My Vocal Injury Journey- Part III

(Backlogged from end of February)

Please forgive the heaviness of this post, but I think it’s necessary to write about as a part of this process- especially after you read how this month has gone down...

In terms of my voice, there unfortunately hasn’t been a whole lot of singing progress to report.  I’ve spent 3-5 days a week in speech therapy. As of now it’s mainly just speaking rehab- training my chords to healthily rebuild themselves without needing invasive surgery.  The process.  IS. SLOW. So slow, I doubt the entire process some days.  My speaking voice feels much better- more resonant, and less fatigued… I hadn’t realized how rough I sounded just when I’d talk!

 At this point, the nodules hadn't changed, and the swelling on and around my chords hadn't changed, causing a lot of difficulty to produce my "belt" in my mid-range.  (That surrounding tissue around my chords shouldn't be anywhere close to that swollen.)

At this point, the nodules hadn't changed, and the swelling on and around my chords hadn't changed, causing a lot of difficulty to produce my "belt" in my mid-range.  (That surrounding tissue around my chords shouldn't be anywhere close to that swollen.)

 

However, I have seen very little improvement when I try to sing a line from my show in pathology- it actually sounds worse.  I didn't sound like me.... AT. ALL.  I audio record myself on my phone each day, and sing just one measly line from “Lady Marmalade” from my show that gives me the most trouble… “he sat in her boudoir while she freshened up- boy drank all that Magnolia wine”, and, “gichi gichi ya ya, da da…” After a few weeks of attempting that, I gave up, and told my pathologist that I needed to remove myself from that song for a bit because I would get more frustrated each time. She agreed, because it sounded like this:

 I feel like I am in the best possible hands, with the slowest possible outcome.  I sound like a dying frog. Some days I wish I could just have surgery- I had a friend who just have a polyp removed around the same time as my rehab started, and she’s already starting to sing again- I’m so excited for her! But, what the hell is taking so long for me?

In addition to this physical rehab fiasco, my emotional and mental well-being has rapidly depleted.  My boyfriend has been in Australia on tour performing, and I haven’t wanted to socialize at all in fear of getting in trouble with work.  I have started to feel very alone- not going to any industry events, turning down fun gigs and hangs with my friends, and watching everyone around me carry on with their life with very little understanding with what was going on in mine.  Phone calls from friends have happened less and less… “out of sight out of mind” I guess… and the solitude is really, really difficult.

It’s hard to explain the darkness to someone, because on one hand, it’s all about perspective.  I’m alive. I’m so thankful to have amazing insurance through work, and still pay my bills thanks to worker’s comp and the Actor’s Equity Union.  That in itself is a lifesaver.  I am not battling cancer, like other friends I’ve had, I did not lose a sibling, a parent, or a best friend.  I still have a good life in the grand view, but it is in an extremely painful and debilitating holding pattern.  I have been feeling so empty- until one day I decided it was time to get a puppy!

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I adopted a Shiba Inu, who I’d been told was properly trained (nope), and was relatively calm (NOPE.) I grew up with a Shiba, so I thought I was prepared for it all.  I wasn’t.  But, he still brought me SO much joy, and I was able to focus my energy and efforts on something that was healing my heart. Until…

I took Kouta (pronounced Coda) to the dog park, and I was ran over by a very hefty pit bull and extra large Doberman- chasing a ball… at full speed… side-by-side.  I was turned away from them, and they decided to run right through me.  Yes- through my legs.  Legend has it, I flipped up into the air, Charlie Brown football-style, landed directly on my back, blacked out, and when I woke up, I couldn’t breathe- at all. I knew immediately my back or a rib was broken.  Rushed to the ER with my mom by my side, spent a few hours there… and was sent home.  Wasn’t checked for a concussion even though the paper said I was, and the x-ray said everything “looked fine”.  And yet, I was in the most excruciating pain of my life. So, the next day, I went to my general doctor who’s known me for 20 years. They looked at me and immediately ordered an MRI because "looked fine" actually looked like this:

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I fractured my spine: T-3, T-4, and a small piece of my coccyx bone, along with multiple herniated discs. Oh yeah, and had a BIG ol’ concussion on top of it. (The lack of care at the ER is a story for a different day…)

 

YOU CANNOT MAKE THIS UP, FRIENDS.

 

So now, not only did I have my voice at the mercy of doctors and fate, but now my spine was broken.  All within about 2 months of each other.  What the hell is happening right now? Karma? A bigger message?

My family has been taking care of me, as has my best friend Elizabeth.  Isaac flew home from Australia a week early after being gone a month, and I’ve been staying with him because I can’t even bend over.  I refused to stop my speech pathology, and he has been driving me to every appointment.  I am spending more time a day on rehabbing my voice right now than even before, because it’s all I can do! And yet-

I am SO scared to tell anyone about my back.  This industry can be so brutal- everyone assumes that what they see on social media is the complete and ONLY truth. I’ve had to post photos that had happened weeks ago to make it look like “everything is normal.”  It’s not. But if they know that, will they question my reason for being out? Yes, absolutely.  Would I be considered a complete “mess”? Yes, absolutely.  Regadless of such a bizarre and weirdly-timed accident.  So, I’ve determined it’s no one’s business, and when I’m ready to share my story, I will. (by the time you are reading this, I have long-since healed.)

The crazy part is, thanks to having an attorney for a father, I have been tracking every single thing- daily audio records of my voice, appointments, emergency room visits, written notes of progress from doctors- both voice and back, MRIs, X-rays, ENT appointments… everything.  And it all checks out, but the fact that I feel the need to “prove” that my voice is still injured is the pathetic part. I’d rather a broken back over a broken voice any day!

 So, I say nothing, until my back is healed.  Granted, having all of this happen in the span of one year, let alone a few months, is a hard thing to grasp… believe me, I know.  Now I’m additionally starting to worry- what if my voice heals before my back? I couldn't lie- I’d have to go off worker’s comp, of course. Would I be able to work? How do people who get injured in freak accidents handled their finances? My spinal surgeon says it will (only) take 3 months to heal, doesn't think it will cause any restriction on my voice production, and coincidentally, at my most recent ENT appointment, I was told a return in about 4 months looks "promising". That would be after my back heals!

That would be the stroke of luck I desperately need right now.