Flashback to nearly 7 years ago and I had just graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with an MA in Musical Theatre. I had played the lead role in our main Edinburgh Festival season show, been in a new musical, which won a new writing award and completed my industry showcase at the Criterion Theatre in London. I was starry eyed and thought I was headed for the West End. There was just one thing bothering me.
After a tough Edinburgh Fringe schedule and a big belty song for showcase, my voice felt so tired. I mentioned it in passing to my vocal tutors, but didn't want to make a big deal of it, because I didn't want it to ruin my chances of being seen by the best agents. I didn't want people to say that it was my fault or that I should have warmed down after a performance, or maybe I shouldn't have gone on so many nights out at the Festival.
Now roll forward 5 years. The West End hadn't come calling, but I had just finished a three month contract as a vocalist on a ship, performing every day and came home to head straight into panto, playing Prince Charming. I'd still had that nagging feeling this whole time that my voice wasn't quite what it used to be, but I carried on. I was getting jobs and people liked my voice. Unfortunately, I walked on to stage during a performance of the panto, started to speak and my voice just cut out. It came back very quickly, but 'Dandini' had to cover for me while 'Prince Charming' had a coughing fit. Once again, I swept this under the carpet and carried happily on through the whole panto season.
When panto came to an end, I was hit with a standard winter virus and the coughing came back in earnest. In my true style I carried on teaching groups of 30 children, hollering at the top of my lungs in school halls. It lasted weeks, and to cut a long story short, the whole left side of my throat hurt for months, with my voice often just cutting out and causing coughing fits, until I finally went to the doctors and asked to be referred to Ear Nose and Throat at the hospital. Now I will never actually know if I had a cyst in my larynx or not, as despite being told that by the first doctor, a few specialists down the road, and none of them are convinced I actually did. What they did find out is that the muscles around my larynx were solid. Just like tight leg muscles after a workout at the gym, this had happened to the muscles in my mouth and throat.
Hindsight is a funny thing and I wish I had just trusted my instincts all those years ago when I first finished drama school, instead of trying to cover everything up, but that wouldn't have led me to today. Since last summer, I have been working with a vocal rehab coach and a speech therapist, to get my voice and all those muscles back into working order. This has made me understand what is happening in the mouth, larynx and whole body so much clearer, and is leading me down a path of obsession. I want to know everything about voice, how it works, how to heal it, how to develop it without pushing and so much more. But more than that, I want to share this new found knowledge with others. If I had known seven years ago that all I needed to do was a specific set of exercises each day to rest those muscles and help them recover, maybe I'd be in a different place now, but I didn't, so now it's my turn to use my gift of discovery and help others who may find themselves heading down the same path of self sabotage. Your voice is a muscle, it's ok for it to be injured, you didn't necessarily do anything wrong, but you WILL do something wrong by not taking the time to fix it properly.