I’ve always loved listening to music. I’ve even played/sang it on occasion, mostly to do with school activities like band and chorus. But I’ve always loved music.

Throughout my life, once I realized my love of listening to music, I’ve always done my best to have it with me. Beginning in the 1980’s, when the Walkman came out all the way up to present day with mp3 players, I’ve habitually had some sort of music playing. I listen to music before I go to sleep, used to sleep with it on when I didn’t wear headphones in bed, and am happiest when I can have some sort of soundtrack playing, even if it’s only one song on repeat and all I’m doing is sitting at my computer in my apartment.

After my breakdown, music became even more important to me. It became a buffer between me and the rest of the world. It protected me, kept me distracted from things when I went out. It still serves this purpose to this day. It’s something I need, sometimes a great deal, in order to face the world outside my home with confidence and at least the appearance of calm.

I have unspecified anxiety, and focusing on the music playing in my headphones keeps me from losing my mind and going nuts when I’m in public. Particularly in new places. Like grocery stores. Or at the mall. Places where there are lots of people who just might find something to say to me. I can’t explain just what it is about such situations which drives my anxiety up, but I do know that music helps me stay calm and reasonable. I’m able to, if I must talk to someone, move one muff aside so I can understand what the other person is saying; the music playing in my other ear keeps me calm.

Music keeps me balanced and grounded when I’m feeling desperate to get away. It relaxes me so I don’t get too tense or irritable with those around me. I can handle silence if I must, and I can be without music if I need to be, but I prefer not to.

I concentrate on different things at different times when I have music playing in my ears. This is to rein in my impatience when I’m doing something new or going someplace I’m unfamiliar with. Doesn’t always work perfectly, but I’ve found if I concentrate on some aspect of a song on repeat, say the beat, or the lyrics, I’m able to endure the situation I’ve put myself in better. Concentrating on the bass notes from piano/keyboard or synthesizer helps a lot, too, especially if those notes come at a slower tempo or less predictably than the song’s drumbeat.

I habitually step to the beat of the music I’m listening to if I’m on my way somewhere afoot. This actually helps in square dancing, because walking to the beat helps with the dancing. When I was a kid and went to roller skating rinks, I skated to the beat. While waiting for the light to change so I can cross streets, I’ll frequently end up sort-of-dancing if the change takes long enough.

I don’t know what I’d do without music to help me through my anxiety. Even though it isn’t very pronounced much of the time (I don’t require medication to control it, thank goodness), it does affect my life, and I’m glad I’ve found a safe, healthy, cheap way to keep it under control. There are so many other ways I could have chosen to deal with my anxiety—and most of them are in some way detrimental to my overall health and/or safety. It’s nice to know I have something to turn to if I get to feeling like doing something or going somewhere is too daunting.