That Day I Was Scared to Hell and Music Saved Me
An experience of music and mindfulness to relieve anxiety
The room was white and cold. Slightly impersonal. It felt like the interior of a spatial hub with astronauts moving around in slow motion. I was lying there, naked and nauseous. They were busy prepping their tools, reviewing checklists, and controlling sophisticated machines.
They were adorable to me, asking how they could make me more comfortable every two minutes. I still felt like a piece of meat. A disembodied thing they were going to fix. My participation in their party wasn’t much needed.
All night, I had been pondering what kind of music would help to travel through this moment. Punk rock to cover all sorts of eerie noises or pop cheesy ballads to steady my nerves?
I had been in the O.R. many times before but never awake. Never in full consciousness. Thus I was scared to hell. Alone in their crowd.
In the end, I picked Coldplay. I lined up three albums in a playlist opening on the meditative Ghost Stories and hit play a second before they rolled me in the room.
Coldplay always comes in handy in my life. I have teamed up with them in most up and downs of my adulthood. To reduce stress when I used to play tennis, including that one match leading to a bronze medal at Beijing Paralympics. To cope with a few heartbreaks like many other disillusioned lovers. To waste countless in-flight hours transporting me to whatever lonely place in the world. To soothe my daughters’ fears at bedtime.
A consistent choice then, but weird in its own way. It is indeed absurd to believe in Chris Martin’s ability to fight the place’s heavy noises. That’s much beyond his reach. And I quickly lost track of his hovering vocals.
I felt like Alice in Wonderland, walking in a separate dimension where I only existed inside the music sheet.
Indeed, it was not a question of noise but a matter of sensation. It was about embracing the disturbing experience of hands opening up and working inside my body without pain. I had to gather my inner self not to vomit at the extracorporeal circulatory unit’s sight or at the smell of fried pigs coming from the other side of the surgical sheets.
That’s when I switched from Chris to Guy. I started walking on a bottom route hidden behind the chords and all the shallow tricks we usually click on when listening to pop music.
I tried to remember how to breathe. I was floating, fully aware of everything happening around me, but in another world where one can endure the feeling of being pitched a tent on their back.
I had landed somewhere over the lyrics, resting and steadying myself on the bass line. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, walking in a separate dimension where I only existed inside the music sheet.
I was alone in a peaceful light night, lying in the fresh grass of a stadium field, listening to a Guy Berryman solo gig. Other band members could be hiding somewhere else in the dark. I wouldn’t know. Nor cared. He was carrying me through the moment as if nothing wrong could happen to me. Sort of saying, I have your back. Don’t worry. You’re enough. You’re safe. You’re sane.
I awoke halfway through Viva La Vida in the hiatus of 42, one of my favorite tracks. I was in the post-surgery watch room. All fixed!
How did this happen? I don’t know. It just happened. My mental training experience and the visualization techniques I learned as a tennis player undoubtedly helped.
Thanks to regular and previous practice, I knew the magical powers of meditation. How it improves your capacity to face your own self and emotions. How it enhances your confidence in yourself and in the world around you. How it empowers your ability to push your boundaries and reach new heights. How it makes you see joy when it’s dark. How it releases streams of tears when you can’t sleep.
As an athlete and a disabled person, I have long understood how diving into music’s deep ends helps reach the Wall of Pain’s other side. Most times, when pain and fears erect impenetrable fences, music transforms into a vessel. My rocket ship!