The Day I Forgot to Take My Meds
Music can help manage your whacked-out brain but have that playlist ready before the inevitable happens.
I have worked from home for years and I’m easily overwhelmed by too much social interaction. But it turns out that even a minimal social calendar of meeting up with friends, whether to talk, dance, listen to music, or study, anchors my mind and energises it.
Changes in routine, whether a slowdown or an uptick, can play havoc with memory — including the memory of that moment when I silenced the meds reminder alarm.
After I had my morning coffee, I felt so focused. More so than I had in days. I had become detached and unmotivated since my activities outside of the house had been curtailed.
Thrilled by my unexpected burst of motivation, I just had to attack a side project before I did anything else. My body has become shape-changing traitor in recent years and it is well past time to turn my stash of textiles into wearables. Preferably wearables that fit.
I decided to make a zero-waste shirt. It was a relatively simple idea: manipulating and joining two pieces of rectangular cloth until they became a symmetrical garment.
I was in the flow and time meant nothing. I was making my idea real. I had total focus — and then I didn’t.
I found myself checking the same two measurements, over and over, again and again. And I still couldn’t remember them. So I checked them again and wrote them down. The numbers were still wrong.
Fortunately my partner called, interrupting my frustrating cycle of “measure, forget, repeat,” and we soon identified the problem: forgotten meds.
Several hours past the usual time, I finally sat down to breakfast and took my meds. Until chemical equilibrium returned, I wanted to reduce the scope of my activities to things that didn’t require precision, judgment, or physical coordination.
I looked at my stack of light reading which is usually a lifesaver at times like these. The thought of choosing one book or even a chapter, let alone reading it, overwhelmed me.
Music, I thought, would be the thing that might recall functional parts of my mind back from wherever they had packed off to. My existing playlists had nothing that appealed but surely other people had been down this track. And, of course they had.
I found a playlist on Spotify “I Forgot to Take My Meds Today” (compiled by David Becker) There was even a song with the same title (by Prince Daddy & the Hyena). I hit play. The song opened with screeching guitar feedback that seemed split my head right open. The opening lines were perfect in their sentiments. But it was not my intention to end in foetal position, so I hit pause.
The first song in the list, Bill Collectors Theme Song (Apes of the State) caught my eye. It opened with a sweet guitar melody that I was absolutely up for. Then came the voice of an angry young woman with a student loan. I’ve been there and I truly empathise. But I had to hit pause again.
Before giving up on the playlist, I couldn’t resist listening to Crywank. Was that the name of the artist or a genre? Genre, I decided after listening. Really good name for it, but I didn’t expect it to be so passive-aggressive.
In the end, my winning search term was “clavier.” I was thinking of the clavichord, an instrument that is by its nature gentle in its inclinations and unlikely to produce screeching feedback. Instead, I found Du Clavier, which is actually a soothing collection of classical piano and electronica compiled by Elie Djilahon. I had to skip a few pieces because of their tempo or dynamic range. But it worked. I was able to choose a book and let my mind wander freely between music and narrative, until chemical equilibrium returned.
Looking back on it now, days later, the playlist title “I Forgot My Meds Today” was itself indicating a genre. That I did not cotton on to this is a reflection of my state of confusion at the time. Music is known to activate parts of your brain, but the most effective genre probably comes down to personal preference and your own musical history.
I have also found a playlist on SoundCloud called Soothing Instrumentals (Ambient, Piano, Guitar and more) by Beautiful Piano, which would probably work (for me at least) as well as Du Clavier
With a clear head, I have realised that my preferred soundtracks for the fallout from forgetting my meds work well for tasks that require intense focus, like writing. In my properly medicated state though, I can work with greater dynamic ranges and higher tempos.
My takeaway message: Be smarter than me. Playlists are a mental first aid kit. Get them in order before you need them.
Thank you to David Becker, Elie Djilahon, Beautiful Piano and all the lovely people who create playlists for others to hear.