B has been having a tough time of late in music therapy. I think it’s a combination of holidays and feeling safe enough with me (after ten years) to start dealing with his feelings. He’s been so down-hearted and angry in his sessions.
This afternoon he came to music therapy with God-only-knows-what all over his hands and face. I set about polishing him up a bit (we have Sani-Wipes or something in the Music Room), because he was starting to rub whatever it was off onto me and because I knew he’d want to use the instruments (if only for target practice).
We use different instruments, which we’ve designated to express specific feelings, so he can give me an idea of what’s up for him (since he doesn’t use speech). The tubular shaker is used to say “I’m okay today” (interestingly, he almost never picks up this instrument), the maracas tell me “I’m frustrated/angry,” the cabasa is for “I’m feeling sad/disappointed,” and the tambourine is for “I’m uncertain/anxious/scared.” It’s not the best idea in the world, because it has occurred to me a number of times that these particular instruments may not (for B) express the feelings we’ve designated for them, but it’s at least a way to get started and to give him a voice.
We’ve used this system for quite a while now, so he’s pretty much got the hang of it, I think. Lately he has been alternating between choosing the cabasa and the maracas. What he usually does is pick up the instrument he chooses to let me know how he’s feeling at a given moment and then hurls it across the room. Well, let’s just say there was a lot of instrument hurling going on today, and my initial inclination was to respond in frustration and anger myself. I mean, I don’t like having to worry that a cabasa is going to hit me in the head or that the instruments are going to break.
I heard myself starting to get preachy and into lecture mode after the fifth or sixth time the maraca was sent skidding across the floor (“You do not need to throw the instruments around to let me know how you’re feeling. You can hand them to me, please- or just put them back down next to you.”). For some reason I stopped myself and I said, “you know, B...I think you might be trying to tell me you’re in a lot of emotional pain, and you don’t know how else to help me understand.” He looked my way (he’d been avoiding eye-contact with me since we’d arrived in the Music Room). Sigh. It’s so hard to be in the part of therapy where all your feelings are right there in your face and making you ache a lot.
We had about five minutes before it was time for us to head back to his cottage. Here’s how the last few minutes went:
B: Made a very small quiet sound.
Roia: I wonder what it’s like for you to be here in the Music Room and actually hear yourself (and to have me hear your voice). I know it’s usually pretty loud in your cottage, so I can’t imagine that people really hear your voice very often.
B: Threw the mallet across the floor.
Roia: Maybe throwing the instruments around is a way to make sure you have some sort of an impact- especially since it’s hard for you to be heard most of the time. We’re going to need to end- is there anything else?
B: Made a silent screaming sound with his lips closed.
Roia: Your sound just now made me think of a line from the song “I Will Remember You”: “We are screaming inside, though we can’t be heard.”
B: Listened quietly and then made his sound again.
Roia: Interesting that that particular song should come to my mind, given that it’s about wanting to be remembered, and we were just talking about the wish to have an impact. Maybe that’s an important song for us to think about together next time. (I noticed his shoe was untied and we were about to walk outside in the rain.) Can I tie your shoe?
B: Stopped moving his foot and allowed me to tie his shoe.
Roia: You seem to need a lot of mothering today. (I referred to the washing up I’d had to do when we got there and to a zipping up by his staff person and now the shoe tying.)
B: Sat quietly.
He decided we would not be singing “Goodbye” and we walked back to the cottage in the rain. When I got back to the Music Room after dropping him off I wanted to read the words to “I Will Remember You” (Copyright 1995, Sarah McLachlan, Seamus Egan, and Dave Merenda).
I am, as always, amazed by the power of the songs that unexpectedly come to mind while I work. Here’s a part of the verse I quoted to him that I hadn’t consciously recalled during our session:
“I’m so tired, but I can’t sleep.
Standing on the edge of something much too deep.
It’s funny how I feel so much but I cannot say a word
We are screaming inside or we can’t be heard.”
“So afraid to love you, more afraid to lose.
Clinging to a past that doesn’t let me choose.”
Wow. Just...wow. Talk about finding ways to communicate. Yet again I behold the power of music.