Last post, I mentioned that I lost my voice the week of our opening for Magic To Do. As a result, I went on vocal rest for two days in order to try to recover. This was my experience.
Vocal rest was one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever experienced. It turns out, playing charades is not an enjoyable or efficient method of communication, and you can’t always have a piece of paper or a cell phone with you.
I’d never had vocal fatigue before. Reading for hours on end never overworked my voice, nor did any of the musical jobs or stage productions I’ve worked on in the past. I don’t exactly know what caused the situation, but for a few days it was like half of my voice had been deleted from my hard drive, if that makes any sense. I’d open my mouth and what would come out was 50% (or less!) of my normal volume and timbre.
So, having never dealt with this before, I had to learn some things the hard way. First of all, sleep was really helpful. I had thought that it wouldn’t matter that much what you were doing, as long as you weren’t talking, but apparently staying home and going to bed early is really, truly the best thing to do. Sleep is the best facilitator of recovery. Secondly, it’s important to stay hydrated. I kept forgetting to bring my water bottle with me, since I wasn’t talking or singing. And then I ended up with a sore throat, which definitely made things worse!
Third, if you think at all that your voice is faltering, stop talking BEFORE you’re required to go on vocal rest. It might preclude its necessity if you’re smart about it. Which I obviously hadn’t been, although I had thought I had, modifying my voice as I usually do when it’s weak, by placing it in a lighter, softer spot. Later, my voice teacher husband corrected that impulse by explaining it’s more important to keep a clear vibration in the tone rather than going off the voice, but I’m still not 100% sure I understand how to put that into practice on myself, let alone explain it. (So find a professional, hehe.)
On the bright side, this episode really taught me a lot about how little I actually needed to say. I’m a HUGE talker, which you may have guessed, given the fact that I’m blogging. So not being able to communicate with people was hard. Often I wanted to add my thoughts to a conversation, but once I weighed the worth of taking a minute or two to communicate it (through gestures or my notes app on my phone), it really didn’t seem worth it. Talk about humbling!
Additionally, most people didn’t notice me when I wasn’t speaking, so people hardly talked with me at all. If you have a friend on vocal rest, please converse with them normally! It’s amazing how invisible you feel when no one talks with or to you. It was a lot of silence for a girl who thrives on connection and community. I narrated an audiobook about a deaf girl’s life earlier this year (Deafening by Frances Itani), and, while very different from an actual disability, my experience brought back to my mind a lot of the book’s descriptions of how lonely it can be when you’re not able to communicate “normally” with others.
Thankfully I’m back to full strength now, but it took almost two weeks to recover once I was released from vocal rest. Was I able to do the premiere of Magic To Do? Yes, but with a partial voice. Another point of growth – being okay with “my best” not being what I knew my best could be when in full health. (This contract has been sooooo good for taking my pride down a notch or two…or five.)
I know there are tons of books and professionals who can offer real advice about this, but I thought it might help someone to hear my first experience with vocal rest. If you’ve also dealt with it, please share your tips and experiences in the comments! I’d love to hear them.