some things to think about

check out this video. is it shocking? sad? disturbing? how does it make you feel and what can you do about it?

i was listening to a boom bip song called “do’s and dont’s” and it starts off with some voices singing “thou shall not do this, thou shall not do that” and i thought of the commandments and how neurolinguistically programmingally challenged they are. should (shall) is a negative phrase that would create more inertia and inaction than a word like ‘can’. and ‘thou shall not’ seems almost condescending, obviously demanding because it is a commandment. in the defense of the commandments, if you examine them further, there are some good ideas in them, but the archaic and negative phrasing is not very helpful.

drinking three or more units of caffeine-filled beverage products (not excluding caffeine gum as well) can create a mixture of interesting problems.

the government spends something like 468 billion dollars on the army budget and about 58 billion on the education budget. i’ll have to re-find that crazy graph of it, but the numbers were about that bad. point is, it makes you think.

Well house about this one? I found it here, about Spasmodic Dysphonia…

Good News Day

“As regular readers of my blog know, I lost my voice about 18 months ago. Permanently. It’s something exotic called Spasmodic Dysphonia. Essentially a part of the brain that controls speech just shuts down in some people, usually after you strain your voice during a bout with allergies (in my case) or some other sort of normal laryngitis. It happens to people in my age bracket.

I asked my doctor – a specialist for this condition – how many people have ever gotten better. Answer: zero. While there’s no cure, painful Botox injections through the front of the neck and into the vocal cords can stop the spasms for a few months. That weakens the muscles that otherwise spasm, but your voice is breathy and weak.

The weirdest part of this phenomenon is that speech is processed in different parts of the brain depending on the context. So people with this problem can often sing but they can’t talk. In my case I could do my normal professional speaking to large crowds but I could barely whisper and grunt off stage. And most people with this condition report they have the most trouble talking on the telephone or when there is background noise. I can speak normally alone, but not around others. That makes it sound like a social anxiety problem, but it’s really just a different context, because I could easily sing to those same people.

I stopped getting the Botox shots because although they allowed me to talk for a few weeks, my voice was too weak for public speaking. So at least until the fall speaking season ended, I chose to maximize my onstage voice at the expense of being able to speak in person.

My family and friends have been great. They read my lips as best they can. They lean in to hear the whispers. They guess. They put up with my six tries to say one word. And my personality is completely altered. My normal wittiness becomes slow and deliberate. And often, when it takes effort to speak a word intelligibly, the wrong word comes out because too much of my focus is on the effort of talking instead of the thinking of what to say. So a lot of the things that came out of my mouth frankly made no sense.

To state the obvious, much of life’s pleasure is diminished when you can’t speak. It has been tough.

But have I mentioned I’m an optimist?

Just because no one has ever gotten better from Spasmodic Dysphonia before doesn’t mean I can’t be the first. So every day for months and months I tried new tricks to regain my voice. I visualized speaking correctly and repeatedly told myself I could (affirmations). I used self hypnosis. I used voice therapy exercises. I spoke in higher pitches, or changing pitches. I observed when my voice worked best and when it was worst and looked for patterns. I tried speaking in foreign accents. I tried “singing” some words that were especially hard.

My theory was that the part of my brain responsible for normal speech was still intact, but for some reason had become disconnected from the neural pathways to my vocal cords. (That’s consistent with any expert’s best guess of what’s happening with Spasmodic Dysphonia. It’s somewhat mysterious.) And so I reasoned that there was some way to remap that connection. All I needed to do was find the type of speaking or context most similar – but still different enough – from normal speech that still worked. Once I could speak in that slightly different context, I would continue to close the gap between the different-context speech and normal speech until my neural pathways remapped. Well, that was my theory. But I’m no brain surgeon.

The day before yesterday, while helping on a homework assignment, I noticed I could speak perfectly in rhyme. Rhyme was a context I hadn’t considered. A poem isn’t singing and it isn’t regular talking. But for some reason the context is just different enough from normal speech that my brain handled it fine.

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick.
Jack jumped over the candlestick.

I repeated it dozens of times, partly because I could. It was effortless, even though it was similar to regular speech. I enjoyed repeating it, hearing the sound of my own voice working almost flawlessly. I longed for that sound, and the memory of normal speech. Perhaps the rhyme took me back to my own childhood too. Or maybe it’s just plain catchy. I enjoyed repeating it more than I should have. Then something happened.

My brain remapped.

My speech returned.

Not 100%, but close, like a car starting up on a cold winter night. And so I talked that night. A lot. And all the next day. A few times I felt my voice slipping away, so I repeated the nursery rhyme and tuned it back in. By the following night my voice was almost completely normal.

When I say my brain remapped, that’s the best description I have. During the worst of my voice problems, I would know in advance that I couldn’t get a word out. It was if I could feel the lack of connection between my brain and my vocal cords. But suddenly, yesterday, I felt the connection again. It wasn’t just being able to speak, it was KNOWING how. The knowing returned.

I still don’t know if this is permanent. But I do know that for one day I got to speak normally. And this is one of the happiest days of my life.

But enough about me. Leave me a comment telling me the happiest moment of YOUR life. Keep it brief. Only good news today. I don’t want to hear anything else.”
(this is not something i wrote as i said above- obviously- its a mans life story)

There is a lot more to think of, but for now, I must go re-listen to Busdriver’s New Album!

This entry was posted in Lettin' Loose!, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to some things to think about

  1. paola says:

    That story is really interesting, the person must have been really determined to get that far with something that is supposedly not able to be fixed. Ugh. I hate that… it’s like the word “inoperable” or labeling someone with a personality disorder, doctors basically give up on the person.

    And I didn’t even know disorders like that existed. Hmm.

  2. Lora says:

    You are completely inspiring! And it sounds like you have a bright future as an MC. Ha! Plenty of room for rapid wit there you’ll notice with Busdriver. I’m just home with a cold, and my search for info on laryngitis led me to your site. Would you be open to having a writer for a major women’s magazine interview you about this? (I mean, me. I’m a writer. Would love to learn more about your story. We could do the interview via AIM or another IM service or in any way that you feel comfortable. Singing! I’ll sing questions to you.) Let me know. You have my email from the form above. Best wishes. And again, thanks for the inspiration.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *