Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Music as medicine

I recently added 45 CDs of music to my phone, joining the 24 albums that were already there from downloads. I hadn't listened to most of these CDs in years, but I decided to put a lot of them in my phone since I've been listening to music through my phone almost all day every day lately. As you may have guessed, I was getting sick of listening to the same 24 albums over and over.

As I've listened to a big chunk of my old music library, I've experienced music in a new way. That is, many of these songs have tempted me to play along on my drums, which I used to do very well. However, nowadays I can't play drums for shit. So although I remember very vividly how it once felt to play along with many of these songs, right now I wouldn't be able to hack it.

It's been years since I've had any interest in playing my drums, so the fact that I've wanted to play them at all is a big story in itself, particularly considering this motivation seems like a direct result of the Wahls diet. Just feeling motivated to play my drums feels like another huge step forward in the life of someone who had lost almost all motivation to do anything just a few months ago.

I'm not sure exactly when I last played my drums, but it must have been nearly 10 years ago. Consequently, I've long since lost whatever chops I may have once possessed. Also, thanks to the MS lesions in my brain and spinal cord, my limbs no longer do what my brain tells them to do. That includes both my arms and legs, but especially my legs. Still, I remember how it feels to play a whole bunch of the 500-ish songs I've just started listening to for the first time in forever, and I feel driven to make my arms and legs do it again.

So I picked up a pair of sticks Sunday and started playing on my snare drum for a few seconds as I took a break from the treadmill.

"Playing" is not really the best word to describe what I did to the drum. In fact, for that moment, I was probably the worst drummer I've ever heard. Even though it felt like I was playing a decent double-stroke roll, the sounds coming from the drum were hideous. I didn't think about it very hard; instead I just quit. But as I think back to that moment, it's confusing because I don't know if the hideous noise was a result of lost chops or lost neurological function.

So anyway, I feel like I might start trying to play my drums soon. Probably just a bass, snare, hi-hat, and ride cymbal (and maybe a crash cymbal, too). Playing the drums, regardless of whether I suck, should be a great way to exercise both my body and my brain, which hopefully will help me re-wire my brain and effectively reverse the course of my MS. Constant use of my feet and legs to work the bass drum and hi-hat pedals should do wonders for my hip flexors and lower leg muscles, particularly because it's natural for me to play eighth notes on the hi-hat with my left foot while I play the ride cymbal with my right hand.

Also, I think just listening to music all the time, particularly through earbuds, is good for me. It forces me to tune out the rest of the world and stay focused, and it probably nudges my brain to work more like my brain is supposed to work. It makes me think in a way that seems good for me. Listening to music through earbuds is kinda like doing puzzles/sodokus in a way (because I'm always trying to figure something out), which I guess you can probably only understand if your brain works like my brain.

If I start playing again, regularly, I envision it making a huge impact on my life, my prospective recovery, and how I deal with MS. Wish me luck.

Update (later the same day): Looks like I'm gonna have to wait to start playing those drums again. My snare drum has a busted lug, which I expected to replace with a lug from a different drum. However, the lugs from the other drums don't fit through the hole in my snare drum's lug casing. So I'm gonna have to make a trip to the drum shop (Columbus Percussion) before I can start playing again. Boo.

Update (May 17, 2013): I got a new lug a couple days ago, along with a new pair of sticks and a good practice pad (12" RealFeel). After playing on the pad a little bit, my playing doesn't sound anywhere near as horrible as it did a few days ago. I can tell the full message from my brain isn't making it to my hands, but it's not too bad, so it will be interesting to see how my playing progresses.

My legs and feet are a totally different story, though, and that's where I probably have the most to gain.

I haven't tried playing my drum set yet, and here's why: A mouse found its way into my bass drum and died. To create a dead-mouseless environment and begin playing the drum, I must first remove one of the drum heads, then get rid of said dead mouse, vacuum the mouse turds, wash/dry the pillow I use to muffle the drum, and finally put the head back on and tune the drum.

So in a couple hours I should finally be able to start playing my drums, which I'll probably limit to a bass drum, a snare drum, a hi-hat, a ride cymbal, and maybe a crash cymbal. If I play regularly enough in the near future, my usage of the bass drum pedal and hi-hat pedal will probably become a phenomenal workout for my hip flexors, as well as for many of my leg muscles. And that's just the beginning of how I think playing my drums might help me combat MS.

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