My life has always had a soundtrack. Music has the power to change my mood, evoke memories and inspire me.
I have a diagnosis of atypical schizophrenia and an Autism Spectrum Condition. I have an intense creativity coupled with a lot of fear and confusion and sadness. The first 25 years of my life were horrendous. Abuse and bullying were the norm for me. I got involved with some dangerous people when I was in my twenties and spent time in prison. At the age of 26 I decided my life needed to change and started on the journey to who I am now – an author, artist, disability advocate and professional employee.
My top seven songs for managing a day in my amazing but difficult life are:
Mozart’s Requiem. The may seem a depressing choice but it isn’t. To me it is a sublime and beautiful piece of music. It has been in my knowledge since I was 13 and first saw the Amadeus movie. It was the first CD I bought when I moved out of home. I see it as perfection crystallised in music. Listening to it helps me to contact the divine within me and know I can get through life.
Life’s for the living by Passenger. This song has become the song I play when I’m flying – which I do a lot but always find scary. It gives me something to focus on rather than my fear. I now associate the song with feeling safe and in control. I can also listen to it when I’m not 20,000 feet in the sky and it has the same effect. The song says to me that we are here on this Earth once and we should make the most of it, whatever obstacles are in our way.
The Internationale by Billy Bragg. I am not a far left activist but I used to be. The Internationale was sung at the conferences of the socialist organisation I belonged to as a teenager. I see it as optimistic and positive in the face of difficult odds. I most definitely do NOT want a socialist revolution now but do enjoy a trip down memory lane to a time when I had purpose and certainty.
The Midnight Special. This is a song about being in prison and missing all the people in the outside world. I spent three years in prison when I was in my early twenties. I also spent some time in the forensic psychiatric ward. Once, one of the nurses brought along his guitar and we had a sing along. When we sang The Midnight Special it was just beautiful. I was transported to a different place in my mind. I love the song to this day because it reminds me that whatever is going on in life there is always beauty and you are never really trapped if your mind is free.
Brandenburg concerto by JS Bach. My friend Penny and I went to an exhibition at the National Museum which included a video of a performance by a chamber orchestra. Penny wanted to hear the Brandenburg Concerto because she used to play it on her violin. Penny is an incredibly positive and supportive person so now I associate this piece of Baroque music with her.
California Dreaming by The Mamas and the Papas. This is another song which evokes memories of a happier and less complicated time in my life. When I was in my final year of high school my fellow students and I got into listening to a lot of rather eclectic music, including California Dreaming. I did an art course for my final year so the kids were mostly a bit odd and quirky like me. It was the only year of school where I felt I had friends. I was top of the year too and really enjoyed the course. It is always nice to be taken back to that time through song because it was before my illness started and before I became involved with the ‘wrong’ peer group and what came with that.
All that you have is your soul by Tracy Chapman. I gave an interview on ABC Radio a while back and the presenter asked me what music I would like played after my interview. Without hesitation I said All that you have is your soul by Tracy Chapman. It is a bit of an anthem of my life, albeit a rather gentle one. It tells the story of a woman who has lived a hard life but come out of it wise, strong and insightful. I see the character in the song as being like me. It reminds me that there is always hope and that adversity and trouble can teach wisdom and insight.