Finding Comfort in Music
Last updated: May 2022
"You told me once I have a rebel heart...I don't know if that's true" -First Aid Kit
Music can be therapeutic
As I've written in a previous article, I've always felt a deep connection to music. It has greatly and invariably helped me by feeling less lonely, less alone, more hopeful, more joyful, more inspired, and more connected to others, life, and myself.
I think there are periods in a person's life when he/she/they feel completely overwhelmed with RA, or any chronic disease, and struggle to hold onto what makes them a "normal" human being. RA can twist and snatch away at our identity, distorting how we think, act, and feel about ourselves living in a constant state of illness. It's easy for the disease to distort one's identity into that of a sick, damaged, weak person who no longer fits into society and the world as other people do.
I'm not the same person I was before RA
Many other people with RA would probably argue adamantly, no, RA is NOT my identity. It's not who I am as a person. I am one of those people, or at least I claim to be. I don't want RA and illness to be who I am as a person. I don't want to be different, weaker, or less of a human than healthy, able-bodied people. Why would I, of course? And while I try and fight very hard to make sure this isn't the case, I must admit that I'm not the same person I was before I got RA, nor will I ever be.
Living with rheumatoid arthritis is and always has been a constant and unbelievably difficult BATTLE. It's a fight that never ends because it's a disease (with no cure) that never ends. Some people get extremely lucky (is it luck?) and go into remission, but that has never been the case for me despite years of hoping and praying. RA is indeed my identity, or at least a huge part of it, despite wishing I could live life pretending that I didn't have it (this doesn't work, by the way).
My connection to music
So what does this have to do with music? I love music for many reasons: it's fun, it's an escape, it inspires, it motivates, it tells stories, it teaches, it makes you feel, and it touches your soul in some mysterious, magical way.
I believe it can be the ultimate connector, similar to books, poems, and films, reaching that deeply buried little burning spot inside you that is the raw truth of who you are—the "you" that is forever unchanging, unwavering, and never ages or dies. RA often makes me feel like that part of myself has died or that it's drowned so deeply that there's little chance of touching it again. But one thing that does touch and finds it again is music.
Finding a song I can relate to
A special new person in my life, also a music/book/film lover, played the song "Rebel Heart" by First Aid Kit for me one night as we sat together in quiet darkness, the room illuminated by a single warm, orange, glowing globe of light. As soon as I heard the women's voices earnestly harmonizing in a minor key, filled with emotion and longing, the lyrics immediately resonated and swam straight into my soul. "Oh, I love this," I said. "Play it again, please!" And I have played it since then, again and again.
"You told me once I have a rebel heart
I don't know if that's true
But I believe you saw something in me that lives inside you too"
What does it mean to have a "rebel heart?"
Do I have a "rebel" heart, especially living with this hell-on-earth disease that constantly threatens to ruin everything I love and care about? Yes, I think I do. I often feel weak, and my body does not cooperate and behave the way I wish it to, but I know I'm a strong and resilient person. Since age 18, I have not accepted defeat but have clawed and fought for things I want in life, despite being knocked down over and over again by physical and emotional pain.
Fighting to stay true to myself while living with a chronic painful disease and everything it entails (which is a never-ending rollercoaster ride) is a "rebel move," I would argue. But simply having an autoimmune disease and RA is rebellious in itself. Those of us with RA are not like everyone else. We're rebels, we're outsiders, and we don't fit into the mold of our families, relationships, workplaces, and society in general. We're forced to have rebel hearts, and despite often wanting to be like everyone else, I think this is a good thing.
"Tell me why do I keep trying
To be someone I'll never be
I keep seeing her in everyone
Everyone but me"
If you're interested, I hope you'll take the time and effort to listen to the song (hopefully more than once!) by First Aid Kit and that this music will touch your heart as it has mine. We may have rebel hearts, but we're not alone. We're rebels together, in a fight to awaken our hearts and minds to the spirit, love, and potential that's always been within us.
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