Friday, January 23, 2015

Rave Til Dawn: What It's Like To Have Musical Hallucinations

I started this blog a decade ago, with the goal of sharing with others what it's like to live with multiple sclerosis chronic pain caused by MS- related trigeminal neuralgia. 

Along the way, I found a great many other topics to explore and share, but still, at it's heart, ZPT is about this one woman's experiences and journey with disability.
But my health idiosyncrasies didn't begin with my first definitive MS symptom, that fall after a hot shower when I was 21. Instead, they started a full decade before I was legally able to order a whisky sour, when I unexpectedly came home from school with the mumps. 

I had the large, painful lumps on the right side of my face/jaw, and I was miserable.* My mom, hoping to cheer me up, scoured the city for a book** about a kid with the mumps for me to read during my bed rest. That gift, plus the feeling of pressure from the swelling and a general feeling of malaise, are my strongest memories of that time. 

The mumps apparently enjoyed their sojourn in Casa Angel, and thus left me with something to remember it by: I was now functionally deaf in my right ear. And that deafness itself gifted me with something even more rare than going deaf in one ear from the mumps: musical hallucinations

Despite its unfortunate name, musical hallucinations are neither a result nor a symptom of mental illness, but is instead sort of a type of tinnitus. It's almost always present in a person with some degree of hearing loss. Women are somewhat more likely to experience it than men.***

So, what are musical hallucinations? In short: it's hearing music in your head, when no music is being played.

Everyone, from time to time, is plagued by the song they just can't get dislodged from their brain. 

Musical hallucinations are basically the same thing, just non-stop. For me, though, the music is omnipresent: both songs I love and songs I hate. It makes no difference. 

There is never a time when I don't hear music. The only exception is when I am actually hearing music along with everybody else, via recordings or live performances, such as...

...this Rasputina concert Jonathan and I attended. It was a wonderful show which thankfully introduced me to one of my extra-strength Tune Stoppers: "1816 The Year Without a Summer" (more on that later).

Even when I am asleep, the music prevails.

If that sounds somewhat familiar, well, you're not alone. When I talk about the endless concert in my head, people will often remark, "Oh! Like the music box, right?" 

The reason? The concept of musical hallucinations made an appearance on the popular television program, "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Specifically the season three episode, "The Survivors."
In that episode, a human couple are the only--and inexplicable--survivors of an alien invasion. Right away, Counselor Troi finds them suspicious, but as usual can't quite work out why.

Her efforts are thwarted when she begins to hear persistent music in her head. It's the same song, over and over again. The song itself was totally foreign to her; she'd never heard it prior to this mission. 

Unbeknownst to Troi, it's the tune that plays from the female survivor's antique music box. 

She confides in Picard, who consoles her by suggestioning she take "the necessary sleep inducements," and by pointing out that everyone has had the experience of being assaulted by a song with a thousand encores. Deanna responds, "No. It's real." 

Medication proves useless. Dr. Crusher decides to put her in a medical coma, and an increasingly panicked Troi insists that it won't work. "The music will only follow me!" she insists. Later, when in the coma, Crusher notes that Troi "continues to act as if she hears the music." 

Eventually, (spoiler alert) Picard discovers that there is really only one survivor...and he is responsible not only for the genocide of the alien attackers' entire species, but also for the music torturing the comatose counselor. 

That episode, and the musical/film "Amadeus," are the main examples of musical hallucinations seen in popular culture (please see the Update below). In both instances, it's portrayed as a bad thing: both Troi and Mozart nearly go crazy. In reality, the condition isn't related to any other mental illness and the sufferers almost never have any psychiatric conditions. 

Ironically, Mozart's music (particularly "Don Giovanni") is frequently a guest performer in the 24-hour concert venue in my head.

So what kind of music do I hear? Anything and everything, from my favorite Prince songs to commercial jingles and everything in between.

For better or for worse, I tend to remember songs I have been subjected to, even just once. This was very unfortunate when attending what I now affectionately refer to as "Cowboy High" in the early 90's.

However, it was a boon when I played in orchestras and sang in choirs. It certainly made memorizing the music a great deal easier!

It isn't so pleasant when I passionately hate a song and at any moment, I'll hear it over and over again, note-for-note, with no end in sight (damn you, "Life is a Highway"! You have tormented me far too many times, you awful bastard). 

There are a few songs that work well to dislodge melodies I cannot stand. I call them Tune Stoppers****. Currently, I'm using one of the more effective Tune Stoppers ("Your Love" by the Outfield), in an attempt to drown out the song I unfortunately began hearing instantly after writing about it.

You bastard. 

Even when dreaming, the music is there. I often describe it as being a bit like Mozart as depicted in the movie "Amadeus," only with less genius songwriting...

...and more endless hours of Nickleback.

And there really isn't a damn thing you can do about it, except add to your Tune Stoppers list and avoid music you know you're likely to despise...and remember. 

There is no medication. Music therapy can help some sufferers; I understand that they also often suggest various versions of my Tune Stoppers method as a way to at least not be at the mercy of some terrible song that will ride you all night long...damn it! Not again! 

Many people with musical hallucinations hate it. Most of the time, I don't. Sure, it can be very annoying sometimes, but in the end, it's just a part of who I am and I choose to see it positively. After all, I do love music.

In an effort to show people what it's like to have musical hallucinations, I will be using Twitter to document just what it is I am hearing for the month of February in a little experiment I call The 28 Day Playlist.

will then post about it here at the ZPT, and maybe make some cute charts or what have you. After all, as a close friend recently told me: my blog has no panache.

It will hopefully give some insight into what living with a constant dance hall in your head is like. So please check back with me at the end of the month, and/or follow my musical adventure at @ZenAngelSinger!

UPDATE! A reader pointed out to me that there is another example of a television show using the "I can't get this song out of my head!" to comedic affect: the "Seinfeld" episode, "The Jacket." In this episode, George is unable to get the song "Master of the House" from "Les Miserables" out of his head. His constant humming/singing of the tune proves contagious to those around him, including Elaine's gruff & grumpy father! 

Wa do & thank you to Eddie Speghetti for the "Seinfeld" tip! You are truly a fountain of TV information. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

•🌀•If any readers can think of any other pop culture musical hallucinations, please leave a comment or email me!•🌀•


*The fact that the majority of my MS symptoms are on my right side, including my trigeminal neuralgia, is one of those little ironies of my life.

**"The book in question is "On Your Toes, Susie!" by Lee Wyndham.

It's part of a series of books about the titular character.  In "Toes," Susie finds her spot as the star dancer at her dance school is in jeopardy when an exchange student named Mimi arrives and dances circles around the other girls. Susie is jealous, and even more determined to win the starring role in an upcoming recital. Her efforts are undermined by a sudden bout of the mumps. She is miserable, but her misery is compounded when she gets an unexpected roommate: Mimi also has the mumps! I remain baffled by the fact that stories like this one, with positive messages for kids, aren't made into movies in favor of junk like "The Smurfs 2." 

***This great article explains musical hallucinations perfectly:

****Other examples of Tune Stoppers: "California Love" by Tupac, "Hate Me" by Blue October, "People Are People" by Depeche Mode, "Bluebeard" by the Cocteau Twins, and the national anthem. 

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

ZPT: Working on a New Look

Thursday, January 01, 2015


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My New Year's Resolution: 12 Thank You's

I subscribed to Muppet Magazine when I was a kid (and how I wish I still had them). In a holiday issue, Miss Piggy gave advice that I still remember and follow to this very day: if you make New Year's resolutions fun, you'll have no trouble keeping them! 

So every year I make a "6-pack" of resolutions: three for fun, one for my spiritual wellbeing, one for something I've put off for far too long, and finally, one for my own damn good.

I am test-driving a new type of ZPT post: lists in the form of either a 6-Pack or a 12-Pack. Why not start with New Year's?

So here we go...!

•6-Pack #1: New Year's Resolutions•

In 2015, I resolve to...

1) Go to at least one tattoo convention and get at least two tattoos this year.
2) Go through photo box and sort: get undeveloped film developed, put worthy photos in frames, put other photos in albums, scan into the computer the photos I inherited from Grandpa, fill the photo cubes Jonathan bought me, make locket photos for me, the girls & my goddaughters (maybe a soft photo baby book for Miss Morgan). 
3) Go to Disneyland! And be sure to catch Merlin and the Sword Ceremony!
4) Finish the Old Testament, at least one chapter per Thursday. 
5) Write 12 thank-you letters to and for people who deserved them in 2014.
6) Cut red meat out of my diet after my surgery (and thusly no more anemia).

Happy New Year!

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Monday, December 29, 2014

How Disneyland & Storybrooke Can Meet

My family loves "Once Upon a Time." We never miss an episode if it can be helped, and we each have our favorite characters and storylines OUAT loot was a big request for our holiday season. Eden got her very own Emma Swan necklace...

...while Wren received a gorgeous silk screen poster of Hook, Regina and Rumple.

     This is the scene on the poster!

We are equally big fans of Disneyland. Which made me wonder: how could Storybrooke best be represented in the Happiest Place on Earth?

After all, a recent appearance by Regina (Lana Parilla) at Disneyland was quite popular with Oncers, making us hope for our own little corner at the park.*

Clearly, there is a case to be made in favor of bringing the show to Disneyland. But how?

And the answer, or rather my answer, came while doing that OUAT holiday shopping. To my disappointment, it wasn't easy to find appropriate OUAT gifts as one would hope. If you already have the seasons on DVD/Blu-Ray and shopped too late to get one of the 2015 calandars, you had slim pickings indeed.

Which led me to make a wish of my own: for Disneyland to open Mr. Gold's shop! 

Mr. Gold's shop has been heavily featured in every season of OUAT. The glimpses of the things collecting on his shelves are tantalizing: the puppets (that are actually Gepetto's parents), the yellow ribbons of the Snow Queen and her sisters, Anna's Wishing Star necklace, Prince Eric's cloak, Lancelot's gauntlet, the Sorcerer's hat, and last season we even got a short look at a metal helmet that looks suspiciously like Magneto's! And given Disney's recent acquisition of very well could be.**

Mr. Gold's Shop would naturally be in Fantasyland near Villains Corner, or perhaps down a little alley on Main Street. Maybe he opens a branch in California, not too far from Ariel's Grotto?

It could sell a number of items related to the shop, such as books and jewelry. In addition, it would be THE place to go for OUAT merchandise. T-shirts, key chains, books, knickknacks and more featuring the characters from the show. 

     Your own Stranger's Necklace,

Want one of the hats made by Jefferson (the Mad Hatter)? How about a chipped tea cup (as we all know "sometimes the best tea cup is chipped")? In the market for a necklace with a miniature version of Emma's VW Bug or the jar with Hook's hand? Or perhaps one of Regina's apples? Although, I wouldn't recommend eating it...

I think the best possible use of the shop would be to provide little Oncers with an alternative to the traditional Princess Dresses and costumes kids love to wear around the park. Why should Jack Sparrow get all the fun...when Killian is a pirate/good guy himself? Not to mention the gorgeous costumes we've seen on the Snow Queen, Regina, Snow White and more. 

     Of course, your own Princess might
     prefer leather and a sword...

How about Emma's ball gown or trademark red jacket?

Baby clothes fit for Prince Neal, or an embroidered baby blanket for your own Princess? 

     Much better than personalized ears
     for the 12-month & younger set...
Can you be tempted with your very own Red Riding Hood? 

     Wolf not included.

Us disabled folks wouldn't mind getting our hands on one of Gold's canes! 

And of course, everyone's favorite OUAT item: your very own copy of Henry's book. Or a scrapbook version, to write your own happy ending! 

An attraction there that would bring a little magic? I envision something along the lines of the lamp at Aladdin's Oasis or my all-time favorite: the Sword in the Stone. A chance to reach into a treasure chest, pull out an"axe", and find out what your own dwarf name is! 

     This is clearly my husband's axe...

Don't disturb the eggs...although they wobble, they are not ready to hatch! 

     Did I just hear an egg...sneeze?!?

And naturally, the usual Disney collectibles could be peddled here, with a twist: can you make a good deal trading, say, a Haunted Mansion pin for one featuring Sidney as the Genie in the Mirror? 

Gold does so love to strike a deal...

Just remember that all deals are final! 

And don't forget to read carefully what would obviously be posted on the shop's door, in large gold letters....


**Have you caught all the Easter Eggs in Gold's shop and Storybrooke? Here are a few you might have missed:

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