Inspired by Mental Health Awareness Week, one of our own writers talks of how Nightmares on Wax has helped calm his anxiety.
Every time I found myself in one of those conversations about your greatest fears, whilst everyone else was saying castration, loneliness, women, spiders and spider-women I would always say madness, despite the uneasy silence it created afterwards. My thinking was that if you’re going to have a deep discussion, telling the truth is the best starting point.
My reason for having this fear was because as I’d grown up, I’d noticed how my mind functioned compared to others. With a sizeable affliction of attention deficit and a wholly ‘wired’ demeanour, I could never switch off. I was tested for Dyslexia long after I’d left university and found positive but it was also noted that my unconscious processing was way above average and my mind constantly made connections and conclusions in a scattered machine gun fashion whether it was evident or relevant or not.
This was helpful in some degree as it I was consequently quick witted and prolifically creative; but I felt like a computer which constantly processed information without request and it was this internal buffering that made it impossible to use the calculator or play minesweeper without it crashing. My observation in real life being that people found me fascinating to speak to but consequently exhausting after a very short space of time.
“I’d noticed how my mind functioned compared to others”
That being the background to where I found myself several years ago in debt with worryingly ill relatives and a break-up which severely undermined my confidence. At the time I was working one of those battery hen style temp jobs where you were figuratively plugged into your desk. I would occasionally sneak out and sit on the steps near the fire exit to try and let my ‘wired’ and frustrated brain simmer down.
However, one afternoon, it was as if something flicked a switch which spawned some sort of singularity in my chest. As I quivered slightly unbeknownst to my colleagues, my heart rate paraded its top speed. It was like a black hole of anxiety had formed by my adrenal gland sucking up any other sensation and smothering it.
In the past my method for keeping my psyche under control was a form of angry chastisement. One of lip biting, stress swallowing determination where I rode the wave until it passed and tried to harness the energy into music, dancing, arguing or some such activity. But that didn’t work on this occasion as it just fuelled the tension and exacerbated the feeling.
“It was as if something had flicked a switch”
After several weeks of denying it to myself I realised I’d started experiencing panic attacks. Completely unexpected possibly due to a self perpetuated arrogance because if I’d thought about my life up to that point it was blindingly obvious it was a danger given how my mind functioned. Eventually I learned techniques to deal with it, the main thought I tried to foster in my mind was that it wouldn’t kill me and after twenty minutes it would all be over. After that I gave it no deliberate attention as I concluded this would make it worse. “Analyse it afterwards” I used to think as I came to view it as a sort of sub-conscious tantrum which would abate quicker if I ignored it.
But naturally one way I decided to try and submerge it was with music. Being a very
vocal and discursive person I delved into my lyric heavy collection to try and channel the feelings into some catharsis hoping it would vent it but nothing seemed to work. Then I discovered I still had a copy of Nightmares on Wax still on my iPod which I’d forgotten about. So switching from Jarvis Cockers Running the World which I loved but just made
me even more angry, I selected Carboot Soul and slid into my seat as Les Nuits started.
There’s something brilliantly in-between about the tracks on this album which sit somewhere on the fence astride ambience and soul. The opening bars were like an agitation swamping tsunami of soulful vibrations and I recalled how much I used to love the album. I’m uncertain if perhaps the tunes touched on one of those Beta or Delta waves or something else named after a greek letter but it reminded me of listening to YouTube 7 hours and 24 minutes of vacuum cleaner sounds I played when I had insomnia.
“The opening bars were like an agitation swamping tsunami of soulful vibrations”
Except this was littered with skilfully crafted patient grooves and expertly executed guitar
touches which prevented it being a straight forward collection of soundscapes but instead turned it into a collection which displayed an understated joy making you bob instead of swaying. This was not only calming because of it’s laid back demeanor but in turn uplifting as the funk touches gradually rise to the surface as you listen.
Now with fond memories of Carboot Soul it still never fails to simmer down my ‘wired’ character and with panic attacks almost entirely a recollection in the majority of cases Nightmares on Wax have paid me a great service I will always be grateful for.
Check out ‘Les Nuits’ right here: