He put his hands around my neck. Then he squeezed. Hard.
A moment passed and he released.
He squeezed again.
I was being strangled. I couldn’t see him and I couldn’t fight him. But it turns out he wasn’t trying to kill me. Just imprison me.
“He” had a name: Spasmodic Dysphonia (SD). A strange name for
a neurological voice disorder that involves “spasms” of the vocal cords causing interruptions of speech and affecting the voice quality. SD can cause the voice to break up or to have a tight, strained, or strangled quality. (Source: www.dysphonia.org/)
I say it was trying to imprison me because that’s basically what many people with SD feel like. They are held hostage by their inability, or significantly degraded capability, to communicate. If untreated, it can be fairly debilitating – affecting relationships, jobs, lives. I know that may sound a bit overly dramatic. But think about it. If your speech is so strangled, broken up, and fragmented that people can’t understand you, well, that is a problem and it impacts your life.
When I got diagnosed with SD, I was leading a team of technical salespeople. I depended on my voice to build relationships with customers, deliver presentations to groups, motivate my team, etc. So when my voice started doing strange things, I didn’t know what to make of it. I only knew it wasn’t good.
I went to a series of doctors – general practitioners, neurologists, ENT’s… I don’t remember all of them, but I do remember that nobody knew what was going on. Nobody until I ran across a skilled speech pathologist who was aware of this rare monster. So the good news is I knew what was afflicting me. The bad news is I was told there was no cure.
Image source: Seth Sechrist