My new single, “I Am Awake” was crafted with relaxation in mind. It’s a sonic elixir of sorts, and maybe an antidote to a week that began with the horrific events in Vegas and the death of our beloved Tom Petty. I hope it brings some peace and ease into your day, or at least a brief respite from the sadness and shock.
But as much as I hope this music provides some benefit to listeners, my intentions are not 100% altruistic. I’ve been creating relaxing music in part for self-serving reasons: I want to create tracks that will help with my own healing process. You see, for the last two years I’ve been dealing with chronic fatigue.
Before I knew the causes of my fatigue I was completely baffled by it. I remember thinking, “I can’t believe how exhausted I am. I need to lay down.” But then, “I’ll just work for a little while.” And while making music, the exhaustion faded. My inner mad scientist was calling the shots and I was swept away by the force of my own enthusiasm. Positive psychologists call this flow. Eventually, I’d come up for air, and while shutting down my studio I’d be hit with the exhaustion again, only stronger. I repeated this pattern over and over, depleting my reserves. And my reserve reserves.
During the end of 2015, I kept returning to my doctor trying to make sense of how I was feeling. She threw some meds at me. And some naturopathic herbs. None of them helped. I tried taking time off and doubling down on sleep and rest. That didn’t help either. Avoiding the creative work that I love only made me stir crazy; and putting my career on hold added financial stress to the mix.
This went on for months. At one appointment all I got from her was a shrug and a dismissive, “Maybe you’re just depressed.” My father had passed away recently so I was grieving, but I tried to explain how this felt physiological. Looking back, I wish I had pressed her harder to run more blood tests. I’ll spare you the complete play-by-play, but suffice to say she’s no longer my doctor.
In February 2016 I visited another doctor here on Vashon Island. She identified a couple of the causes of my fatigue, but after treating me for a while with no improvement, she had the good sense—and humility—to refer me to a specialist in Seattle. So, nearing the one year anniversary of my fatigue, in August of 2016, I met with a doctor who gave me solid diagnoses. Yes, diagnoses plural.
As we talked about the treatment plan the obvious question arose, “How long until I feel better?” She prefaced by saying that by the time folks come see her, things are pretty bad. Then she warned that my recovery could take anywhere from eight months to three years.
As daunting as three more years sounded, knowing what I had—and that it was not life-threatening—was a huge relief. It also felt good to have a treatment plan in place. The optimist in me figured I could lick this in six months if I really hunkered down and kicked ass on my regimen.
So for the last 14 months, I have dutifully taken my meds and supplements. I mix 20 drops of this into water and swish for one minute, twenty minutes away from food. I stir a teaspoon of that into grapefruit juice and chug it down daily. I drink probiotic smoothies. I avoid sugar, gluten and dairy. I’ve guarded my precious morning routine of yoga, light walking in nature and meditation. Plus I’ve augmented my healing routine with a variety of treatments during the coarse of my illness: IVC therapy, acupuncture, epsom salt baths, relaxation techniques and essential oils to name a few.
As complicated as all this sounds, it’s the easy part. The bigger challenge has been how to strike a healthy balance between work and rest. For a workaholic like me, that ain’t easy.
For much of the last two years I’ve been in pursuit of the ideal ratio. I need to rest. And I need to engage in the work that feeds my soul. When I rest too much I turn to mush and get stir crazy. When I work too much I get excited and push harder than I should and spend energy I don’t have.
I’ve swung to both extremes. When a great opportunity to score a documentary short came my way, I couldn’t turn it down and found myself working crazy long hours fueled by coffee and cortisol. Interestingly, the weighty fatigue I had come to know so well was nowhere to be found while I was in the heat of battle chasing after my nearly impossible deadline. I felt tired—as you’d expect when putting in 14, 15 and even 17 hour days—but it was not the heavy exhaustion I was used to.
Sure enough, when I hit send on the very last email, buttoning the gig up for good, that heavyweight exhaustion returned. The fact that my fatigue was masked while I was cranking on the job was another stark reminder of how enthusiasm and stress can override the messages my body was trying to send me. Mine was saying something like, “Dude, stop working. Lay down. We need to fight this.”
On the other extreme, I’ve attempted staycation mode. This works for a little while, but I’ve never been very good at being on vacation. There is just too much I want to do. And the more I lay around resting, the more ideas I stockpile of things I want to do.
So I’ve been chipping away at the things I’m most passionate about. And I’ve said “No” a lot. I’ve tried my best to manage my time, and my expectations.
If you are a certified Drogehead, you probably know I’ve been talking about launching 1000 TREES (a series of digital releases) for quite a while. Plus I’ve been developing my podcast, Pete Droge is Obsessed. Both of these have a ton of moving parts and I’m feeling overwhelmed trying to keep them cooking. Feeling overwhelmed is not conducive to healing rest.
Recently, it dawned on me that I have too many plates spinning, and too many pans on the stovetop. So I’m pulling these projects off of the stove, placing them into nice glass bowls and moving them to the freezer until I’m well.
So now that I’ve released my new single, “I Am Awake,” I’m going on sabbatical. I need a break from my career. I need to focus on healing. I will continue to write songs, and I’m committed to doing a bit of production work in my studio, which I’ll follow thru on. But mostly I’m going to unplug and take it real easy.
I’ve got lots of things I’m excited to do when I get my energy back, including a bit of touring. Until then I’ll be stirring that medicated goo into my grapefruit juice every morning, swallowing all those pills and keeping to the rest of my healing regimen. And I’ll make time to sit around the fire pit with friends and guitars.
Peace & Love,