randomly played from hidden archives.  My left brain took over and it quieted my right brain so it could heal…I hope that’s what’s been happening.

    I experienced a lot of migraines after the stroke and surgery.  My skull had a lot of healing to do and my brain had even more to work on.  Not everyone has migraines after stroke or brain surgery but a lot of us do.  I had migraines before but they weren’t acute like they are now.  I’ve known since the first post-stroke migraine it’s a part of the healing process.  Something in my head blew open, they glued it shut (twice) and then cut open my head to dig and cut out my noise maker. No one could have known that little bloody knot held all of my dreams, my sanity and my own internal clock radio.

   My migraines have subsided substantially in the last 5 years.  I know when to take my meds so I rarely experience a full migraine.  I merely go through the symptoms and hope I can relax enough to keep it away.  I’ve gotten used to only experiencing the occasional dream and I do my best to hold onto that feeling of having been somewhere else for as long as I can so as not to take them for granted.  And I’m accustomed to only hearing music when I manually turn on a radio or music app myself.  But…

   When I had my first set of dreams after the stroke I was plagued by a rash of migraines for nearly a month afterward.  It was terrible and included vomiting and lots of time away from my family so I could sleep.  After it passed without another dream I started to believe there was a relation between the dreams and migraines.  I don’t dream near as much as I used to, I haven’t had another string of dreams since and I’ve had no migraines I associated with a dream since but…

   I’ve been fighting a migraine all week.  It hasn’t fully come out, I’m keeping myself stoned and taking meds when I can.  My meds cause abdominal pain if I take the max dose which is only two pills within 24 hours and you have to take them with at least 2 hours between.  And…

   Every day this week I’ve woken up with music in my head.

   Again, the tears are coming.

    I have no way of knowing what’s wishful thinking, conspiracy or possible, but I feel like waking with Lana De Rey in my head this morning is a positive sign.  Like maybe my brain is still physically healing. Doctors told me after 2 years your brain stops healing, you’ve come as far as you can go.  I never believed it because of survivors stories. If the brain is still healing then I have more recovering ahead of me.  I’ve come far in five years without my mental music box.  These signs of its possible return are a sign to me of more possibilities.  I don’t want to get too hopeful but I won’t let hope die out of fear of gaining nothing.

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