Friday, May 1, 2009

Sick and tired

Lately I've noticed myself absolutely dragging through my sessions with a group of guys I've been working with for a long time. There are five men in the crew, and they range in age from their late 40s to mid 60s. None of them use speech to communicate.

Now, what you need to know about this group is that, when we started to work together (it's got to be almost 15 years now) they were horrible. No. Really. Horrible. They'd all take turns throwing their hands in their pants and were merciless in their teasing. They'd vocalize so frequently and so loudly I couldn't get a sound in edgewise.

I used to leave their sessions in tears. Sometimes I didn't even make it to the end of the session before I found myself about to bawl in frustration.

What finally helped?

Well, after I spent a long time (a. very. long. time.) singing about what they were doing- and nothing seemed to change ever- I asked them one day if maybe they felt as if they were being tormented and teased in their lives and wanted me to understand how powerless and futile they were feeling about it.

The usually noisy group was suddenly silent.


That moment changed everything. From that day on we were a music therapy group.

We slowly worked up to being able to use the music so the guys could express their hopelessness and rage, and I was able to help them contain and frame the feelings within the music.

These gentlemen have become "the teaching group" when I have music therapy students from the local university. They take their role as teachers very seriously, and together we've taught our practicum students a lot about building relationships, paying attention, and how people who don't use speech and have trouble playing instruments use music.

But, as I said (way back when I started to write), lately I find myself experiencing this heavy, leaden feeling in the group.

The other thing to know is that, of the five guys, four of them have had some serious health issues in the past month or so- pneumonia, the need for a colonoscopy, unexplained weightloss, repeatedly falling (leading to cracking of one's head)- not good stuff.

I sat with them on Monday, wondering why I was suddenly feeling like I needed to take a nap. R accepted the tambourine I offered, apparently only to toss it unceremoniously to the side and look at me. Thanks.

A thought that came to me was: they feel sick and I feel tired. Hmm. I wonder if they might be feeling sick and tired...

They'd all been dozing off or watching me quietly.

I started to improvize the "I'm feeling so sick and tired" blues. I invited them to find a way to let me know if this made any sense to them. If this might be how they were feeling.

They sang with me. Boy, did they sing with me.

Poor guys.

If you think of it, send along some good vibes their way.


music business said...

that's pretty interesting story..

Jeff Deutsch said...

Hello Roia,

Excellent point - sometimes (not always, but sometimes) tormenters feel tormented themselves. For example, tyrannical bosses may be afraid of losing their jobs, so they put the heat on you.

And I know music can be an excellent way of expressing feelings. As an Aspie, I have great difficulty using it that way myself (as sender or recipient), but I know it helps others very much.

Keep up the good work, Roia!

Jeff Deutsch

Roia said...

Thanks for the comments.

Jeff, I find it so interesting that you say you find yourself unable to make use of music in an expressive way (or, I guess, to interpret music?).

If you have time (or the inclination), I'd love to understand this better. I mean, I get that being Aspie makes it hard to interpret things on a social level, but you certainly don't seem to be devoid of emotion.

Hm. I'll have to think more on this. Thanks!

Jeff Deutsch said...

Hello Roia,

Thank you for your patience. I've blogged about this here.


Jeff Deutsch

Roia said...

Hey again, Jeff,
Thank YOU for taking the time to blog about it. I'll wander over to your blog and comment there.