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Oct09

If music be the food of love, play on . . .

Thursday, 09 October 2014 Written by // Christian Dolan Categories // Arts and Entertainment, Gay Men, Music, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Christian Dolan, Population Specific

Christian Dolan asks “Have you ever listened to a song and it reminds you of a time or place, perhaps of a holiday or a special occasion?” And what's HIV got to do with it?

If music be the food of love, play on . . .

I listen to music daily - when I get up in the morning, when I go for a run, at the gym, on my way to work (when I'm not cycling that is). It constitutes full-time background noise for me and is on whenever the TV is not. 

I am a big lover of music. When I listen to a song, artist or album it takes me back to a certain place. For example, when I hear the Red Hot Chili Peppers "Californication" album it brings me back to camp as a 10 year-old boy along the south coast of England.

I could go on all day naming songs and artists and what they remind me of - ex partners, family holidays, nights out in town with mates, the list is endless.

I tend to listen to music depending on my mood and the moment I'm in. If I'm getting ready for a night out then it's usually something upbeat with a deep bass, or if I'm relaxing it's something more chilled, I'm a big fan of movie scores and like to chill out in the evenings or whilst doing work playing a long playlist of Hans Zimmer's (genius) work.

One thing I remember however, something which stands out the most, is the song I was listening to when I found out I was HIV-positive and the songs I played to get me through the depression and suicidal thoughts that came along afterwards. Music is a powerful  art form and can play a massive impact on people's thoughts and well being, after all.

As I mentioned in a previous article, I watched the 1993 movie Philadelphia a mere few weeks after my diagnosis. I knew of Bruce Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia" from my childhood as my brother is a big fan of his and played his albums regularly, however it wasn't until I listened to it after watching Philadelphia and after months of therapy that it took on a whole new meaning for me.

The opening lyrics perfectly described how I felt during those troubled months, the song, looking back painted a perfect picture of my emotions but yet I felt at peace when I played it. It was as though someone else knew exactly what I was going through and I wasn't alone somehow.

"I was bruised and battered, I couldn't tell what I felt.
I was unrecognizable to myself.
Saw my reflection in a window and didn't know my own face.
Oh brother are you gonna leave me wastin' away
On the streets of Philadelphia."

When I couldn't (or felt that I couldn't) talk to anyone, music was my escape, my way out, it kept my sanity, what little left there was of it anyway.

Still to this day I play it and I realise how thankful I am for that experience. Although I was on the brink of taking my life, walking away from those who were doing their best to support me, with me being ignorant to it all and feeling entirely hopeless, the song somehow helped pulled me through.

Music can be a great source of therapy for a number of reasons. It can relax us, excite us and even drive us crazy. However it can also be a powerful tool which can enable us to keep on going.

Marathon runners will know that when they have a playlist thumping in their ears it's the beat that will keep them going until the end, and motivates right to the finish line. (Funnily enough, Springsteens "Born to Run" is a brilliant track to run to!)

That's my message in this article, that when you feel like you can't go on, find a song that brings you to a good place and just take a few minutes as you listen to it to remember you can do it, not just the fight of living with HIV but anything.

Any time you are completing a task and have hit a wall, find your song, your moment, your inner happy thought and remember that anything, if you put your mind to it, is possible.

As Shakespeare rightly put it "If music be the food of love, play on".

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