The night of the 8th of September. I was laying in bed, pleading with the minutes to pass so that I could take some more medication and attempt to reduce the pain that was keeping me awake. I got to a stage where I almost didn’t know what to do. I held where it hurt, curled up in a ball, and soon found myself unable to stay still. I had one of those moments where you can’t imagine how pain like that will ever get better, how it will ever go away. I tried to remember what it was like not to hurt, and how it was possible to hurt so much so relentlessly (oh right – because my nerves and blood vessels and a couple other structures had been traumatised by a surgical team).
I have previously mentioned my love of Bastille’s music and the things it has come to mean to me. I discovered their music in the back of an ambulance during the worst night of my teenaged years (well, at the time it occurred it was the toughest I’d faced emotionally up until that point). I leant on their music from that moment onwards, playing it over and over through headphones as I laid in various hospital rooms and wards wondering if I’d ever be free to go back out into any sort of a normal life again; a week before I turned 18, I celebrated getting through it all by seeing Bastille live, and watching them perform the songs that had become as familiar to my eardrums as the heartbeat that fuelled the body they belonged to. When I was in hospital (had just nearly died, and knew I was being let out to imminently end up in the same situation again earlier this summer – just before, a week later, I very, very nearly died while on holiday with my friends) right as I was about to crumble under the futility of carrying on, Good Grief (at the time their newest single) began to play over the ward radio. I heard it for the first time as I walked out of that place, carrying battle scars that nobody could see, and I stopped in the corridor and smiled, wearing a strange relief in place of the tears that had been preparing to storm my cheeks.
When I was in intensive care in Norfolk, and my PTSD was being triggered by the sounds and smells of the hospital environment, leading to terrifying nightmares and flashbacks… An ex-army nurse told me to listen to music. The first proper night of sleep that I got in that/ any hospital (other than when I was unconscious or seriously seriously ill) was thanks to the music of Bastille. When nightmares pulled me away from sleep, I woke to the sound of familiarity playing over fresh terror, and immediately knew things were ok, that I wasn’t where my brain had thought it was. I lost myself in the comfort of those songs instead of drowning in the fear. For the first time, I went right back off to sleep. The panic was calmed almost instantly.
When I sat in Winston the wheelchair outside the exam room earlier this summer, stranded until my friend appeared, and convinced that I’d epically failed my exams, the same old songs provided a welcome distraction. A few weeks ago, when I found out that my consultant wants me to go through hell on earth for one health hiccup (STILL can’t talk about that one, sorry), Bastille (Bad News – an awesomely appropriate song which among others) played in the background as I cried my way through London.
And then, in the first minutes of the 9th of September, it happened again – music (specifically that of Bastille) made things manageable. It comforted me when there wasn’t much else that could.
I laid there, a little dopey from the medication that wasn’t working enough to take away the pain, and then I remembered that the great thing about the 8th of September was that it was going to become the 9th of September. And that meant the release of Bastille’s new album. A few minutes later, midnight happened. I was in a really weird place where the pain was bothering my dopey mind so much that I didn’t know how to relax, which meant that the pain stayed pretty ridiculous, and I stood even less chance of getting to sleep. I was by this point rocking. Just laying there rocking. And then, at 2 minutes past midnight, I hit play (the wifi took a while to decide to work). And the recognisable and distinctive sound of the band who seem to release new music at particularly crappy points in my life (usually when I’m in hospital… seriously it’s SUPER weird) filtered through my ears. I don’t know if it’s possible to be haunted by a song you’ve never heard before. I don’t know how a sound can make you stop dead. But I did.
I uncurled from the little knot of pain I had curled up into, my furrowed brow became smooth again, and I went limp as I relaxed for the first time since I’d been dragged from sleep by the pain. I hurt, but I was separate from the hurting because I was focussed entirely on something else. I’d never heard most of the songs, so I listened intently to every word, and managed to somehow zone out and detach myself from… myself. My mind latched onto some of the lyrics and buried them away within its thoughts, taking comfort in lyrics that were written about entirely different situations to the ones which it related them to. And everything was just ok. For 45 minutes I just laid there, completely still, no tension in my muscles, finally able to close my eyes. And then when the music stopped, the pain was still there, but I was calm enough to figure out how to sleep with it.
I now know most of the lyrics to pretty much all of the songs on that album. Until yesterday I listened to nothing else. I even played it to next door’s chickens (I had to look after their animals the other evening). In a weird way it made the pain worth it, because yes the pain sucked but hey, here was some more music that not only sounded awesome to my brain, but also struck a chord with it with a few songs that said things I’d felt (at my health, at other people, at my doctors, at myself, at the world, at the people who bullied me through school…) or that my brain could twist into fitting situations it was familiar with.
I live in Mile End. Well I do when I’m at uni. It is home to me. Mile End isn’t too far from Brick Lane (actually a short walk from where some of my lectures are). In fact, they share the same E1 postcode. Tonight Bastille announced that there’s a free “popup event” going on at Brick Lane tomorrow between 2 and 8pm, presumably involving… Bastille… I spent my entire day today (once I was awake and had got on top of my pain) piling up the stuff I need to take back to London when I move into my new accommodation on Saturday. I didn’t think I could want to be in London any more than I did after seeing all my stuff waiting there ready to go back, and then suddenly there it was. I would catch the train and go to London, but my mum and I are going away together tomorrow for a two night spa break near BIRMINGHAM. OF ALL THE DAYS FOR BASTILLE TO HAVE A POPUP EVENT it’s the one time in the next few MONTHS that I can’t be there. I hoped to get tickets to see them at the O2 arena in November but they are far too expensive for me to afford. It’s weird to think about how many times I’ve nearly died, and all the stuff I’ve been through with their music playing in my ears.
For me, my love of this band is all about their music. I’m not the type of person to obsess over band members and talk about them as if I know them – to me that feels really weird to do when I’ve never even spoken to a person and therefore have no idea what they are like. I kind of think the way an artist/ band should be judged is by their music. I base my respect for them upon that. And in a weird way, I have a lot of gratitude as well. Because honestly, it sounds so pathetic to say, but I don’t know what I’d have done if that song hadn’t played in the back of that ambulance, if the ward radio hadn’t played that song as I was about to break down, if through the recent toughest moments of my life that music hadn’t been there… Well, I don’t know what I would have done, but I do know what I would have been aiming for, and what the end result would have been. So I kind of don’t need to see Bastille live, because their music already gave my soul a little bit of life.
Music is there when people aren’t.
It is also there when I don’t want to be.
It is a more helpful medicine to my mind than laughter will ever be (not quite as helpful as running again will be, but hey). I was, as you can see, very recently reminded just how awesome music can be (Julien Solomita vlogs also entertained me for hours over the last week, and have been pretty important over the last year especially, but they shall get a post another day – unfortunately you may have to endure reading about that too).
For now, no way but tunes (yes I actually just typed the words no way but tunes. I am actually cringing at my screen right now. What is my brain even doing? Sorry for this post)