The title track from Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence is the story of six people who have a mental problem of some kind. JP and MP split up the lyrics and wrote for three people each.
It is not known if any of the characters are based on real people.
This serves mainly as an introduction, encompassing the many musical themes which occur throughout the remaining movements.
II. About to Crash
The lyrics tell of a girl (Degree 1) who has one of the most well known of all mental illnesses: Bipolar disorder. With bipolarity, a patient suffers from manic episodes (e.g. “She can’t stop pacing, she never felt so alive”) alternating with depressive crashes (e.g. “Then one day, she woke up to find, the perfect girl, had lost her mind”). Bipolar mania often involves heightened energy, flight of ideas (“Her thoughts are racing, set on overdrive.”). Manics will often work for hours on end to the point of exhaustion and will often neglect their other duties to attend to whatever goal they have set their minds on at the time. (“They’re expecting her, but she’s got work to do.”)
Bipolar sufferers tend to get worse when the affliction is untreated, and her father/spouse, presumably, has seen this (“I’ve never seen her get this bad”).
The keyboard arrangement in the intro to this song can be related to the intro of the song “Biaxident” from the album Liquid Tension Experiment 2 released in 1999 by Liquid Tension Experiment, a Dream Theater side-project.
III. War Inside My Head
This movement tells the story of someone (Degree 2) who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, as some soldiers do after war. The lyrics show he served in Vietnam (“napalm showers”). The chorus reveals he has flashbacks (“Hearing voices from miles away… Waging a war inside my head”), experiencing instances where he believes that he is still in Vietnam. The second verse implies that he may believe he will have the condition indefinitely (“Trading innocence for permanent psychotic hell”). During the final chorus, it is revealed that his anxiety has become more pronounced (“Tasting danger with each word I say”).
IV. The Test That Stumped Them All
This patient (Degree 3) is suffering from schizophrenia (“He lives in a world of fiction”). Schizophrenics suffer from a variety of symptoms that are touched on in the lyrics here. Obvious ones include references to delusions and the fact that he “lives in a world of fiction”. “Intro tape begins to roll…igniting sonic rage” refers to the fact that schizophrenics are prone to auditory hallucinations… especially command hallucinations that tell the person what to do – even to the point of killing someone or themselves (“To save him from himself”). However, there are references to drug abuse in this song (Random urine testing,/counseling and therapy.”), so schizophrenia may only be part of the song.
Unfortunately, there is no “cure” for schizophrenia (“Counseling and therapy providing not a clue”) and very little information on its cause (hence the name, “The Test That Stumped Them All”). There is, however, treatment with a variety of anti-psychotic medications (“Pills, red, pink and blue”). Decades ago, there used to be a prevalent method of treating the disorder with shock treatments and this is referenced by the “doctors” suggesting it in the song.
V. Goodnight Kiss
This is a piece about a mother (Degree 4) who has lost her child, in one form or another, and is suffering from post-partum depression (“Are you lonely without Mommy’s love?” … “I’m so lonely without Baby’s love”). There is also evidence of the child having been hospitalized at some point, or perhaps died during child birth. The mother struggles between believing that the loss of her child is her fault ( … “my tainted blood’s still the same”) or the doctors fault (“Those bastard doctors are gonna pay”). A heart monitor, and a baby crying can be heard in the later part of the song, suggesting a medical problem with the baby; the manic laughter of a doctor also suggests a recurring nightmare that the sufferer has. The lyrics also suggest the death of more than one child on separate occasions (“It’s been five years to the day and my tainted blood’s still the same”)
VI. Solitary Shell
Referred to as Degree 5, this person most likely has Asperger syndrome. The lyric tells us that he started off quite social (“He seemed no different from the rest” “He learned to walk and talk on time, but never cared much to be held”), however, he did withdraw from social contact (the title, “Solitary Shell”, shows that he is quite reclusive). The lyrics end with a plea for social acceptance from a peer or relative (“When will he be let out of his solitary shell”).
VII. About to Crash (Reprise)
This section carries on from where About to Crash left off. This time the song is sung from the sufferer’s point of view and describes her going through another manic episode (“I’m invincible, despair will never find me”). She then makes the realization that she will come out soon only to have another depressive episode (“And when I fall out of the sky, who’ll be standing by”). The lyrics here possibly show the bipolarity is getting better as sufferers tend to become more conscious of the syndrome when they start to feel more like themselves. Pieces from several other movements are included in this and could further describe the character’s bipolar and confusion.
VIII. Losing Time
The last degree is a girl suffering from dissociative identity disorder, previously called Multiple Personality Disorder. The lyrics tell the listener that she does not have many friends (“She never wears makeup, But no-one would care if she did anyway”). This is probably caused by having her life split among multiple personalities. The results of which is her relative amnesia caused by her inability to keep track of her life among her multiple personalities (“She doesn’t recall yesterday, faces seem twisted and strange”). However, this may also be a reference to Alzheimer’s. This can be justified by the lines “She always wakes up, only to find she’d been miles away”, a possible reference to Alzheimer’s victims “wandering”, leaving their families to wonder where they went. The “Losing Time” title refers to the fact that she isn’t living parts of her life due to her dissociative identity disorder, which in turn implies that she is “losing time”. The lyrics also reveal the darker side of dissociative identity disorder, in that those who suffer from this disorder often create alternate personalities in order to cope with severe emotional or physical trauma (“She learned to detach from herself, a behavior that kept her alive”).