Wednesday, May 28, 2014

One Year

A lot can happen in a year's time. I remember when 2012 ended, I had basically decided it wasn't the greatest year, but it had some huge positive points. I quickly decided that 2013 would be better. I didn't realize what was ahead. At this point, I should point out that this post is a little bit of a vent and is most likely filled with frustration. It is going to be very true and is difficult for me to write without adding some sort of "life is good" comment. However, I feel like the rawness of what has happened needs to be felt. Final warning: It's a long post!!!

On May 28th, 2013, a year ago today, I lost my voice. As most of you know, my voice never came back. For the past year, I have had weeks or months where talking was not really allowed or where whispering was difficult. It affected every single aspect of my life, and mostly in difficult ways. Working was difficult. Having a social life was really hard. Going and doing anything was embarrassing. I felt like I had to be strong and happy through it all. I soon grew tired of being strong for everyone. I couldn't do it anymore, but still kept going.

I remember the day so clearly. The night before I had told someone I thought I had allergies. When I woke up, I quickly figured out I was wrong and it was a cold. I felt like I could still do things. I had home teachers coming that day and a graduation party to go to for a youth in my ward. I went to a full day of work. By the time my home teachers came, I couldn't talk and was exhausted. I didn't make it to the party.

After two weeks, a co-worker called an ENT and set an appointment for me. At that appointment, I was told the my vocal cords had thinned and were not connecting. It was recommended that I have a stroboscopy. The diagnosis came after the strobe (which was not fun), near the end of July. Between July and September, I had been instructed not to talk at all. Easier said than done.

Therapy started in September. I was traveling a lot at that time because the specialist I needed was not located where I live. It started out at 3 times a week. I would work a part day, go down to therapy, stay with friend or family member down there (usually a different one each night), spend the next day checking in with work, practicing my vocal exercises, going to therapy and waiting for the next person to get off work, spend the night there, go to therapy early the next morning, drive right back, go to work and work long hours the rest of the week to get caught up on everything.

This took a toll on me. I wasn't keeping my self healthy, stress levels were high and I had no time or energy to do much of anything. I wasn't able to attend mutual and missed working with the girls on their Personal Progress. I had to take a new position at the temple, where my voice would not be used at all. I carried dry erase boards and little notebooks with me almost everywhere I went because it was the only way to assure I'd be heard.

My independence levels suffered. I was no longer self-sufficient in some situations. Friends would have to go with me to stores or other places to help me ask questions and make sure I could get what was needed.

Therapy was difficult. I had to relearn to breathe properly. I had to use more of my diaphragm, which was hard on my stomach. On bad stomach days, I couldn't do the exercises as well. My body placed huge stones in the path. We had to relieve tension that had been built up for a while in my neck through massage and electronic stimulation. I remember a few days of tears in therapy, which I later learned was normal.

I struggled going out in public for fear that people would try to talk to me or that I would have to try to explain this to them. I refused to be social in group settings because it would be to difficult to communicate. I felt that no one really wanted to meet someone who didn't have a voice. I didn't want to appear to be a snob and ignore people. It was embarrassing to attend church and other meetings, just to sit there and say nothing, not be able to sing, and more. I would get jokes that a spouse or children would love it if they got what I had. These were some definite low points.

There were so many annoyances and so many frustrations. Many nights, I would be in bed crying because there was no end in sight, I felt helpless, and everything else in my life seemed to be falling apart.

By October, other difficulties occurred that made the situation so much worse and made me hit more lows. Those low times were hard. However, during those hard times, there were little positives that would pop up (I stress the word little in this sentence). For example, I remember driving to therapy one day and being scared of having a rough session, like the one the day before. A song came on the radio and the words that hit me were: "Say what you want to say. Let the words fall out. Honestly, I want to see you be brave." I was intrigued so I listened to words, more carefully. Though I knew it meant something different, it became my theme song to be brave, let the words come and not hold my tongue.

One day, I had a major breakdown in therapy. That session was hard on me. It was one of the "tears" days. I began to realize more and more about myself at that time. Here is what I learned from that. I keep my feelings inside. I am not good at expressing them out loud or showing my true emotions (seems ironic reading this post). I feel like I have to be strong for everyone else and don't let or like people to see my weaknesses. I am overly independent. I have a low self-image and self-esteem. This session was pretty rough. I was told to go home and write about the issues. I got home, wrote a few notes, and went off to work. By the time I got off that night, I was a mess. A dear friend came over, and we went through everything on the list. We talked for a good couple hours. She helped me more than she even realizes. (I wish she could read this but I am pretty sure she won't see it because she is an amazing missionary right now).

Things started coming more but it was still pretty slow. Slower than it normally takes. I tried to stay positive, especially in public. I began to make light of my situation. I even dressed up as a mime for Halloween. My therapy was no longer three times a week. We went down from three times a week to two times a week, to once a week, to twice a month, with one of those appointments being up where I live, and finally once a month. Progress was being made and people could tell. There were still moments of embarrassment, like when I couldn't sing Christmas carols, or when I called my Mom on her birthday and couldn't really communicate still. There are so many more.

At my appointment in December, so much progress had been made that we were going to start focusing on strengthening the voice and adding inflections in. Up to this time, I sounded pretty robotic when I talked. I was given a CD and was told to do the exercises twice a day. I did really well with those, even over Christmas break, though I didn't record my time. After I got back from Christmas, I recorded my time and it was improving. Success!!! I was optimistic for my appointment in January. However, I got sick the first weekend of January and ended up having to cancel my appointment. I was still sick in February and emailed my therapist to let her know. When March came, I was recovering from surgery and we decided to wait a bit longer. Life got away from me, and we did not start therapy back up until May.

During the May session, they were noticeable differences. I had good technique, was not really having to focus on my breathing and was smoother and stronger with the noise. I was also able to hold tones longer, which is good considering everything that I had been through in the months previous. I am not done yet though. I am doing more exercises to strengthen and work on my upper register.  I am not in the clear and this will always be considered a disability in ways.

I have started Vocational Rehabilitation to find a career that will be good with my vocal issues, so they don't come back once I am back to a normal speaking voice. I have learned that not only are job interviews for the employer but the employee. I have to find the right fit. My voice is strong enough to do some things at the temple but not all. I am able to communicate better now. I have learned SO much through this experience that it is hard to put into words. It has made me a better person. It has taught me about myself and how important it is to be true to who I am and stand up for what I believe in and what is right. If I need to let me feelings out, I can write them, or exercise, or throw rocks into water, or talk them through with someone who understands. If I let them fester inside, it will do no one any good. Even though I have learned all of this, I still struggle with actually remembering and doing it.

There are still times when I struggle being around large groups of people. There are certain memories that come up when I see certain people, am in specific places and/or experience certain events. The rawness of the beginning and all the others emotions come into play. However, I never did blame this on anyone. I want to make sure this is clear. It was my fault in all areas. I am not perfect yet. There has been improvements but I still have things I need to work on.

I want to send out a HUGE thank you to everyone who has helped me through all of this. There were days I wanted to quit. There were times when I rebelled and talked when I shouldn't have. Thank you to those who let me stay with them while I was doing therapy. Thanks to the kids I babysit (and their parents) for letting me practice and for practicing with me. Sorry parents. Some of the exercises the kids couldn't get and they ended up spitting. Oops! Thank you for being understanding of why I had to text, email and message, rather than call. Thank you for making accommodations which helped me to not feel like an inconvenience and like I still had a role and purpose. Thanks for your patience, love and prayers. Thank you for accepting me with the condition. Thank you for sharing my emotions, my laughter when joking around (Whitney's whispers, The Little Mermaid, Squeakers, etc.), my tears, my frustrations, and my joys. I could not have made it through this year without all of you and am so blessed to know and have such wonderful people in my life. :)

Monday, May 26, 2014


What? You want to get to know me a little better. Oh, okay! One of the ways that I cope with nerves or fears or anxiety is through humor. This entry is an example.

I have an announcement!

I am having a ......... stone! (I have heard the pain is similar to childbirth)

It's a girl! Her name is Crystal. (Because that is the main build up of kidney stones. Ha Ha. Get it! So punny)

What? You want to see a picture of her? I'm happy to oblige.

Isn't she cute. :) They are estimating about 6 mm in size. 

As you can see, she is expected to arrive between Thursday (the day they will start me) and Saturday (hopefully not longer than that), and will be coming in multiple pieces.

There was enough time to plan a shower to welcome her to the world or to register. Hee Hee. Who knows. Maybe after she comes, I will have a party celebrating her arrival. 

(Can you tell I'm pretty nervous about the procedure. I'm excited for it to be over too.)

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Surprise for My Mom

This year has been a difficult one and I could not think of a gift for my mom for Mother's Day that adequately expressed my gratitude for all her help. Let me just say a few words about that.

My mom is one of the most giving and charitable people I know. She came down a few times during this ordeal. Each time, she would spend time cleaning my house, cooking for me, buying me groceries and more. She even helped me pack up things before and after surgery so it was easier when it came time to move. I cannot express how much that helped and how much it meant to me. She would check in with my daily to see how I was doing and what she could do to help. She is so kind. How do you repay someone who has done so much for you? An idea began to blossom.

The Idea:

A few weeks ago, during a phone conversation, she said something about me not making it home. I haven't been home all year because of finances and sickness. I knew that I had traveled. However, I figured if finances worked out, with the new job that I have been working and babysitting, I would surprise her and show up at home. I also wanted to bring her something that she would like. I thought on that and decided a plant may work.

Prep Work:

I started making phone calls to make sure that she would be in town. I told my dad my plan and he worked with me to make sure it could happen. I also let my brother and sister know it was a surprise, though my sister forgot. My mom and dad were going to be out of town when I arrived and so I planned carefully where I was going to park (not my normal spot) and arranged a time frame for arrival.

The Surprise:

I packed my bag, loaded up, filled the car with gas, and headed out. I made a stop at a greenhouse on the way out of town and potted a plant for her. Then, I took off. I arrived and took my stuff into the basement bedroom, including the plant. I spent the time waiting for them to come home on the floor. When they arrived, I realized I didn't know what I was going to say or how I was going to surprise her so I just sat there. My dad unlocked the door and walked in. My mom walked in and jumped. She was startled to see someone in her house. When she realized it was me, I said "Happy Mother's Day". It worked out so well. She had no clue.

The next morning, when I woke up, I went upstairs with the plant in my hand. When she saw that, she was pretty shocked too. She had said that my coming was gift enough. Hopefully, the plant was just an added bonus.

The Ending:

I spent the rest of the day going to church, having dinner with my Grandpa Ivey, doing dishes for her, and visiting my Grandma Parkin. It really was a wonderful day. We ended the day trying to figure out how to use her tablet to take a selfie and post it onto Facebook. I have to say, the picture that we attempted still makes me laugh out loud. Let's just say it got deleted pretty quickly after. We ended up with a pretty decent one.

I love my mom and am so glad that I could spend Mother's Day with her.