My job as a solicitor involved a great deal of talking. Indeed, almost non-stop talking!
Some years ago I developed a cold which resulted in me losing my voice and then, after a particularly stressful day, my voice completely gave way. I was not particularly concerned. I believed that after a little rest all would be well. However, when it didn’t come back I became worried. anxious and stressed. The longer it went on, the more it seemed to compound the problem: communicating with anyone -clients. Staff and family became more and more difficult. Ultimately I had to give up work on medical advice because the stress was damaging my health.
I sought medical advice, but nobody could find a physical cause. I consulted ENT specialists, neurologists, psychiatrists and psychologists. All were baffled. I then had speech therapy, which had little effect. During the course of the therapy I was referred to a plastic surgeon. Further investigations showed that I had ‘ a floppy soft palate‘ probably resulting from viral damage at the time of the original infection. This caused the excessive nasal air loss during speech. which made communication so difficult. To try to overcome this problem the surgeon injected Bio-Alcamid (a tissue filler usually used in cosmetic surgery) to try to stabilise the palate. This procedure was of minimal benefit and resulted in me having sleep apnoea and heavy snoring. I now have to use a respirator at night to help me breathe. I have been told this will gradually wear off as the effect of the injection wears off..
I was beginning to despair, until a friend of mine suggested that the Alexander Technique might help. As luck would have it I knew an AT teacher in my village who agreed to take me on. I have had regular lessons and have come to realise that, although the initial cause of the problem was probably physical, if I become anxious, stressed and frustrated it exacerbates the situation and my voice becomes more mangled and difficult to understand.
Gradually, through constant practice and attention to the Alexander Technique, my voice has improved considerably, to the point where I am generally understood even on the telephone, which was a particular problem. Thus, my quality of life is much enhanced, and I am able to enjoy company and conversation that for the last five or six years has been impossible.
I do, however, have to be constantly vigilant. I am a rather excitable sort of chap and if I forget to pay attention my voice still ‘goes pear shaped’! I must remind myself to momentarily STOP talking, allow my breathing to normalise, relax my palate and use Alexander directions to regain my composure.
Thanks to my teacher and the AT I once again lead a full, happy, normal life.