It might also be good to do an Amber Alert or a televised fundraiser when you find that you’ve lost not your physical ability to speak, just your will to make the process work. The air still seems to reliably comes out of the lungs, through the trachea and into the trusty larynx. Unless you really DO get stricken with laryngitis at that very moment, your vocal folds will vibrate, holding the air hostage (don’t worry, negotiations are always quick) and then releasing it into the pharynx. Each little breath is like the seedling of a sound wave. Finally, this air, that has been traveling all the way from your lungs, and was even briefly kidnapped along the way, shakes off its PTSD from the arduous journey and it leaves your mouth as the sound of your beautiful, musical voice (unless you’re from Queens, no offense).
But if you are like most women, especially young women (i.e. 12-30 and becoming more insecure by the day), you never had the burden of a physical loss of voice. An emotional aphasia was more likely to be your problem. I remember being 14 and suddenly, I sucked. I could still speak in the physical sense, but I was terribly self-conscious about each and every opinion I espoused. Did I really believe that? Would other people agree or leave me in my own boat of uncharted adolescent uniqueness. Bipolar that I turned out to be, I have always struggled with the additional burden of the consequences of my voice. Not only do I worry as a person and a woman, what people think of me when I opened my mouth?
On the first day of high school, I was a depressed anorexic two years away from first hearing the words bipolar disorder. I thought it wasn’t worth living, let alone eating, dressing, brushing my teeth, or going to school where everyone else seemed to be able to assimilate with ease. I preferred to lie in my parents bed in a catatonic stupor, my voice lost to a pain that I could not describe. I had no clue where the funny, theatrical chatterbox that I used to be had gone. I had no idea who had taken her place.
I know I wasn’t the only one rendered mute growing up. I have been surprised to find out how many of us were cutting ourselves, sticking our fingers down our throats, popping pills, letting boys just do whatever they wanted to us, and shoplifting. We wanted to punish ourselves and feel the pain.
My first manic episode, interestingly enough, gave me a voice. It gave me the voice of a nonsensical 16 year old driving 100 miles/hour through New Mexico determined to find aliens, but it gave me a voice that held me in VERY high regard. I was “simply the best.”. My voice sure as hell rang out “Bipolar” loud and clear. When I returned, I began taking the first of a number of mood stabilizers. Fourteen years later, my doctor and I are still manipulating combinations, dosages, etc. I’ve considered electroconsulsive therapy, but one of the dearest souls in the world to me was harmed by it. My voice is still intermittently out to lunch. I can certainly open my mouth and allow the verbal diarrhea to come ou when I’m upt. I’m just not entirely sure whether the voice I use belongs to me; whether it’s honest and genuine, or whether I’m merely hiding and protecting something I’m afraid I will never overcome. For 16 years, my brain has repeatedly defected on me.
In saying this, however, lets be honest for a spell here. I don’t know too many bipolar folks who can blame brain defectation 100% of the time. We may exacerbate or directly cause the onset of their episodes. If you go two days without sleep cramming for finals, you’re at enormous risk of inducing mania. If you’re drinking or using drugs, you’re probably screwing up your medication levels, ditto if you’;re starving or barfing. If you know how busy you can be, how much stress you can handle, and you double the workload, chances are you’ll snap like a rubber band. If you feel so great you decide that your meds are no longer necessary; well- don’t even make me say it.
For the record, I have done everything listed above at least once throughout the course of my illness. Until I really confessed to my inner-most self that I had this serious and often painful mood disorder, I was going to continue shoveling dirt over top of it; self-medicating it; rendering it mute.
Today I take my medications, the whole damn potpourri. But my voice is still lost out there in the woods somewhere. I’m a doormat, I’m afraid of confrontation, and I don’t chose to trust very many people. I do still let my disease be my voice; particularly depression. I fight tooth and nail not to listen, but words like “bad mother,”selfish,” hypocrite,” “lazy,” “fat” still filter through, despite the progress I’ve made over the years.
So, if anyone sees a lost voice waiting for the school bus wearing a red sweater and small khaki pants,carrying a purple Jansport backpack and a Smurfs lunchbox, please notify me. That was the voice I liked the best.
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