How CRPS Made Me Quit Listening to Music

I had to quit listening to music because of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. It’s true. I am slowly beginning to integrate it back into my life, but it’s been about 20 months since I enjoyed music.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome can cause allodynia, where allodynia is an extreme response to an innocuous stimulus. For me, allodynia causes vibration-sensitivity, sound-sensitivity, issues around any breeze/wind, and more.

When I had to quit listening to music because it caused me physical pain, it was also very difficult for me emotionally. I have a deep history with many different kinds of music. 

I had been dancing (in, and out of classes) since I could walk. My middle name is Naima, because John Coltrane’s song of the same name (to his then-wife) was playing when I was born. I was raised on jazz, and world music. I went to a pre-professional dance program in high school. I used to tag along to the Decidedly Jazz Danceworks classes for West African dance that my dad drummed at. I was always the only kid in the class, and I absolutely loved it. My dad used to be in a local band, Domba. They used to pump the Calgary Zoo Conservatory full with music, while everyone danced their asses off. Lots of great parties there. Then I was into the electronic culture, attending dance events and loving that community. At my dad’s company ski trip, my sister and I were known as the “Patron sisters,” but that’s another story.

The first time I went out at night to see music was when I was 5. My whole family went out to see a soca band at Quincy’s in Calgary. Yes, back when you could bring your kid to a bar for shows- apparently. My mom and sister had to go home early, but my dad and I partied on. We stayed until 1 a.m., and I remember being invited to dance on stage, although I was way too shy back then. That was a great first night out I will never forget, and a sign of times to come. My parents took my sister and I to some phenomenal shows over the years. My parents would always take us, unless we weren’t allowed because we were too young. I’ve only realized looking back how special and amazing it was how they insisted on sharing these experiences with us.

I’ve been to hundreds of other shows, concerts, and festivals. I’ve seen amazing artists perform. World-class artists at world-class venues. I’ve learned very important lessons because of music, and have made some amazing friends. I’ve even seen some historical sets, the kinds that people talk about for years after with a gleam in their eye. Music has been a huge part of my life. Music was a huge part of my childhood, and how I was raised.

Nearly two years ago I developed Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. I started to realize how music was causing me physical pain. It was heartbreaking. I had mental pain from music too. Sometimes hearing certain tracks would bring on a terrible wave of what I was missing, and the question of whether I’d ever be able to attend the events I loved again.

Finally I am now able to enjoy music again. Some music still causes me some issues physically, without a doubt- looking at you, drum & bass! Some music still causes me twinges of “will I/ won’t I?”, seemingly at random. My progress with music sensitivity has been great overall, and I really hope this trend continues. It is so lovely to have music back in my life.

Off to listen to some music. Maybe some Marlon Asher today…

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