Freedom from Torture - Music is my medicine - it helps to take away the pain

Music is my medicine - it helps to take away the pain

Shego describes how music therapy at Freedom from Torture has helped him overcome the trauma of witnessing his parents’ killing and forced flight to the UK.

"I am 21 years old and I come from Somalia. When I was 13 our home was attacked because of our ethnicity. My parents were killed and I was injured and left to die – in fact, my attackers thought I was dead.

My uncle found me and cared for me but it was hard for both of us. For four years I had to hide inside his house for fear that the attackers would find out that I was alive and return to kill me.

In the end, I had to leave Somalia; it wasn’t my decision but I had to go to be safe. Somehow, I managed to reach the UK. I was only 17. I didn’t know anyone and I couldn’t understand the language or the culture. I was very lonely and very frightened.

When I came to Freedom from Torture even small things scared me. If someone just dropped a mug I would jump in terror. Seeing a violent scene on television would bring back my fears. I could sleep only one or two hours each night. I had terrible migraines. I was depressed and felt suicidal.

The therapist at Freedom from Torture saw right away that I would benefit from music therapy. That’s when I met Harmin. Now we meet once every fortnight to talk and play music together, and it has made a huge difference to my life.

My first sessions with Harmin were with an interpreter. It felt so good being able to talk freely in my own language. At first, I found it difficult to explain how I felt but music helped me express my feelings. Now I can talk directly to Harmin about my fears and emotions. He is the only person I can really open up to.

After we talk we play music together. My favourite instrument is the metallophone, which has a beautiful sound and creates a special atmosphere, especially when I play the metallophone and Harmin joins me on the piano.

I feel every bit of the music I play – I feel it in my head and it goes down my spine. I can instantly feel the tension lift from my neck and my head. Music lets me relax and it helps with the migraines, much better than any pill can. I just wish each session was longer.

I still have problems sleeping but music helps. When I feel stressed, I listen to music and use it as a way to relax. I feel much better, have put on weight and started to look after myself more.

It takes me over two hours to reach the London centre for one hour’s therapy. I have to miss out on a day at college but they understand why it is so important. It supports my studies because it helps me concentrate and retain information.

When I’m having a tough time in the week, alone or at college, I know I’ll be okay because I will soon have a session with Harmin.

Life has slowly got better for me, although there are still bad times. I studied English, maths and science at college, then hospitality and catering. Now I am looking forward to doing a work experience course in travel and tourism.

I have refugee status now so I can stay in the UK. I even found that I have a sister who lives near Freedom from Torture’s London centre. She left Somalia much earlier after earlier violence. When I lived in Somalia with my parents I didn’t know that I had any siblings so this is really special. Now I have a new life and a sister and music."

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