I’m Singing, Just Singing in the Pain

At what point does childhood fear cross over into full fledged paranoia?

I’ve recently been getting a little flack for how much I sing out loud. And I don’t mean when the radio is on in the car, but around the house doing regular, household things. My boyfriend was quick to blame the role that Disney played in my childhood for this, and I laughed and agreed and shrugged it off.

But… I’ve been thinking about it more, particularly at night when I’m walking home from the bus stop and it is dark and silent outside, and I realized that moments like that one remind me of my childhood.

I had a lot of anxiety as a child (though I didn’t know it until a very long time later), and that is one of the places the obsessive compulsive “tendencies” I have really began to flourish.

I wasn’t afraid of the dark, but I was afraid there was something in the dark. And it was always going to “get” me. Sounds perfectly natural for a child, but at what point does that become better described as paranoia? 10 years old? 13 years old? 15 years old?

Anyway, as a kid, the best thing I could think of to combat this fear (which I’m sure was actually passed to me by some character on a show, maybe Grover?) was to sing.

As long as I was singing, I was untouchable.

To a large extent today, singing is an important tool for me.

I mean, I’m no pop star or anything, but even just something a step above a hum seems to help immensely when it comes to facing things like excruciating racing thoughts, delusions, and intense paranoia.

My theory as to why this works is two fold.

First, singing aloud is something that requires confidence. Like I said, it isn’t as if I’m a particularly good singer, but I do it anyhow. Singing requires confidence, singly poorly probably doubly so! The confidence I have to tap into when I sing out loud isn’t allocated to the singing alone, once I’ve tapped into it a little bit of confidence goes a long way.

It takes the edge off the fear.

My thought that this has to do with confidence came from the fact I get some of the same relief from activities like dancing (which, again, requires some degree of confidence) and even doing silly things, like practicing a fashion runway walk. If I can muster enough courage to do any of those things, it will carry me through a dark place of fear into a lighter one.

And second, it gets me out of my head.

Singing aloud requires concentration. If I am actively thinking about hitting notes or what the lyrics are, I am not thinking about how terrified I am. You’d be amazed at how much not dwelling on a specific series of thoughts can help in ignoring the fear.

This is also why I said singing aloud is great for racing thoughts as well.

I think the idea of the mantra (a sacred word or syllable used as an object of concentration or embodiment of spiritual power) acts in something of the same way. By focusing on repeating a word or sound aloud, it frees up your mind from dwelling on many different kinds of thoughts -in this case for activities like meditation and yoga.

My personal version of a mantra is the chicken dance song. I know it might sound a little ludicrous, but when things start to get out of control in my head, I sing that annoying, chicken dance song aloud. It has no lyrics, so really I’m just repeating a set of sounds over and over again, and the result is that I can remove myself from whatever gobledigook is going on in my mind.

Music has always acted as a great outlet for me, and that is one of the biggest reasons I miss having a piano. Having a piano just gave me further excuse to sing aloud, with the added bonus of being able to focus on playing the music myself at the same time.

Anyway, this may seem like a childish notion, but it has really remained relevant through my adult life as well.

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8 responses to “I’m Singing, Just Singing in the Pain

  1. MANagING maNIA

    I think you are genius. I love music as well…and often sign out loud. People would come by my office, and laugh because I had ear buds in and was singing away. I didn’t care. Like you, I knew it helped me focus, got me outside of the nightmare of thoughts that is my head, and (since I usually sing Christian stuff) focused me in on positive, hopeful messages.

    I don’t have to live with you…but I say keep signing. Loud! 😉

  2. Where does one draw the line? That was a really good hook, I wanted to mention.

    I have been wondering lately about these intrusive thoughts that lead me to these compulsions. When I was a child, I had a security object. A little purple bunny that my Pappap bought for me. Well, when you’re a teen, then that’s just inappropriate. So, I started wearing this zodiac pendent. I still wear it today. I’ve just added my family to the chain.

    These little things weren’t causing a problem. But, lately, I find myself obsessing about things. I’m particular about my pens. Where did my pen go? I’ll spend hours looking for it. Losing a pen doesn’t usually bother me. Where did my beads go? I started wearing the same jewelry every day. I started carrying loads of things, because I’m afraid I’m going to forget something, or not have access to something.

    It has become distracting and cumbersome. But, I can’t stop myself.

    I don’t know. I guess we all have to do what makes us feel right. I have been unusually anxious lately, so I guess I am collecting security objects. Hoarding. Things like that. Maybe when the anxiety subsides, I’ll be able to shake this.

    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      As a kid I had a blanket, then a stuffed animal, then rubber boots (and that one stuck all the way up to 6th grade, I still really love them today), jewelry of various kinds… and then I got my first messenger bag, and all hell broke loose.

      I used to carry a crazy amount of stuff in there, I had a geography teacher at one point in high school who needed pliers and I pulled a pair out of my bag like it was nothing!

      I don’t carry anything and everything anymore though, I began to have shoulder problems from carrying around a gazillion pound bag, and the physical pain (as well as my favorite bag finally disintegrating through the bottom) was enough to make me stop.

      But I am extremely picky about my pens as well. I always carry at least two so I don’t have to use the crummy pens at the bank, etc.

      I don’t think I’m in a place where this is holding me back or hurting me, I seem to have found something of a balance. Then again, I could have no idea what I’m talking about…

      • I have about five pens on me, at least. I do carry everything and the kitchen sink. Two bags, one teaching bag, and one purse. Alone, they are not very heavy. Together, well, you know. I’ve been through this before. And yes, I too have had teachers remark on the incredible amount of “stuff” i had on my person.

        I do need most of the things in my teaching bag, since I am a mobile teacher. Although I usually have access to my teaching materials, that’s not a given. I really have a problem when I’m not prepared. The anxiety of being put on the spot is almost unbearable sometimes. Usually, I’m great at improvising. But, I find myself getting stuck in the mud, so to speak. Things are so rigid, and they are so rigid because other things are very uncertain.

        I know I will break myself of this again, but I know some other things in my life are going to have to resolve themselves first. (Things beyond my control. Sad to say, but not everything is in my control, like I wish it could be).

      • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

        Yeah, I can’t imagine the sort of pressure you’re under when you’re put on the spot as a teacher… I’d be carrying a huge bag of tricks too!

      • Ha! You made a good underlying point there. Sometimes, it really is like being a magician!

  3. Pingback: Circling America to Block Intrusive Thoughts | bi[polar] curious

  4. Can you tell us more about this? I’d love to find out some additional information.

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