Let’s begin this story with a happy ending. This week I produced and engineered the recording of my song “A Case Without Warning” which is the second track from my upcoming EP “HEAVY PETALS. I’m working from a newly assembled and modest home studio rig and @avid.protools set up. Protools music recording software was super user friendly once I learned the basics. I completed the first song last week and I successfully worked out lots of kinks and have definitely gotten the swing of things in no time at all. YES, LEARNING TO RECORD MY OWN MUSIC IS MY FREEDOM and I am telling you that if you have read this far and wondered if you could learn music recording software too, the answer is yes. If you are assuming it’s too expensive to begin its not! Protools First is FREE and lets you record up to three projects at once! There is even an online community which I’m going to try and dig into this week. Don’t be scared. It’s not impossible. In fact it’s pretty easy as long as you don’t give UP!! I sailed through this song because I learned the mechanics of protools like a champ and because I was inspired by the story I am finally going to share with you.
This song is about one of the scariest times in my illness so far when I could barely walk and wondered if I needed to go to a mental hospital for delusions. It’s heavy but it’s true. When things hurt long enough and doctors don’t see a problem, even your closest friends and family start questioning your sanity. I remember asking my friend several times a week if I was making it up and she helped me hold on to the truth by assuring me I wasn’t because she knew me and she knew I hated being uncomfortable. I wouldn’t choose this. I have always powered through but I wrote this song when I was worried I couldn’t go any further. I was always under water.
2014 was when I first started to notice I didn’t feel like myself. I was having more trouble sleeping through the nights and after being on my feet all day there were times lying in bed where my bones ached from within. My now husband would report back in the mornings that I had cried a little in my sleep or at the very least I would have moaned audibly. I was burning the candle from both ends for years and I chalked it up to exhaustion, adjusting to a new relationship and generalized lack of inspiration. I always continued to write songs but I released little music in that time which is not like me. I didn’t play a solo show for years. Actually, in the spirit of authenticity, I have not played a solo show since then which is a very difficult thing to admit to you here. I had lost my confidence.
I knew something about my health was holding me back and a friend had noticed my red, weathered skin and suggested I look into thyroid. When I was putting on weight for no reason I finally went to the doctor. How’s that for a motivator? But it’s true, my vanity saved me. They did basic lab tests on my thyroid which came back “within normal range” and he suggested I see a therapist for depression. I did. I was insulted and totally ashamed but I was willing to do anything to feel better. Thank Goodness because I brought him my blood work and he was the one who confirmed my suspicions about Hashimotos. The numbers showed my immune system was attacking my thyroid. I figured that out because I googled it, just so you know. That was the beginning of a long journey towards answers but this is a music blog so let’s talk more about how this relates to music.
I wish I could go back in time and make better use of the following 3 years but the truth is, its all a blur. There were times I felt really bad and still showed up for writing sessions after working a whole day. Once I missed a HUGE touring opportunity because my bandmate wasn’t available and I couldn’t find the energy to find a sub. Promoting myself seemed entirely impossible when I didn’t feel interesting. I slowly withdrew from my regular music activities. My relationships suffered, missing out on important life events I couldn’t be there for. Forgetting friends birthdays. But also, I’m a freaking go-getter, healer and helper and everyone was angry that I’d disappeared from their lives. I didn’t have much of anything good to say for myself either except that it always felt to hard to work on releasing a record let alone to be social.
I couldn’t live in New York City a day longer and I moved home to Tucson with my husband, Nick, who luckily was also ready to leave too. Just imagine a hangover that never goes away or when you can feel the flu coming on but perpetual. It interfered with my mental health because it causes immense brain fog, in turn causing me to be less creative, in turn making feel like I’d lost my passion for music, in turn making me low grade depressed all of the time. What made it most difficult to identify was that it seemed to come and go. I would have a few good weeks in a row which made seeing a doctor never feel like a good idea and I managed to keep playing in Guns N Hoses and even show up to parties sometimes. It was a slow burn all the way down to nothing and one day I woke up and wondered what had happened to my personality.
In addition to telling other peoples stories, song writing can be an opportunity for self reflection and problem solving. If you are willing to be vulnerable in front of your audience, you can re-trace the steps that brought you to the present and you can even walk yourself through various future scenarios, sketching out all possible outcomes- ALL IN LYRIC. It sounds a lot like therapy doesn’t it? Writing anything is an opportunity to work on yourself and make enormous personal strides all while helping other people put a soundtrack to similar feelings. Music is hands down my coping mechanism for feeling less alone, for taking my power back and for earning respect. I knew the value of my gift even when I was not publicly releasing music and at my absolute lowest, when I had no-one else to call for help, I put my feelings in 15-ish songs purely for survival. 5 of them make up the Heavy Petals EP but this is the only one about my illness.
“A Case Without Warning” is the first one I wrote. It does what I outlined above in retracing the steps of a day of going to the doctor, having blood drawn, growing faint, having my symptoms diminished, my immune system ignored, having to repeat myself several times and after being turned away by two specialists who refused to see me, even at the request of my primary care doctor, who happened to be female. Dr. Baldwin did not give up and I ended up seeing a specialist who was willing to check things further. Upon greeting me he noticed a bulge on my thyroid gland where a person might have an Adam’s Apple. I had been in the office 5 minutes and he said you have an enlarged thyroid (which was blocking my airway btw), and most likely Hashimotos Disease which was confirmed within a week. I had been short of breath when singing for years. Singing live had become more stressful. I had no idea it wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t a wimp. I wasn’t crazy. I was right.
That brings us to two months ago when I started hormone replacement which is totally not a big deal. It’s a pill that I will take for the rest of my life. I am in 75% less pain on a regular basis because the thyroid gland is responsible for sending out all those soothing hormones to the places that need it and I wasn’t getting any. I’m slowly getting my endurance back and my noggin is clearly ticking again. I honestly have so much to say to the world that I started a blog. So there. I am really excited for you to hear this song because I made the production sound like what I imagine a nervous system on fire would sound like which is tangled, desperate, frenetic and filled with the spirit of injustice. Thank you for making it to the end. If you did please let me know. I spent a lot of time on this.