Intonation, Phonation and Pitch

I have to start this blog with a bit of emotional retrospection. Mainly because today was one of the very few times in the last twelve years I was asked how everything has been affecting me emotionally. My response to that was pretty simple: quite a bit. All you lovely ISS ladies (and men) will understand this. A lot of you have had vocal problems to a greater or lesser degree. It got me to think. How much has this actually affected me emotionally?

I have blogged before how frustrating and upsetting it has been for me at times since that first major operation I had undergone, back in 2004. But to define in detail how it has been affecting me emotionally… I had never really given that a great amount of thought. You, no, I told myself time and time again that the important thing was that I could breathe. And yes, if I had to make the sober decision between voice and breath then the latter would win hands down. But that comes from the sensible, logical and rational me.

I sat in the office of the very nice speech therapist and as we were talking about my feelings towards all of this I could feel it being rather difficult keeping my composure. I think anyone without vocal problems would find it difficult to comprehend just what the limitations are when it comes to not being able to make yourself be heard. You take things like that for granted. God knows I surely did. Why did I not make more use of my voice when I actually had it? Why did I not appreciate the ease of talking?

It is not just about being able to sing (and by God, I miss that almost more than being able to sit in a noisy environment and speak). It is about the plain, basic day to day situations which are only mastered with great difficulties. My biggest challenge at the moment is anything to do with using the telephone. I can only just make myself be heard, however it is putting an enormous amount of strain on my larynx, something I should be avoiding at all costs. And if it isn’t the telephone, it is the supermarket, a noisy restaurant, a patient with hearing difficulties or even being outside with the normal on-street background noises. What scares me the most is the fact that at present I would not be able to shout for help just as I would not be able to shout after my son should I have to do that (not that I have really been able to since 2004, but at least I would have stood a greater chance than now).

Daily life does its best to distract. There are so many little things you have to focus on: work, the home, a child, friends, your social life (as much as possible anyway). But in those very lonely and quiet moments, or those moments when you are made directly aware of, yeah let’s use the term disability, that’s when you start to think about your personal, your emotional place in this particular mess.

I have said it often enough and I am sorry, but I will say it again, if i were physically able to scream, I would. I would scream at the lost ability to use my voice the way I have been able to in the past. That I cannot sing anymore, can’t shout after my son, can’t sit in a lively environment and still take part in conversations. At this God damn injustice of it all!

Coming back to the present however, I have to say the appointment which was scheduled with a speech therapist (one I did not really know whether I actually had until yesterday) proved to be quite positive. It was only an assessment, but to hear her saying that, after reading the referral letters (yes, letters), she wanted to see me before the holidays to get started sooner rather than later made me feel as though there are people out there who still have an idealistic approach to the medical profession and more importantly, seem to care.

Asside from going through my general, medical and social history, I was made to do a lot of humming, umming, aaahing and hissing as well as testing my (extremely non-existent) vocal range (I had forgotten just how silly speech therapy can make you feel), identifying professional and personal ‘risk factors’ and just discussing a general plan of action. To aid her ability to give me a detailed treatment plan I was asked to supply her with any information I had to hand (here we go, time to drag out the countless MRI and CT scans I could use to wallpaper my bedroom with I have so many of them).

The summary of the initial assessment is that I am more than likely using my false vocal cords to create sound. Like so many have commented, I am sounding somewhat loude,r but at the same time, to professional ears, it comes across as a strained whisper in an attempt to make myself be heard. Something I was told I should try and avoid at all costs as this only encourages me to use my fals cords even more, putting my real ones more and more to sleep, in turn making it more and more difficult to regain ‘normal‘ speech.

I am very happy to have been told that, after the holidays, weekly sessions will be scheduled to begin with, in order to see as much progress as possible in a short space of time. Not that miracles are to be expected. But according to my therapist, the longer I carry on using my false cords, the more difficult it will be to rectify the situation. And considering the fact that I most certainly have picked up some very bad vocal habits in the last twelve years it won’t be straight forward anyway. As depressing as it can be facing this fact, I know I won’t be persuing a singing career in this life time (although thinking of Bonnie Tyler….). But knowing that I may have a realistic chance of getting something of a regular voice back, to possibly enjoy a life that is filled with normal, every day situation minus the worry of ‘can I be heard and understood or should I just go home and hybernate now’ is actually achievable, is a pretty good outlook (even for 2014 perhaps 🙂 )

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