About eighteen months ago, I realized that I was having trouble with my voice. I chalked it up to my job, and tried to be careful with it for the last six weeks of the school year. I figured that taking the summer to rest it should do the trick. A few higher-profile gigs went well, so I thought things were going fine.
Then school started again. I went into the first day feeling optimistic. I finished the day in tears. I called my doctor before I even left the building to go home. A small knot of fear began to grow in my mind, but I tried to push it back.
My doctor referred me to a specialist. That specialist assured me I had no vocal nodes (yay!) and referred me to a speech pathologist. She, in turn, gave me some vocal exercises, as well as some tips to better manage my voice: drink more water, get more sleep, stress less. She also said that my jaw was misaligned, and that I needed to get that looked at.
Now I understood why my mouth sloped noticeably in my passport picture and driver’s license photo, but I didn’t know what to do about it or who to see. My dentist referred me to a TMJ specialist, which led to the decision to get braces on my teeth.
Yes, it’s true. The underlying problem with my voice turned out to be my crooked teeth and uneven bite. But I had no idea just how many other things were tied into that situation. Part of the assessment involved answering a series of questions about aches and pains here and there, and strange things like watering eyes (yes, I had that) and numbness in my fingers (yes, I had that, too). When the specialist asked me how many days out of 30 I experienced pain, I said “Thirty”. My husband looked surprised, and sad for me. I honestly hadn’t thought about it much–it had crept up gradually, and I think I assumed that everyone felt the way I did, so there was no point in complaining.
During that first appointment, I was given a simple silicone appliance to wear between my upper and bottom teeth. Within MINUTES, my headache began to dissipate. The knotted muscles in my upper back began to relax. The pain across the front of my shoulders actually WENT AWAY. I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I hadn’t been in pain.
My voice soon began to improve as well. After six months of cancelling gigs, and being unable to make it through a few songs, I called a band practice and got back at it! I don’t want to take any chances with my restored voice. I have been seeing a voice teacher to correct any bad habits, and to give me new ways to keep my voice strong. I’ve been taking bookings, writing, and practicing with enthusiasm. It feels great to be back, and I’m confident that it will be better than ever! If God had wanted me to be silent, I was determined to accept it, but it would have been very difficult. I’m not foolish enough to think there are no surprises ahead. Life has a way of throwing curves, but for now, I am so thankful to have my voice back!