SPEECHLESS: A lesson in slowing down and getting grateful (again)

I lost my voice for the first time 2 weeks ago. It lasted 8 days (and thankfully not the 3 weeks the doctor said it could take to get it back). Day 1 = panic! Having never lost my voice before and otherwise feeling fine I got into an irrational state of ‘what if I never get it back?!’

I was forced to give up teaching 11 classes that week, had to delegate a work presentation and couldn’t verbally contribute to any calls. I even joined a group coaching call to listen in and couldn’t actually introduce myself when I beeped in and was asked who had just joined. When attempting to figure out a problem with my travelcard, one of the station staff rolled her eyes and passed me onto her colleague ‘to deal with’. Whispering was an effort and every social situation just created another upset, although I refused to bail on any; I had a good time on the dancefloor of a work Christmas Party and just wasn’t able to speak at a friend’s dinner party where I was surrounded by people I hadn’t met before. Another test in being outside of my comfort zone.

The ironic thing was that I’d previously identified myself as an introvert who preferred her own company or that of animals, and was more comfortable not ‘having’ to interact with people. This was mainly because I used to be overly concerned with what others thought of me. Funnily enough it’s been my voice and speaking in front of others that caused me anxiety –  I was happier being seen and not heard. Probably the reason I loved dancing and was fine performing on stage.

Myers Briggs Personality TypeAs part of a huge shift that happened this year however I realised that I actually love interacting with others; sharing, contributing to, and learning from them. For those of you familiar with Myers Briggs I changed 3 of 4 letters – a rare occurrence I’m told, much like having a personality transplant.

So on finally calming down, partly because someone told me I’d only make things worse, I looked for the lessons in the experience – a practice that I have been making a habit this year. Until that point, I hadn’t given my voice much thought and took it completely for granted. Like when I burnt my hand earlier this year, or injured my leg and foot a couple of years back.

I took some of the time out to catch up on reading, sleep and just generally reflect and get grateful for everything that I do have and been lucky enough to experience in 2016. As cliché as that sounds I’m a firm believer that everything does happen for a reason, and having bull-dozed through most of this year it was my body’s way of telling me that I really did need to bring a bit more balance back into my life. Of course, once I surrendered to the situation and found a way to be ok with not having my voice it started coming back.

What else did I take away from this experience? Reinforcement of the fact that I’m surrounded by an amazing bunch of caring people – some who took the time to check in on a daily basis! Also the fantastic response when I asked for tips from friends and colleagues on Facebook. And because I’m all about the sharing, here are some of the contributions below for those of you who ever find yourself without a voice or with Laryngitis:

  1. Warm up almond milk, coconut oil, cinnamon, (both anti-bacterial/fungal) turmeric (inflammation) and black pepper – lots of honey (antiseptic)… cloves if you fancy. Thanks Jess, I loved this one! I also discovered a love for Turmeric Lattes while I was at this #winTumeric Latte
  2. Gargle 2 aspirin then swallow it so it runs down the back of your throat. Best to do it before you go to sleep – it reduces the swelling and kills the germs. Also, lots of water, sleep and not too much attempting to talk. Thanks Jules, it was incredibly difficult to find aspirin on the shelf however and the doctor said that if my throat wasn’t sore it wouldn’t help muchAspirin
  3. Boil lemon, honey, cinnamon, grate turmeric and ginger root and couple cloves together. I didn’t get hold of any cloves and am averse to ginger, but thanks Kat! A very common occurrence with teachers I’m told
  4. Manuka honey. I mix this with hot water or eat a teaspoonful daily, thanks Rich!Manuka honey
  5. Warm tea. Big fan of herbal teas so this one was easy, thanks Andrea                                                              Herbal tea
  6. Tea with no milk, honey, lemon and ginger. Cheers Pete!
  7. Hot water with honey and ginger. Again with the ginger – guess that would have helped the number of times it did come up. I have since gotten over this and drank it this afternoon, as am currently down with this flu bug that’s been making the rounds.Ginger
  8. Steam. Boil kettle and put in a bowl. Towel over your head and bowl and breathe it in for 10 minutes. I have to admit that I was too lazy to do this one Dan. Do hot showers and standing by the coffee machine help?

Things to explore in future:

  • Voice physio – which is apparently a thing for performers, teachers, etc. Who knew? Well at least I didn’t
  • A sign language course – I’d love to be able to communicate with those who can’t do so vocally. It would be fantastic to also open up a new avenue for some potential future volunteering.