Do you have the career you want? Are your relationships as strong as you’d like them? Are you happy with your life? We each define our own life, and therefore we have exactly what we want in life. Joy. Boredom. Struggles. Stress. Whatever it is you are feeling, you are choosing to live your life this way. It took me a very long time to learn this lesson in life.
A shaky voice
Five years ago I went to my family doctor to ask about some troubles I’d been having with my voice. Essentially there were times I found it difficult to get the sound out, and instead of a smooth voice it came out very rough or broken almost as if I was struggling to talk. I really wasn’t expecting much in visiting the doctor, likely that it was something about getting older, or perhaps a temporary thing like having a cold.
My doctor sent me to a specialist. This specialist was a nice person … other than she stuck an little endoscope up my nose, and went in for a look at my vocal cords. If you haven’t had an endoscope up the nose, I will only say it’s about as pleasant as it sounds.
The doctor quickly diagnosed me with a relatively rare condition known as spasmodic dysphonia. Essentially the muscles around my vocal cords are having spasms. When these spams occur, it is difficult for my vocal cords to make proper words & sounds. I researched the condition, and found lots of personal stories. Some of these stories lead to the point where talking is very difficult for the person.
As for treatments there are not a lot of good options. You can have botox injected directly into the muscles around the voice box. It kills the nerves, and with a couple months they grow back and you’re better … for a while. Unfortunately this appears to be a temporary measure. There’s voice training, however again this doesn’t seem to have a really good review in terms of it’s ability to make a big difference in the lives of those with the condition.
So I chose to just simply live with it. It’s benign, it might get worse, and it might stay the same for the rest of my life. I choose to just go along for the ride, and see what the future brings. I truly see it as being in the category of “there’s worse problems to face”.
Hiding this condition
For the first few years of knowing I had this condition, I spent a fair amount of time hiding the fact. I shared it with those I’m closest to, but generally I didn’t talk about it a whole lot. To be honest I was scared to death, as although the condition isn’t life threatening my career is all about talking. What if I suddenly found myself in a position of not being able to talk … what would I do?
While working in offices, I would be careful not to put myself in a position in which I knew it was likely to rear it’s ugly head. There’s a certain volume of talking in which it’s most likely to show itself. Trying to talk quietly so others around us wouldn’t hear is one of the worse situations for me. For those who have worked with me, this is why I either whisper or just let myself be heard.
Thankfully, when doing classes or other public speaking gigs, I am rarely impacted by this problem. In fact this seems to be a place I can go without worry or fear of vocal problems. My observation is this is because I generally talk louder in these situations.
The truth is I have let this condition define me for a long time. There were many times when I’d withdraw or hold back simply out of fear of not being able to get the words out. I’ve limited the impact I’ve had in this world, by letting this condition control me.
I’m done with this limiting mindset!
I know I am not defined by the quality of my voice. I am defined by what’s in my heart, and sharing myself with the people around me. Simply put letting my voice define how much of my heart is not going to happen anymore!
What I now see is how fortunate I am to have spasmodic dysphonia.The condition makes verbal diarrhea very difficult. So instead, I’m better to slow down and choose my words wisely. When I take this time, and am thoughtful about the words I believe what I say is more impactful.
I am not going to let my voice define me any longer. I have so much I want to share with this world, and the truth is I know the only person annoyed by my voice was me. Well at least that used to be the case. I know regardless of what the future brings in terms of the quality of my voice, I will continue to work from my passions, and share with the world. I will find a way to continue doing the work I love so much.
How you define yourself is totally up to you. Do you have some physical condition like my voice that you choose to let define you? Are you choosing to carry around some baggage which only slows you down? What is it you are choosing?
I invite you to look at those places in your life you do not feel fulfilled and ask what you are choosing to let define you. If you’re unsure what is defining you, perhaps take a little time each day and just notice what is true about your situation. I know you have something beautiful to share with this world (because we all do), and I want you to let go of the thing which limits you and bring forward everything that makes you beautiful!
What defines you?
Great post Mike!
I believe we all are on this trip of self discovery. Some choose to ignore it and even suppress in numerous ways. I have done this several times along my path. Ignoring things does not make them go away. Rather it chews you up from the inside. Not fun, so why not explore and see where this road takes us?
I really like this message:
“Whatever it is you are feeling, you are choosing to live your life this way. It took me a very long time to learn this lesson in life.”
I am a sssslllloooooowwwwww learner. Many people have tried to help/advise/assist and I have ignored them. But wisdom can come in many forms… Choosing is half the battle and the rest comes through hard work.
I really appreciate your experiences Mike. It assures me that what I am experiences is not abnormal. However tough it may seem, it is worth the effort.