My endocrinologist recently remarked that it's ironic that I'm on medication for anxiety while I spend large portion of my life on a stage, as a performing musician. As if, for anyone, a performance automatically induces anxiety. As if it couldn't do something for me. As if it couldn't numb me while simultaneously ripping me open and letting me out.
I could succumb to diabetes and be a mindless pincushion of needles and fingers dripping blood and infected pump sites dotted on my legs and the burn of high blood sugars and fear fear fear of not the disease itself but of being only this disease. Being trapped under its soundproof curtain. The true fear for me isn't death (by now death is a mere part of life) or complication, for me it's being trapped inside the disease.
So here I am with my escape, a viola that I couldn't be luckier to be able to speak through. It numbs and it rips away and it lets me be me without the needles. Performance anxiety isn't something that is part of my life, because it's not about the anxiety of a performance for me. It was never about the accuracy. It's about being able to tear off the label of "diabetic" (which I am so often covered by) and allowing myself to say anything I want to, to be anyone I want to be.
What scares me is when I'm high and my fingers don't grip the strings and sometimes when I'm low I know the notes but I don't know the rhythm and my mind flips to pieces trying to find the piece I love and put it back together again, and it can't. What scares me is when I have something to say through music but I am physically incapable of saying it.
A few days ago, I played an audition with a low blood sugar. I took extra time before I went in and downed more than one juice box, but I was still low. It was a classic low for me, my head was blank and I felt like I couldn’t think thoughts, I was thinking thoughtless thoughts, my hands were numb. Before I began playing, I lifted up my viola and stared at my hands and saw them shaking and I couldn’t feel them shaking, it’s like living in the third person. I wasn’t thinking about screwing the audition up, I wasn’t even completely aware that I was in a room with 10 other people watching every single move I made. I was craving the touch of my bow on the string more than anything I swear I had ever felt before, I wanted to be free from the shaking and the numbness and the thoughtless thoughts and the only thing that could ever free me was to make music and I couldn’t. I played the entire audition in a war with myself and my blank mind because I could see what I wanted to do and I could feel it so so close but nothing in my fingers could make it happen. I played the notes, but I couldn’t get myself beyond that. It was dead sound, staring at the sheet music but not seeing anything on the page. Fingers on the viola, but not feeling anything in my heart except a hunger for more more more.
The next day, I woke up and brushed my teeth and put my hair in a ponytail and shut off all the lights in my room and played a Bach suite in the dark and felt every single second of it and no one heard it and it wasn’t an audition and the notes weren’t all perfect and maybe it had no significance at all, but that was a whole Bach suite that took me somewhere else and away from being trapped by blood sugars and it was completely mine and, for me, that’s much more than an escape. It’s a cure.