Charlotte’s Story

Charlotte has been in hospital since December last year, recovering from meningitis encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. Initially the condition affected the use of both of her arms and legs, her head control and her speech. It was challenging for her to find the right word to use in her head and when the words did come out, they were often disjointed. Yet, when music was re-introduced to Charlotte’s life after her initial five weeks in hospital, she found herself able to sing more fluidly than she could speak!

Read Charlotte’s account of how music therapy sessions with Alan have helped her on her road to recovery:

“That first day Alan came to see me in my room, I hadn’t even thought that I had anything to offer anymore. I was stuck in a situation and I didn’t think I could offer anything, never mind get anything out if it! I’d lost that sense of self. Music was a big part of my life before coming into hospital; going to festivals, gigs, and listening to it, but I’d stopped this in hospital and felt like I no longer related to it.

Coming into music therapy, I remember trying the keyboard and I didn’t feel stupid, I could hear the music; and whilst Alan supported me, I could hear myself doing things in time and it woke up the dancer inside me. I had musicality and it was still there. I didn’t think I’d be able to write a song. I’d been struggling with my speech and having a tremor – and this was impacting on things. I was finding this frustrating as I was struggling to find words in my head – and my words were disjointed. 

We got chatting about musicals and I found I was able to sing the words better than how I could speak them. I really enjoyed this; and the feeling of words, flowing out of my mouth, felt really good. When Alan suggested writing a song, I felt nervous because I’d never done it. I was looking forward to singing as it gave me a release, and I did find this easier than speaking.

I’ve enjoyed writing the song; it was the way I felt and it related fully to my experience. Yet at the same time I could sing it whilst also having some distance from it, in a way that it doesn’t make me overly emotional and sad.

The song has progressed and so have I along with it. I have become more positive throughout and this has been reflected in the mood, the lyrics and in the song itself. Writing it down, helped me put my feelings down objectively; creating something and not just writing it down for the sake of it. I like the song and am really proud of it, because it’s something that I didn’t think I’d be able to do. Regardless of whatever anybody says of it, it’s something I’ve made and I feel really proud, given my circumstances. I felt like I didn’t have anything to give, and to suddenly have something I’ve made is something to be really proud of. I bumped into another patient the other day and I got referred to as the lady who does the singing and I thought: ‘Yes, that’s who I am!’

On reflection, at home, I’ve never really been the singer, but I sing constantly – whatever I’m doing – and then when I got unwell, I never actually sang or listened to music for 5 weeks! I was alone with my own thoughts, feeling like I couldn’t actually get them out, due to my speech problem.

Music therapy has given me a sense of purpose and been consistent in my hospital stay, something just for me, that is completely different to the other therapies. Everything else is boiled down to my condition; and whilst the song has been to do with my illness, the music sessions haven’t been clinical, they’ve been creative and personal instead.”