midnight while my roommates were hanging out…..then they would go to bed (well almost all of them, love you bitty:) and I would work on my editing and run my business from 12am- 5am… and then wakeup at 10am. It was a crazy life…. an unhealthy life. It was very common for me to lose my voice. I never knew when or why… but some weeks, my voice would just be GONE. Totally gone. I struggled with this some in high school, but I was a cheerleader so it made sense that I would cheer at a game in the cold and lose my voice. When I was at college, I blamed it on the lengthy band practices and no sleep….then I graduated and got married. My voice was still weak. I sang at my wedding and barely made it through… and that was all I cared about… I wanted to sing at my wedding and Lord willing, he gave me enough voice for that to happen. My voice issue got increasingly worse throughout the fall of 2010 and continued to become an even greater issue into the summer of 2011. After only 2 days into our youth mission trip…. I couldn’t talk. When I would try to speak normally, my throat was so tight and I had to use so much force to make my vocal chords WORK. I was so frustrated. After I shot weddings, I wouldn’t be able to talk for at least 3 days…. when I tried to sing along in church, I couldn’t even hit the notes Michael was hitting beside me and I had to try so hard to hold back the tears. It was miserable. I finally made an appointment to see an ENT.
I walked into the office that day and it was filled with small children who were screaming because they needed to get tubes put in their ears. I felt so out of place. Why was I here? Why am I DEALING with such a stupid problem?! Why would God take away something that I was using for HIM?! Gosh! All I wanted to do was sing at church and be able to have a decent conversation without my throat tighting and pulsing. What in the world was wrong with me? I had an idea of what was wrong… but I didn’t even want to admit it because I knew there was no easy fix. I had done my research online and seen videos of vocal chords so I knew what it looked like to have this issue.
The nurse called my name and I waited in a small room, glancing at diagrams of ears and throats and voice boxes. The doctor came in and seemed rushed. He quickly asked me the required questions and then guided me to the next room over where he proceeded to stick a camera up my nose and down my throat. I could see my throat on the screen and as the camera reached my vocal chords, I saw it. A little white nob. On the top of my vocal chords was a nodule… a callus if you will. The doctor quickly removed the camera and said “Yep! That’s what I thought, you have nodules, go to this specialist and I’ll see you in 6 months”. I felt my nose burn and tears forming and I tried desperately to ask him some questions without falling to pieces but he seemed too busy to be bothered. This was a normal diagnosis for him… he sees this everyday…. but what he didn’t know was that I have feared this for YEARS. I knew nodules were serious… and they don’t just go away. I exited the waiting room and made my way to my car. It was raining (how appropriate) and I bawled.
I called Michael and sounded like a toddler on the other end of the phone. I was so upset I couldn’t get a word out. I continued to call my dad, I left a voicemail for momma while she was at work and I called my sister Emy…. I knew they couldn’t help me… but I just wanted someone to say “Well I’m sure it will be ok”…. because I wasn’t sure… I was afraid I would never be able to sing again. I love singing… I love it. It’s like “my thing”…. I’ve been singing since I was able to talk and there is just something about it that makes me so happy…. and I couldn’t do it anymore. I had stopped listening to music in the car because I couldn’t sing along… it was like a tease. I remember driving up 64 on the way to vacation with Michael and making him turn off the “Wicked” soundtrack because the sound of Idina Menzel was haunting me (yes we listen to that for fun…. all the time:). I was heartbroken and so scared. My voice was such a huge part of who I was. Not being able to laugh fully or show excitement made me feel so restrained and “Not me”.
I was given a number to call to set up speech therapy. In my mind, speech therapy was me sitting in the clinic in 1st grade while the nurse helped me practice my “R’s”. I had no hope that this would help. But I want ahead and called the number and spoke to Ali. She sounded so nice on the phone. I asked if she was taking new patients and if she thought she could help me and she ensured me that she could. So I started going to speech therapy the next week. She asked me to sing one note into the microphone and hold it as long as possible. My performance was embarrassing. I had nothing. Just a crackly mess of a note. She knew I was discouraged… it was so obvious. When I get upset, it’s so hard to hide it. Ali sat me down in her office and explained that I had “Muscle Tension Dsyphonia”. Basically, when I talk or sing… the muscles around my vocal chords are extremely tense and tight, causing my vocal chords to be over worked… and over the years, that has formed a callus which was getting in the way of my vocal chords vibrating and creating sound. Whew! Are you still with me?! So really, my only option was to re-learn how to talk… CORRECTLY. I thought it was craziness at first but week after week… I started noticing a change. My voice was still weak but I could actually FEEL when my muscles were tight and I had to knowledge and training to fix it. I began doing my ridiculous exercises every night… even one that included me chanting “Why why Barbara, Why why?” at different pitches! As crazy as my training seemed…. it was working. It was WORKING!!!!!! The endurance of my voice started to improve and I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel!! I began singing one Adele song a day… and then two… and then three… and then before I knew it, I was hitting all of the notes in “Rolling in the Deep” and I was so happy I could CRY!! Really…. I was so thankful… so thankful for Ali’s help… so thankful to be able to SPEAK again…. and so thankful that I went through all of this.
I learned a lot about myself…. a whole lot. When you lose something that you think defines you… you really find out a lot about your priorities. God used this scary season of my life to make me a better listener…and I learned that I don’t always need to have something to SAY. He taught me that my voice doesn’t define me and if I NEVER sang again…. my identity in Him never changes… never. And lastly, this whole experience has made me SO incredibly grateful for my voice. There are still some days when I’m working at home and singing where I stop and just thank Him that sound is coming out of my mouth!!! It seems like such a little thing… but it taught me so much. I hosted a workshop and literally taught and talked for 8 hours straight….and never lost my voice. To me, that was a MIRACLE!!! So if you’re going through something… whether it’s something REALLY big or something that most people wouldn’t think twice about….just keep going. There is a light at the end of the dark tunnel and you’ll be SUCH a better person after you fight your way through this trial. I cried writing this post because it really is such a story of victory for me. God is faithful…. so so faithful and this post is really a huge shout out to Him! I’m so thankful for my voice, for Michael timing my vocal exercises before bed and for my sweet speech therapist Ali!!! And to quote last week’s episode of Modern Family, “This one is going down in the books as a “win”!!!!!”