My Vocal Injury Journey - Part I
Have you ever woken up and realized the passion you’ve had for years is no longer making you feel fulfilled? A job, a relationship, a hobby? You wake up, you go to work, you come home, you daydream about “more”. What was the catalyst, and how did you handle it? Did you cry out for help, change directions entirely, or keep truckin along in hopes you would get out of your funk? I fell into the “keep truckin along and not worry about it” category… until the biggest lesson of my life.
I am a singer, an actor, an artist, and my career has been the majority of my identity. Not everyone figures out what they want to do with their lives at the age of 12, and go to specialty schools their whole life for their passions. Not everyone gets to co-star in an award-winning Las Vegas show by the time they are 24, or travel the globe for their job. Sure, I’m not a multi-platinum artist, a Broadway diva, an Olympian, a millionaire, or a rocket scientist, but I’ll go on record and say I was beginning to see success in my line of work. Those experiences have been the best blessings in my life. “I sing so others can feel… I act so others can escape… I create as a way to feel heard.” That is how I’ve always connected to other people, and to myself.
Living the “pseudo- celebrity” lifestyle in Las Vegas is… well, a riot. A close friend of mine once said, “travel 300 miles in either direction and would anyone know you’re name?” That’s the mark of a real “celeb”, but not in Las Vegas! In Vegas as a costar, headliner, an ensemble member, and sometimes even as an unemployed artist, you’re on the guest list to every major event and schmooze- soiree. Because of my “co-star” status in my last show, I’ve been recognized and stopped in the Starbucks line, at the dentist, walking my dog at the park... you name it. It’s all happened- weekly, and I was always surprised, because this isn’t a “small town!” It’s fun… sometimes.
Because of this abnormal bubble of a society, I’ve had to be under somewhat of a microscope- “don’t post this online, don’t look like that in public, show up to this event, but not this one.” Las Vegas in particular is a breeding ground for the “local celebrity”, and if you follow the rules, you may run into a lot of wonderful opportunities.
Sounds glamorous to some, but after about 5 years of following these rules to the T, I realized that I had just about lost the entire reason to do this in the first place… my REASON for performing. “I sing so others can feel… I act so others can escape… I create as a way to feel heard.”
I didn’t get into performing to have my shoes photographed (it happens), or to triple my social media following in a year so I can get a raise (it happened), or have paranoia about a gossip journalist finding out I’m out sick for the second time this year. I’ll admit it- I got caught up in the stress of it all- my depth as an artist was rapidly disappearing.
This realization, in turn, created what I’m sure everyone experiences at least a few times in their life, called being completely, 100% BURNED OUT. At 27. Without a family to take care of, or anything really to call my own… just unnecessarily over-working myself- expecting growth, but resulting in exhaustion. I had LOST why I started this profession in the first place.
I needed new inspiration. So, I switched shows here in Vegas in May of this past year. Without any downtime, I landed an opportunity to immediately take a giant step forward in my career, be the only Las Vegas actor to join the original cast of a new hit show, join the Actor’s Equity Union, and finally have health benefits. Dream, right? Yes! Burnt out? Naw… just needed to be re-inspired!
“By changing nothing, nothing changes.” –Tony Robbins
In the moment, I couldn’t be happier. My REASON for performing was coming back… I was excited to wake up and spend 12 hours working my tail off in rehearsal…creating true art. I believed deeply in the story. I was being challenged again. The show allowed me to escape from the devastation of my 5-year relationship ending (which is a whole other story, but added to a large amount of my emotional stress). The people that surrounded me were extraordinarily talented, positive and supportive. Everything was finally looking up for a solid 8 months… until…
My voice gave out. Just… stopped working.
“I sing so others can feel… I act so others can escape… I create as a way to feel heard.”
Suddenly… I couldn’t do any of those things, no matter how much I WANTED to. My body was forcing me to stop, and I was aggressively fighting it. Finally, I went and got my voice checked out by a well-known Ear Nose and Throat doctor (ENT), after some coaxing from my producers. I remember hearing my doctor say, “uh oh…” and after that everything was a blur. I remembered the word “nodules” “nasal cyst” and “changes in my mucosal wave?” I remember calling my best friend, my mom… and sitting in the parking lot alone and in tears.
This would be the equivalent of:
-An athlete tearing their ACL
-Knowing they’d be out for the entirety of the season
-With a team they had just been signed to
-Just after gaining some serious career momentum.
After some serious conversation, I decided to spend an additional $500.00 cash (my new job insurance hadn’t kicked in yet… yay artists!) to get a “Strobe”- an in-depth, up-close video analysis of your vocal chords in action.
I went for my strobe… and watched my tiny little money-maker and identity-creator work tirelessly at creating the sound of my voice. The conversation went (as best as I can remember) as follows:
“Allergies aren’t the issue here. Your chords are hurting- not working at all the way they should be. They don’t touch properly when you sing… they’re very swollen. There are calluses on the bottom 1/3 of your chords… (nodules) and the muscles and tissue surrounding your chords and larynx are incredibly stiff (trying not to hemmorhage). This isn’t career ending… yet. But if you don’t take extremely good care of yourself, take time off, and go through speech therapy and serious rest… we can be having a different conversation quickly.”
Okay, so I finally had to admit that I was injured, and needed to ask for help. So, with the incredible help of my work, my family, and friends… I decided to listen to everyone’s advice and take time off from my dream-come-true show and the very thing that has given me reason to wake up every morning.
These next months are going to be focused on healing myself from the inside-out, and I’ll be documenting my journey on this blog! If I can help even one person going through something similar or relatable, it will be worth it for me!