My Journey through Music

Brought to you by Creative Healing for Youth in Pain's Parenting Blog

Lorna Thomas
September 5, 2023 / 4 mins read

Starting this week, CHYP’s Parenting Blog is adding a new and unique perspective: postings written by the parents of young people in the CHYP program.

My story of self-understanding and discovery begins when the story of my child’s struggle with Functional Neurological Disorder (Conversion Disorder) finally fades.

I grew up in South Africa during the tumultuous apartheid era. The political situation dominated all of my childhood and adolescent years. It dictated where my family was permitted to live, whether they could own property, and even if I could play freely outdoors. It determined where, or if, I was allowed to go to school. It controlled whether or not my grandparents, aunts, or uncles could visit us in our home. It allowed government officials to check my physical attributes in order for me to be classified as a “real white person.” The desire to be identified as white became essential in a nation where basic human rights were contingent on skin color.

During these challenges, my sanctuary became the piano. As long as I can remember, I have played piano. By the time I entered Kindergarten, I could play anything I heard. The piano became my best friend. It is where I spent all my free time. It is where I escaped. It is where I found solace, peace, and comfort. It was the one constant in my life that I felt no one could take away from me. Even if I was not physically playing piano, I was always playing it in my head. In fact, to this day, my husband says when he holds my hand, he feels my fingers pulse. Music is an integral part of who I am.

When significant stressful life events happen, I immerse myself even more, often playing piano all night long. For me, it provides transport to another world. It satisfies me. It energizes me. It makes me feel like I can manage with whatever comes my way. It helps me stay calm. It is my ultimate coping mechanism.

When my daughter became ill, my husband and I, like other parents, were totally confused and began looking for answers. During the years of figuring her health issues out, I became aware of the importance of processing emotion and actively managing anxiety. I realized that because of my background, I had learned to keep a low profile, which included not talking about my experiences and feelings. After all, my younger years were spent hiding from powerful people who determined that I was worthless. The shame that I had internalized from my upbringing in South Africa seemed to be forever in my DNA.

I watched my daughter gradually learn to deal with her thoughts, emotions, and feelings while navigating her world with courage and bravery. I took a parallel journey with her to self-discovery, understanding, and strength. I had to learn how to parent a child who needed to express her own emotions, and as a result, I am continuing to learn how to process my own. I now know that the art of playing piano helped me tremendously during all the highs and lows of my life. I was fortunate enough to have done it organically, without the knowledge of how it was helping me. Now I have a deeper appreciation of my musical gift.

I count myself so very fortunate to have discovered CHYP and to be part of the parent group. The friendships I have made there are deep, meaningful, and fun. We understand each other without always having to give the backstory when explaining what we are going through. There is great camaraderie.

The CHYP blogs, and the YouTube videos–what a privilege it has been to learn and grow. It is rewarding to follow this organization that advocates for healing through creativity. I understand how important and helpful it is to have art in one’s life. I encourage parents and youth to be bold in their creativity and to FIND YOUR ART.