Update: Finding My Voice

While this has been the year of Finding My Voice (metaphorically speaking), this has also been the summer of finding my literal voice. I have received a huge amount of support around my talking to people and blogging about my recent diagnosis of Spasmodic Dysphonia (SD). I want to say Thank You and provide a brief update before we return to our Regularly Scheduled Programming.

A number of things have happened since I originally posted about this on August 10:

I have had two sessions with a Speech Pathologist

I have had two sessions so far with a Speech Pathologist, and so far they seem to be helping. A lot.

We are working to improve my breathing and resonance, and the exercises are similar in many ways to those I had to do when I took singing lessons years ago. (I suspect that my familiarity with the concepts helps the process, but I think anyone can learn this.)

The exercises are a pain in the ass to do and my cats sit up in alarm (or annoyance) and then leave the room. They (the exercises, not the cats) make me speak in what feels like an unnatural way, but I am finding that, when I have done them, speaking in a new way comes more easily.

I have continued talking to people

I have continued talking to people around me about the process, and about my fears (and my successes) and that has also been helping. A lot.

As a result, I have gotten a HUGE amount of support. That support ranges from people reminding me to do my exercises to being patient with me on calls while I practice saying something, to providing me with feedback. People are telling me that they can already hear a difference in my speaking voice and that it sounds more even and less strained (at least some of the time!).

I am also learning more about how people perceive(d) my speaking voice. Some people have said that they never really paid attention to it; another told me that once she knew what was going on with my voice, she stopped hearing it. Not that she stopped hearing me, but she stopped noticing my voice and wondering what was going on – Why was my voice breaking? Was I upset? Was I OK?

I also received a lovely comment on my blog post from a woman who has had SD for years, and who is a trainer by profession. She said that now she tells her clients and students up front about her voice, and they are wonderfully patient and supportive.

I have joined a choir!

After my diagnosis, I immediately began looking for a group to sing with. I found the Broadway Chorus, a local community chorus, which meets about four blocks from my home. I took myself in hand and went to the signups; the director tested me and determined that I am (still) a First Soprano (much to my surprise). We just had our first rehearsal, and it was heaven to be singing again. It was a mixed bag in terms of how I did – sometimes doing better than I expected and other times thinking, “Yikes, did I make that sound?” But this is going to be a Very Good Thing. It will strengthen my voice, and my confidence, and it serves to remind me that there is more to my voice than how it sounds when I talk. Besides, singing is such a joy.

Oh, and the irony of the theme of our first program isn’t lost on me: It is the chorus’s 20th anniversary this year, and the theme is: Can’t Help Singing.

I am practicing Compassion with myself

This whole process continues to give me the opportunity to practice compassion with myself. I don’t perfectly employ the techniques I am learning, but I keep trying. I’ll do better next time.

Someone once said that “the difference between procrastination and time off is intent.” Well, the difference between being gentle on myself when I fail and having a lack of ambition is Compassion. (And Persistence.) Being compassionate with myself doesn’t mean I don’t keep trying. It just means there is no whipping involved.

I faced the opportunity to reaffirm my decision – and passed the test

As I came to the end of my group health insurance coverage under the federal COBRA program at the end of August, I spent a rather intense week researching my options. It looked at one point as if my diagnosis of Spasmodic Dysphonia 37 days before the end of my group coverage meant that I have a Pre-Existing Condition that would cost me another $200 per month in premiums when I switch to an individual policy. I reached a pivotal moment when I had to ask myself, “Was I a complete and utter FOOL to pursue this when I did, rather than waiting for another month?” And I embraced my decision. I was able to say, “No, I did what I needed to do when I was ready to do it.” (It also helped that several friends and family members reinforced that; not one said, “Boy, you really messed up the timing on that one!” Thank You!)

Oh, and it turns out I am eligible for extended group coverage through Cal COBRA. At almost the exact moment I embraced my decision, I got a call from my insurance carrier saying, “Oops, we’re sorry, we gave you incorrect information, you’re eligible to keep your group coverage after all.” Was that whole exercise just a Cosmic Test?

I am taking steps

I am actively working on developing a workshop I will lead; I am not letting my voice be an obstacle (or an excuse). More on that later.

I am more than my voice

If I believe that, then I have to let that More shine, and be confident in that shining. That’s kind of scary. And exciting. I have to embrace my voice. It is part of me.

Well, that wasn’t so brief after all. (Surprise!) Thank You, Thank You, Thank You to all of you who have been so supportive and who have helped me along this journey. I will continue to update you on my progress.

Now we return to our Regularly Scheduled Programming…

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4 Responses to Update: Finding My Voice

  1. Janie August 31, 2010 at 5:04 pm #

    Well put….Cosmic test!! :>)
    Good work Susan!

  2. Mary Orton September 1, 2010 at 7:57 am #

    Susan – This sounds great. I particularly loved the part about not whipping yourself. I can use “The difference between being gentle on myself when I fail and having a lack of ambition is Compassion.” Great work! xo MO

  3. Susan September 1, 2010 at 9:23 am #

    Thanks Janie! At some point we have to start laughing, eh?

  4. Susan September 1, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    Thanks Mary – I’m so glad it helps! xo back!

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