Enthusiasms: ASMR Benefits

When Stella Donnelly smiles, the whole world smiles.

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A friend sent me an email recently and asked the question, why have you been so open about having a miscarriage and an abortion in recent years? I knew what the answer was, immediately, and it was something to the point of although I have wonderful women in my life who I love dearly, the woman who I could’ve talked to about these things ad nauseam is not here on this physical plane so I couldn’t talk about it with her; and the cone of silence around these things is so weird that it felt like not talking about it was part of the problem, in a way. Miscarriage and abortion are both lonely feelings and it’s nice, sometimes, to have those times where you feel less alone in your experiences. The internet at its best can offer that presence, if you’re lucky.

The other thing that I have been relatively open about in the past few years (as open as someone from New England whose dominant culture was Irish Catholic Boston) has been dealing with depression, and SSRIs. I have been taking Prozac for probably a year and a half now, and it was truly helpful when I desperately needed it in my life, starting in February 2018. I’m currently in the process of tampering off my Prozac dosage, partially because the side effects are nearly intolerable. Prozac improves your mood but it turns the whole world into a pizza, but a pizza that’s fine, serviceable, never realizing the depths of something terrible, or the sublimity of something transcendent.

However one side effect that I had noticed on Prozac was this: when I enjoyed a piece of art, when it affected me bodily, I got the tingles, a pleasing sensation of shivers traveling up and down the back of my neck. It felt like the pleasure that people get from ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) videos, where folks whisper into the mic until you, the audience, feel the tingles.

On Prozac, I never got the tingles from straight-up ASMR videos. Mine came from extraordinary experiences with music. In my former job, I did an Instagram live video with one of the ballet’s orchestra musicians, watching the brilliant piano player play Bach’s The Goldberg Variations live and in person, her fingers appearing to be everywhere at once on the 88 keys, creating a whole world of sound beyond my imagination. From what I understand, The Goldberg Variations was written for several keyboards, to be played by multiple musicians, but it has been adjusted for the modern piano keyboard where one player takes on all the notes, criss-crossing their hands back and forth all the while, in a a Herculean feat of dexterity and talent. Watching Susan play, I was honored to be in the same room.

The second time I felt the tingles was at a Stella Donnelly concert earlier this year. She sang a song, “Watching Telly,” which was a song that I liked but didn’t quite clock in the lyrics. I was still fairly new to her album. But when she sang it live, I listened to every word. She was talking about having an abortion, the process and nerves and difficulties that came with it, the way that a woman’s body is politicized by society. That night happened to be the one year anniversary of my abortion, and it was on my mind. When everything began to sync, I felt the shivers travel up my spine, my neck, into my head. I started to cry. I felt some feelings about an event that I had barely processed at the time because I was extremely sick and barely functioning.

I wanted to write down those two moments because I want to remember what it’s like to respond so physically to art. But if I had to be completely honest, I am truly looking forward to the day that I’m not taking Prozac anymore.

Recent Features:
At BuzzFeed, I covered the current state of Celebrity Book Clubs (good) and Meghan Daum’s new book (OK Gen Xer).
At Vox, I wrote about the Canadian TV show Letterkenny.

Recent Links That I Love:
A complicated essay that I keep thinking about by musician Casey Dienel about “quitting.”
Artist Audrey Wollen (who coined the term “girls own the void!” I believe?) writes about Lana Del Rey’s new album.
An interview about The Great American Road Trip, which may be an endangered species, considering.

I like this moody Massachusetts video by Casey Dienel (as White Hinterland).

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