I blew out my voice last week, and I was medically signed off for about four days. This meant I was unable to talk, work, or leave the ship until I was fully recuperated. I spent that time sitting in my room, completely mute, drinking ginger tea with lemon and honey, wrapped up in my bed, watching DVDs of How I Met Your Mother, seasons two, three, and four. I didn't wear make up, I didn't do my hair, I didn't get out of my pajamas - except for when I worked out - and the only reason I bothered to shower was because I worked out. I wasn't technically sick, but I was behaving like I was sick so I started to feel that way too. Honestly, it was the worst four days I have spent on the ship, and that's counting those days I spent crying after good friends had signed off and headed home.

I suppose the deterioration began a while ago. I perform a total of 10.75 hours each week, rehearse 4 hours each week, and spend about 4 more hours each week practicing on my own. That totals 18.75 hours of singing each week. Granted, only the performance part of it is balls-to-the-wall kind of singing, as I have the option to vocally mark the rehearsal part. Overall, I don't have much to complain about, especially when compared to Broadway musical performers who can easily hit up to 24 hours a week of balls-to-the-wall singing. But you see, I'm not a Broadway musical performer. Nor am I the world's greatest vocal technician. Plus, I'll admit that I can be a bit irresponsible when it comes to my voice. I drink, I hang out with my smoking friends in the smoking section, I talk over loud music, or I talk to much. I also sing to myself while doing menial tasks to help memorize lyrics or try out new vocal licks. Recently, I've learned that I now sing in my sleep; I've woken up and found myself humming a tune. It's weird. So over the course of 20 weeks, the culmination of imprecise technique, excessive gabbing, and the negative effects of my environment finally caught up to me. Last Friday, in the middle of a set, my voice just stopped working.

It was painful. Physically, not so much, but my pride took a huge hit. I started the hour-long set in less-than-perfect condition, having yelled a lot the night before, and as the set wore on, my voice faded exponentially. In the last fifteen minutes, the top part of my range became inaccessible, my breathing was labored, and I couldn't sustain anything. I held back tears as I altered melody lines on the fly, and I breathed as deeply as I could, hoping that time would miraculously find a way to speed up and get me out of there. It was utterly embarrassing, to be representing myself and the entertainment department as anything less than stellar. I saw the ship doctor the next day, who knows absolutely nothing about vocal health, and he put me on antibiotics for a sickness I did not have and sent me away with strict orders to drink hot liquids and refrain from speaking. I checked in day after day to fill him in on my progress, and on Tuesday, I proclaimed myself well enough to return to work. However, I wasn't completely at 100%, so my first set back on the job was definitely wimpy. But my music director-slash-boss was begging me to come back as soon as I could because he could only hold down the fort with instrumental jazz music sans singer for so much longer.

It's a strange experience to not be speaking. This has certainly happened to me before, but because I had not previously been employed as a professional singer, I never really took the "no talking" advice very seriously. Not even while I was at AMDA. This time, though, I saw how my absence adversely affected the members of my team, and I wanted to get better and back to work as soon as possible. So I stayed zipped for four days straight. Also, while on vocal rest, I refrained from any socialization because of the temptation to vocalize. I could have stopped talking around other people, but there are so many other ways to use our voices as a form of communication: humming in agreement, up-voicing in question, or simply laughing. I only spoke when absolutely necessary. I found that other people stopped talking when they were around me too, preferring to mouth or use some chopped up version of sign language. Maybe it's because they didn't want to put me in a position of having to use my voice. Or maybe it was some sort of mutual communication standard to match the volume level and intensity of your partner. Either way, it was interesting to observe. The last four days have definitely improved my listening skills. I hope to maintain that because it's been nice getting to hear others talk more.

I only have six and a half more weeks on the ship, and in order to prevent this from happening again, I'm vowing to be more careful with my voice. I feel lost without it. And it's no fun not being able to work when you do what you love.

1 comment:

Beverley Viljoen said...

Vocal rests suuuuuuuucks.... I put myself on vocal rest for the last 6 hours and already I hate my life.

Did it help?