Helping Soldiers with PTSD through Music


As you know, a few days ago I set up a new Facebook page called Musicians with Cancer and other Maladies. It is about people helping other people. Today I came across a group that help soldiers with PTSD by using songwriting to express themselves and tell their stories in a trust environment, which is helping a lot of people, even those who are not musical themselves, or don’t realise they are.

Several years ago I wrote a song called Another Stretch in Iraq. You can hear a demo on my Reverbnation page. It was motivated by a newspaper story of a service woman who came home looking for some love and normality only to find that her man had left her for another woman. A common story sadly.

I joined a military blogging (milblogging) site and spent a good year or so talking to military personnel, mostly serving overseas at the time to get a feel (as much as that is possible, given that family members who served almost never spoke about their experiences when a civilian was present).

They trusted me and I learned a lot about their lives, their hopes, their agonies in losing brothers and sisters, general life and the isolation from their families where their fellow soldiers in fact became their families such that many could not and still can not adjust to civilian life without their brothers and sisters from he service.

When I was in Orlando some years ago, I played a couple of sets at a biker-friendly bar in Longwood and my song Another Stretch in Iraq was one of the songs I played with some great backing from the house band. I wish I had taken some photos because it was the classic bar with 30 Harley’s in a neat row out front, sawdust on the floor, the sort of place that Kiwis only see on movies and TV shows and that the cab driver thought I had no place being until he saw the friendly bear hug greeting I got from the woman who ran it.

After finishing the song a group of 6-foot something burly men came up to the stage. The biggest of them all came up to me with tears in his eyes and I thought I was about to become roadkill. He and his friends looked me in the eye and then he shook my hand and said I took him right back to the theatre at Desert Storm. He re enlisted twice and his son had just left for Iraq a week ago.

It was so rewarding to me that I had captured the emotions and environment with integrity and that the song gave them some comfort. I haven’t worked harder on a song and would love to record it professionally. It is on Reverbnation as a free download and is also on a couple of sites of free MP3 downloads that is made available to all serving US military.

Back to the Facebook page. There are thousands of returned servicemen in dozens of countries who suffer from PTSD. They come from all walks of life and many of them play musical instruments, or used to. Many of them can no longer motivate themselves and need a hand. Some of them join groups like the one in the video above. Many will not join groups, either because they can’t or won’t ask for help, because they don’t want to appear weak, or because they are still in service and don’t want to jeopardise their careers by showing weakness.

The concepts in this Facebook page mean that all they have to do is talk to a few friends and family that they are close to and trust. Then all they need to do is ask for a little encouragement, it’s as simple as that. For those who wish to or are able to contribute stories, I am hoping they will join the Facebook Group because it can only grow and flourish if they know about it.

I’m hoping that if you know people like that, you will share this post or the link with them so that they can be made aware that help is available and whilst it is not easy as it sounds, with a little help from their friends it can happen.

As John Lee Hooker and my idol Carlos Santana sang, Blues is a Healer. It heals those who play it as much as those who listen to it. If you can help someone pick up their instrument, or raise their voice and break the silence, you can have a profound influence on people’s lives and it can be as simple as my mate Rob sending me a TXT message saying “pick that gat up and play for 10 minutes man.”

If you know of anyone that could benefit, please share the Facebook group with them and perhaps join us yourself. My thanks on their behalf.

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A Cancer Meltdown


So a couple of weeks ago I felt like things were going OK. I had my cool car and whilst I was feeling really fatigued, I was coping. Then a pile of little things got the better of me. I was late with my tax (which I hate doing, because I normally do that at the end of the calendar year, when I was doing 8 weeks of radiation therapy and was too tired any other time. I’m between test results, so anxious about what the next result will be. My arm is really sore after taking the splint off my wrist from a thumb strain (which impacts on everything from using a mouse to playing guitar. Super busy at work and a number of other things, nothing that would be beyond the norm for any of us in isolation.

20160503_161554.jpgI had words with my wife, something that is very rare and after she left the music room, I lost the plot. I picked up my office chair and flung it at the floor breaking the base and ripping the carpet.

This was not good for our relationship and the following night I was away on business, which was probably s good thing to allow us to both cool down. It was totally on me and something I haven’t done since I was a teenager. I do not have an anger problem, it’s just one of the many emotions that you go through with grief and with cancer. Some people cry a lot (I only get emotional like that when giving speeches at weddings or when I’m watching an awesome concert). I might get slightly bloodshot in the eye when I’m passionate about something, but again that is when I’m happy.

So the following night I found myself in a hotel in Wellington after a 4:20AM start and a long working day. I sat in my hotel room looking out the window and pondering the meaning of life from about 5-7:00, went to bed. No dinner, no TV, a few SMS’s with my wife and slept for about 11 hours.

Bottom line, I really needed to let off steam. But I wasn’t finished and this is the good part. Right through summer when I usually write and play a lot of music, play a few gigs,  I couldn’t play, I had lost my mojo. Well after this exercise I got it back and over the last couple of weeks have written the backbone of a new song, which was the catharsis I needed.

Here’s what I’ve got  so far. It’s a country song, I really like country as a genre for telling stories. I hope to fine tune it enough over the next few week to start recording it, because I like the song as a song, not just a form of letting off steam.

If I Could Turn The Tables

Verse 1

If I could turn the tables I’d un-throw the chair that I just smashed

I’d un-rip the carpet that it tore when it flew down and crashed

Sometimes I feel that I can take no more, sometimes I derail from my track

I’ve got to get this cancer in control and find my way back.

Verse 2

If I could turn the tables I’d unsay the words that I just said

I’d turn down the volume of the voices that keep crashing through my head

Sometimes I feel like I’m OK, then the doubts start to shiver down my back

I’ve got to climb out of this hole and find my way back.

Chorus

Positivity is the frame of mind I ought to be in all the time

Everyone is nice and they want to give advice

Of a treatment they’ve heard of on the vine

Verse 3

I’ve got a lot to live for and each day I add on to my bucket list

I have great friends and family, there are special dates that I don’t want to miss

Sometimes I just want to cry, sometimes I wonder what its like to die

Then I think of those I’d leave behind and find my way back

Bridge

Every day’s a gift

Every day’s a steal

You can’t be the driver

Unless you take the wheel

Take the wheel

Chorus

Positivity is the frame of mind I ought to be in all the time

Everyone is nice and they want to give advice

Of a treatment they’ve heard of on the vine

Repeat Verse 1

If I could turn the tables I’d un-throw the chair that I just smashed

I’d un-rip the carpet that it tore when it flew down and crashed

Sometimes I feel that I can take no more, sometimes I derail from my track

I’ve got to get this cancer in control and find my way back.

-I’ll share a link once I’ve recorded it. It’s great to be back in writing mode and I hope I stay there. I’ve missed writing songs (other than my Pi project). I feel so much better having transferred my emotions into music.

I’ve been wanting to write songs about cancer to share, which might also help other people, be they the patients or friends and supporters. I have one other that I wrote but haven’t recorded yet, it’s more of a soul/reggae number which I wrote about losing my father in-law (also to cancer), but I thought I’d like to do a few covering different aspects.

Anyway, that’s me. Now I have to transcribe the song and publish it. If you’re still here, thanks for coming  on my journey with me.

 

Prostate Cancer Radiation Day 11


carparkI was sitting in the car park having finally remembered both my water and my star chart on the same day (I have today off!) for my 11th day of external beam radiation treatment and I was thinking, ‘why can’t they just use a light sabre, there seem to be an awful lot of them around this year’. I’m not sure I’d want to DIY though, I might lose more of my anatomy than intended.

It is now becoming pretty routine. Sign in, confirm my appointment for tomorrow. Do I still want my nurse’s appointment? Yes because the odd little side effect is starting to show and I want to discuss them. I now have some sample sachets of Ural which may help improve my flow, so I don’t have to stand there reading my emails while I wait, despite my bladder telling me I’m busting. Makes me wonder if the guy standing next to me adjusting his tie also has prostate cancer. I didn’t want to turn around and ask in case the Ural suddenly started working!

I started off listening to audio books on the way in, that was my plan, but I found that I was thinking so much that I couldn’t remember what I’d heard so the quantum physics and cosmic strings of big data as applied to Sociology 301 might have to wait until later in the day.

Maybe it’s the lack of coffee at 6 in the morning. A diuretic is not a good look when you’re trying to arrive and hang on to a semi full bladder.

Now it’s Spotify. I listen to new music Tuesday in the car until new music Friday comes along, in between I listen to starred and radio likes from starred. If you use Spotify, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

XmasOff downstairs, clothes off, lava lava on, clothes in the bag, bag on a shelf and look; they have Christmas decorations. I must thank them for making the effort. When I go in on Sunday, so do they. The little things matter.

I get to the circle of chairs around the table in the waiting lounge and greet my fellow travelers, all on our different crusades, fighting off evil unwanted invaders.

I’ve noticed something about the discussion today. There isn’t much. One of the patients has his wife with him for support. That stops people asking questions about urine flows and side effects, like the guy with throat cancer who can’t taste or smell. Fortunately for him that isn’t permanent.

There is definitely  a gender element to cancer chat. I am sure that when a group of women are together here on their own, they will be just as frank and open as our groups of men are when we are on our own. But neither group wants to talk about the side effects, the after effects or the fears they are burdened with in a mixed group.

I still find it a little daunting talking to the nurses and radiotherapists about what’s happening. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining and my natural answer when anyone asks me how I am is to reply with “great!” And when I give them a big grin (as much as anyone gets a big grin from me) I get a little rush of endorphin’s and feel better anyway. What they want to know is of course, do you have any problems that we need to know about; because we do need to know.

So today I slept in which was great, except that I woke up at 2AM with a mind full of work and other things, so I took half a sleeping pill and woke up again around 8.

CaptureI’m definitely starting to get tired. I had the house to myself last night and straight after dinner I went to my music room. I picked up my beautiful old Takamine and my arms were like lead and so was my brain. After 15 minutes I decided that wasn’t happening. I’m working on some old and new material and really wanted to get into it, especially after attending an early show of The Lady Killers on Thursday night, who were awesome as usual. I would have taken a photo, but Jackie made a comment to the guy in row one being able to look straight up her nose, well I was in row 2 and would have got her epiglottis or tonsils (if she still has them).

We agreed that next time we go to Q Theater to go for row 4! These ladies are great medicine I have to say. If you get a chance, go see them (they appear to be avoiding family Christmases by gigging almost every night) they are fantastic and their commitment to every performance is as if it is the most important one they will ever do. Their talent is amazing and the strength in their voices remains as good or better than ever.

Anyway, I have anther blog to write before engaging in some quality family time and then home, early to bed for a Sunday visit for some more photons. At least the worst of the traffic is over for the year, so tomorrow I can sleep in till 6:)

If you’re still hear, I have had amazing support from friends, family, my social network and I am very grateful for it. I am also delighted that some of you have decided to get prostate tests, or other lumps that you think are nothing. One of the guys I chat with in the morning had a little lump on his throat that grew and his doctor told him not to worry about it. I lost a dear friend a few years ago who had a little lump on his face. It took his life.

I welcome your comments on my blog and when it comes to Christmas and presents, the best present of all (except for new guitars and a Corvette) is just being there and I really appreciate those of you who have been there for me. I’m also feeling for other friends at the moment who have much worse troubles than I do. It’s all relative. Do something nice for someone today, give them a smile, a hug, let them know you care. It costs nothing.