bipolar and musicThe first tape I bought was Run DMC’s “Raising Hell.”  I was in 5th grade.  Every night I would put my headphones on before bed and listen to the beats.  Those beats of rap seemed to match the intensity in my brain, resulting in a calmness that allowed my mind to rest.  It’s weird ’cause blasting rap music seemed to be the only thing that matched my brain.

Music has always been crucial to my mental health.  It wasn’t until later in life, when I  started reading Tupac’s lyrics, that I realized the syntax of the language and beats he used could manifest a mood disorder.  Sounds crazy but my observation became more acute when I worked in inpatient psych wards in Los Angeles, CA County Hospitals.

The patients were drugged to the max, tranquilized to the point that they could be extras in Zombie land.  New patients, who were manic and not yet pumped with five different cocktails of meds, would ask me for music.

“Someone freakin’ stole my earphones.”  A patient looked at his ghetto box without earphones and frowned. “I need my phones to calm my brain.  I need music in my ears please.”

“I’m sorry, they don’t allow music in the ward.”

His face fell, but not too far, ’cause he had been in psych wards ten times in the past two years.  He knew the drill.  And I was starting to realize that music was crucial to managing balance in the mind.

Like I said, it sounds crazy, but there is some link to music and mental illness, specifically mania and music.  For me it was rap.  Rap matched my mind and I had a better release than any drug could ever provide.

Bipolar musicians might write about being bipolar: Jimmy Hendricks, Axel Rose, Kurt Cobain…

But when you sit down and hear the beats of their tunes, it might just match the drum of your brain.

Drums photo available from Shutterstock