Let the Notes Take the Pain Away

Imagine, you are driving down the expressway in morning rush hour traffic. The red lights from the cars in front of you glaring at your bloodshot eyes after a night on Prednisone. The rising sun is reflecting in the rearview mirror and you are late for a meeting. The music station is tuned to your favorite morning show or to the song that you have on constant replay. This was my morning commute down I-20 for 8 years.

Stress on the road

One morning, while traveling down I-20 on my way to the Fulton County Justice Center, I experienced a stressful event. During my commute, I saw a late model car in front of me weaving in and out the lane. My partner, who was in my passenger seat, called the police. I could feel my heart beat faster as I watched the vehicle hit the back of another vehicle. As the weaving car moved in reverse, I could see that the man inside was passed out. I immediately pulled over to the emergency lane on the left. The weaving car then rolled towards me just missing my car. After I gave my statement to the police, I went to work. My stress level was certainly high. My heart still racing, and my adrenaline pumping. I needed to find a way to relax because I know stress can lead to a flare. So turned on a tune and I was fine.

Understanding my limits with lupus

My position in Judge Brenda Cole’s chamber was a stressful job, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Judicial clerkships are coveted positions after law school. Being able to read, write, and analyze are three of my past time and assignment. To go to work daily was a dream come true; securing justice was the icing on the cake. I really wanted to do my best for Judge Cole. I worked late and took work home. I always worked within hard deadlines. I tried to be respectful to the parties as much as I could. All of this could not come without a little stress, but every job comes with stress. It's how I dealt with stress that made my survival possible.

Discovering music and how it helps with stress

Stress was not an emotion one would find in Judge Cole’s chamber. So, take note of my suggestions and I talk to you about working with lupus. Walking into Judge Cole’s chamber meant hearing classical music, opera, jazz in my office or her office. Judge Cole sang in a choir. Sometimes I would turn off my music to listen to her preparing for an engagement or just singing because life is good. Our case manager, Joann, often had music playing as well from the local public radio station.

Music has had a great impact on my mental health. Whether I am singing in the shower or listening to music while cooking, then I find that the music takes all of the complications of the day to disappear. I do the same on the drive to and from work because music helps me forget that I am sitting in traffic. When I am walking along a path at my local nature preserve, the music helps make the time go by. Now if only I can find a way to listen to music while I swim.

I found that music improved my work performance. My reading comprehension improved as a read through journal articles or case law. My ability to look at the facts and pictures felt more like a game than work because I had the music in the background. On the other hand, the absence of music made it more difficult to produce. If I think about my life in working for a private entity, my work diminished and my stress level increased because I did not always have music to drown out the noise from a busy office or the words of a senior partner drilling facts into my head.

Music can be used to drown anything, including the conditions that come with lupus-related tinnitus. Recently, I was diagnosed with tinnitus. The doctor’s best recommendation is to find a distraction, like music, so that the condition is easier to live with. So, my lupus family, turn on your favorite music piece, drink a virgin cocktail, and let the melody take you anywhere you want to go.

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