I feel I’ve died and come alive again. A song wandered into my silent mind today.

Don’t give up
You’re not beaten yet

I’ve been fighting for my life since January. I entered a triathlon on the Gold Coast, in 34 degree heat, high humidity and experienced severe heat stroke where my brain also overheated. This year has been the toughest year of my life.

Don’t give up
I know you can make it good

I crossed the finish line with a cracker of a headache but didn’t know what it meant.  Our brains are protected from inflammation by the blood brain barrier at base of the skull. There are times, like in heatstroke when the body is overwhelmed and inflammation enters the brain. When parts of the body enflames, they swell. Wrapped in a thick skull, the brain has way to expand, the swelling goes inwards, squashing itself.

Don’t give up
‘Cause you have friends

Afterwards, there was a constant buzz, a fuzziness in my head. I had trouble hearing where I was and the world was now LOUD. I demolished my post race burger and chips, a clumsy waiter dropped cutlery behind me, I jumped out of my chair. It was as if the sound was physically beating me on the head.

Later I find out, part of my brain, the thalamus which processes sound and relays it to other parts of the brain for interpretation was swollen with inflammation. I felt my brain didn’t know what to do with the noise, didn’t know where to put it.

Don’t give up
You know it’s never been easy

I felt lost. The hum of the conversation, the background music in the cafe lost all their meaning as if I was in a foreign country and I didn’t understand that language. Sounds can help us feel safe and grounded. Our senses are a connection to them outside world. Dr Google calls this “sensory integration”. I call it the connection between my soul and the world, losing this ability the world suddenly became meaningless.

Don’t give up
‘Cause somewhere there’s a place
Where we belong

I lost a part of myself, since that day my brain has been silent, I heard noises but it didn’t translate into anything for me. The connection between my soul and the world was broken. Sounds can hold meaning in the memories, in our feelings and thoughts. I longed to hear a tune and remember a moment of my life.

The Joy of Music

Like the joy when my sister and I first heard our hero, Celine Dion at the Atlanta Olympic Closing Ceremony 1996.

The power of the dream that brings us here

The delight in teaching myself to play cheerful Christmas Carols on the piano when I was ten and playing them all year round much to my family’s delight.

O come, all ye
O come, all ye faithful

The joy of dancing to Titanic theme music, my sister and I putting on dramatic plays for our family gatherings.

[Insert sound large boat crashing into iceberg]

It was a Broadway rerun hit, our family saw the play many times.

A few months after heat stroke, I saw Celine Dion live in concert. My sister and I waited over two decades to see her. I sat in the audience, the fuzz still constantly buzzing in my brain. Celine’s songs had become a soundtrack to our lives but sitting in the audience, I couldn’t connect the songs to any memories, my soul was empty. I was heartbroken.

Songs speak directly to the heart.

Kahlil Gibran, describes music as the language of the spirit. I use music to help me train and race and without music I felt unhinged from my soul.

A month before the heat stroke, I entered my first ocean marathon, a ten kilometre swim. I’d never swam more than six and a half so the distance was a big unknown. My plan was to swim freestyle as consistently as long as possible, and if I ran out of energy, I’d just roll over and float on my back, look at the beautiful blue sky above me and let the ocean give me a big hug.

As the horn sounded and I dived in, the song that appeared in my head and stayed there for the entire race was Ed Sheehan’s

You know hearts don’t break around here
Oh yeah yeah yeah , yeah yeah yeah yeah

Those lyrics repeated over and over again. Strokes 1-2-3 breathe, 1-2-3 breathe. Repeat. The race took me over three hours, it was longer than a concert. I guess my subconscious knows what I needed to hear. Keep your shit together Sarah.

This one song, a message from my soul

For the last ten months, I’ve had to go alone without these song messages. Some people laugh at my taste in music, I’m not sure what’s funny about Celine and Christmas Carols.

I’ve felt hopeful that treatment for brain inflammation might help me, after five months with still not much improvement with sounds, I was wondering if I’d ever get my song memory back.

When first the first and only song floated into my mind, after months of silence, I mean literally floated. My brain remembered a song all by itself. I laughed at the perfection of Shannon Noll and Natalie Bassingthwaighte’s message for me.

My brain has more healing to do. If I listen to Spotify for more than fifteen minutes, the brain fuzzy comes back and silence descends once again.

Rest your head
You worry too much
It’s going to be alright
When times get rough
You can fall back on us
Don’t give up
Please don’t give up