Turning a corner

I’m both proud and relieved to report that I’ve turned a corner in my life. I have trudged through the darkness and come out on the other side.

In many ways, this was my first true crisis. I didn’t believe that life would get better. My condition is likely permanent, the options in my life narrowed, and many ordinary life situations became more challenging. I was unable to see the path forward, so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, since people depended on me.

The tinnitus bothers me more than you can imagine. It is no longer the bane of my existence though. I am adapting, re-aligning, and rebuilding my life with my new limitations. I’ve discovered that I am capable of being happy again.  I am not happier than I was before tinnitus, but I am certainly stronger.

Friends are now telling me that I’m looking better, and that is an honest reflection of how I’m feeling. It has been the slow turning of a giant ship, but it has most definitely turned.

How did I get to this place? By having an amazing support structure and trying a many different things. Here are the things that made a significant impact:

  • I saw an awesome and very compassionate cognitive behavior therapist. He helped me understand that my automatic reactions and behaviors to challenging situations can be changed. I made thought log after thought log under his tutelage, and it became very clear that my behaviors were cyclical and predictable. We worked on better coping responses to my automatic thoughts, and over time I was able to monitor my automatic thinking and graft in these new responses reflexively.

  • Friends and family really stepped up. They saw I was hurting and needed help, and supported me in any way that they could. Most of that was just hanging out and being present for me. My parents and in-laws came out to help multiple times. It made a huge difference.

  • I joined a men’s support group called the men’s circle. It has been a transformative experience, and the circle has become a big part of my life. It has pushed me hard to lean into my edge, live my life with purpose, and to be in support of my community. It is not often that you make a lot of new personal connections that have nothing to do with your kids when you a parent in your late 30’s. Getting initiated into the circle was a herculean task that I take a lot of pride in completing.

  • I moved into a new home. The timing of the move was perfect. It gave me an opportunity to re-establish my identity. The packing / unpacking / house projects filled up all my time so I had less time to wallow in my circumstances.

  • We determined that physical weakness is a big issue for me, so I started working with a personal trainer. It’s amazing how quickly I’ve gotten stronger, and now my knee pain is much less intrusive than it has been.

  • I saw a naturopathic doctor who told me my diet was really out of balance. For some reason, this advice really stuck (possibly because I paid $350 for the visit). I eat far more fruits and vegetables now, increased my protein intake, and for the most part try to avoid unhealthy food.

But really, the thing that made the biggest impact was my wife, who was my rock. She never gave up on me. She guided me to try CBT, pushed me hard to join the men’s circle, frequently checked in with me, and insisted that life would get better. She challenged my attitudes and assumptions. She made sure that our life was on track, burning her candles at both ends, and never complained. This experience really tested our relationship, but she was determined to make it work. I am so grateful that she chose me as a partner. At this point, I probably owe her two ponies.

For the record, here are things that I tried that didn’t stick:

  • Mindful meditation and breathing techniques. I may return to this though – it seemed like it had potential.

  • I saw a homeopathic doctor a couple times, and I tried a few homeopathic “remedies”.

  • I tried a few different modalities for body work and chiropractors. I went so far as to try NUCCA adjustments.

  • I attended several tinnitus support meetings. I was the youngest person there by 30 years, and simply didn’t take away much from the meetings.

  • Extreme diets to see if salt or sugar affected my tinnitus

  • Several anti-depressants

A surprising discovery is an latent interest in nature. I’m really excited to discover more of the beautiful spots in the bay area, of which there are many. I would like to do some hiking when my knee is up to it.

Also, I have dipped my toes back into music, and have found that it is still available. That part of my life is not over, but my relationship to music has definitely changed. Several close friends independently told me that its ok to take a break from music. There is definitely truth in that. I think I will just casually play music when I’m feeling motivated, and see where it goes. I do have a seventh album that needs wrapping up, but it may be awhile until I finish it. Rest assured, general fuzz will ride his melodic unicorn once again.


Christophe Bram » 3 Dec 2013 » Reply

I discovered your music a couple of hours ago on Spotify (was listening to OTT, you are in the “related artists” column). Then began reading your bio, up to here. I’ll do Burning Man this year, this will be my second week-long Burn event.

Thanks for your music, really great for work/home. You definitely are passionate about it, that’s great!

Sad to hear about the tinnitus, it’s one of those things that you clearly “didn’t deserve”. Just like when my ex girlfriend got leukaemia in her late twenties, while having been living a healthy lifestyle. It’s hard to accept for you and for the people around you. Sometimes terrible bad luck happens to some of us, like with the tinnitus. It was just bad luck, hard to swallow, but life is a bitch sometimes. You and the people close to you need to look forward on how to improve your life, and treat the tinnitus if possible.

Christophe, from France

Bruce (Brudaddy) » 26 Dec 2013 » Reply

Hey…I’ve followed your music for years now, and still listen to all of your albums often. (right now, in fact). I just ready through some of your blog and I’m very sorry to hear all that has befallen you recently. Hang in there. I am glad to hear you are coping better than you were back in the summer.

Take care,

A Concerned Fan

Vicky » 29 Mar 2014 » Reply

Hey – just checking back in… you are an inspiration. I’m sure things were not all or even mostly roses, but your recent posts make me so happy, your grappling with the tinnitus and taking such positive approaches. So good. I still listen to your music on pandora, and it still gives me so much. Gives me serious good vibes.

And a thousand thanks to your wife, too. Awesome. To both of you and your family, blessings.

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