Archive for May, 2012

May 30, 2012

Mental Illness does NOT mean:

Mental Illness does NOT mean:

  • That someone is crazy
  • that someone is unable to function, think, work
  • That someone is an unfit parent

It continually amazes me that the term “mental illness” is bandied around as some kind of paint sprayer to color those of us with any psychiatric diagnosis as “less than”.   Somehow, because we are diagnosed with something psychiatric, that makes us crazy…makes us unable to be as competent or functional as the rest of you.  For instance, if you have a diagnosis of depression, your rates for life insurance go up..automatically..because the insurance company assumes you are suicidal.  There is a HUGE spectrum of depression that spans from low level “blues” to those with major depression with suicidal ideology.

Mental illness, like any other illness, is treatable.  With a combination of therapy and medication, most mental illness can be controlled well.  Yes, some situations are more difficult for us.  Sometimes, those things that would normally just “upset” someone else, spin us into a depressions.  Sometimes, our “sick” days are because we simply can’t get our brains working well that day.  It is no different than having another illness….like diabetes.  If you have diabetes, you take medication, and manage what you eat.  If you do that, you are less likely to have any symptoms.  There are always days, however, when you are not well, and may take a sick day.  Maybe you ate a bit too much of the “wrong” foods the previous day.  Perhaps you are changing medication and need a day to adjust.  If its because you are diabetic, then its no big deal.  If you have depression/anxiety disorder, or schizophrenia, or PTSD, then people assume you are “less than”.

Most people who meet me would never know that I suffer from mental illness.  I hold a full time job as a consultant, I volunteer with Hospice patients, I play cello in 2 orchestras, I am the mother of a teenage girl.  I pay my bills, have fun with my friends, go on vacation, and am damned good at my job.  I am considered intelligent, creative, and yes..even sexy.

I am, quite simply, the same as you.  I have my strengths and weaknesses like everyone else.  Next time you hear “mental illness”, think twice about how you judge that person.  They are just as “normal” as you are.

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May 16, 2012

The Cello, music, and life……

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So my friends,…as I sit here this evening listening to a wonderful storm outside, watching the lightning, I am typing this with sore fingers.  Why?  Because I’ve been practicing.  A LOT.  There is something magical about playing with a storm in the background.  Of course, there is something magical about playing at all.  Music can see like magic to those who are not “musically talented”.  To someone who doesn’t play an instrument, it can be made to look “easy” by someone with skill.  It looks almost effortless.  Being a musician, I can tell you that its not effortless at all.  Hours and hours of studying the music come first.  What were the composer’s ideas?  When was the piece written?  What mood what the composer trying to get across to the audience?  Research done, now it’s time to actually play.  In the case of a string player, you start thinking about bowings and fingerings.  How to make the shifts seem seamless?  What bowings will bring across the sound you want?  Then there’s tempo, articulation, dynamics, etc.  Even after all that is figured out (for now), there is the actual learning of the notes along with all the mechanics.  And then..hopefully making some music out of those notes.  For professionals, it also has to do with memorizing the piece.  Not for orchestra music, but for solo music.  Orchestra music you get to have in front of you, but then you have to be concerned with watching the conductor in your peripheral vision, hearing how your part fits into the rest of the parts, matching tones and dynamics, etc.  I currently play in two orchestras, and have recently soloed with the smaller one.  It was the first time I ever soloed with an orchestra, and it was a wonderful experience.  It was also terrifying.  While (mostly) confident of my skills, anything can happen in performance.  Your mind (or at least mine), starts playing “what if?” games.  What if a string breaks?  What if I hit a totally off key note in a key section?  What if the orchestra doesn’t come in correctly?  What if they rush?  What if they drag?  The list goes on and on.  As much as my palms were sweating, I feared dropping my bow!

So as I think about all this, I also think how it is the same as dealing with day-to-day life..no matter what you do for a living.  Whether you’re a stay at home Mom, in business, in the arts, into computers…it doesn’t matter.  Every day we all deal with dozens of “pieces” that make up the whole of our day.  And as well planned as we have everything..as much work as we’ve put into things, anything can happen that will force a change in plans, or force us to watch as it all falls apart.  Sometimes, these changes are from things we have no control over.  Maybe the kid wakes up sick.  Maybe the dog barfed on the floor.  Maybe the coffee maker is broken (ACK!!!).  When these things happen, our list of what we “have” to do changes…sometimes instantly.  In other cases, however, the changes are those things we bring about ourselves.

Like in music, one seemingly small change can bring about huge changes.  In a piece I was recently working on, I changed how I was fingering one passage.  Well, suddenly the bowing didn’t work…and I wasn’t getting the sound I wanted.  I had to re-work the entire passage.  Life is full of small changes that bring big adjustments.  It is also full of big changes that bring even bigger adjustments.

My life has a whole new piece of music to it now.  A lot of the melody is the same, but the harmonies are different…the bowings, fingerings, phrasing, ..it’s all different.  I am embarking on a huge change in my life…all of my own making.  I didn’t jump into this change…I made the decision over time.  Once I had decided on the change, I felt a sense of relief.  Now in the middle of it, I sometimes mourn the past….as if I am “missing” something.  It used to sound like “this”.  Now it sounds like “that”.  Is it better, worse, or just different?  To break out of the mold is difficult to say the least….but it can bring about unexpected wonderful things…a new sound…all your own.

Don’t be afraid to break the mold…to go out on your own..to re-define yourself..no matter what your age, occupation, or “comfort zone”.