A Gift in Disguise

“Hi, this is the Frog Princess.”  I listened to my raspy/croaky voice spontaneously leaving a voicemail for a friend.  My impulsive identification with a frog, due to the sound of my voice, inspired this post.  Thanks for reading!
Around eight years ago, after decades of living with a multitude of chronic painful symptoms, I discovered the mindbody approach to healing, and it transformed every area of my life.

My experience led me to embark on a new career as a certified life, mindbody and whole health coach supporting others, and I remained symptom free for well over five years.

It was then that I began to notice significant changes in my voice.  In addition to hoarseness and sporadic tremors, I noticed a feeling of “strangulation” while speaking.

Initially I expected the symptoms to subside quickly and believed that they developed in response to recent events in my life that were extremely challenging and triggering.  I understood that my mindbody system was out of balance and realized that the appearance of this “voice thing” was no accident.

I was well aware that I was reliving my old pattern of trying too hard to make things better for others often at the expense of my own health and well-being.  And I KNEW that something deep within me had been triggered by these challenging circumstances that often left me feeling dragged down and powerless.
Eventually I went to an otolaryngologist, or ENT, who examined me and performed a laryngoscopy – a procedure that permits the physician to directly inspect the nose, throat, and larynx.  I was diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia – a rare disorder of the central nervous system that causes involuntary movements of the vocal folds (cords) during voice production.

The doctor informed me that this neurological disorder has “no known cause and no cure.”

I immediately told him about my recovery from decades of chronic painful symptoms and shared my own theory about the inception of this condition and my belief that it was possible to restore my voice.

I was pleasantly surprised when he replied: “You know, you might be on to something here.  I certainly don’t claim to know everything!”  What a refreshing and hopeful response. 

I briefly shared some mindbody resources with him: Information in The Mindbody Prescription by Dr. John Sarno and an article, The King’s Speech by Dr. Howard Schubiner from Psychology Today.  Both of these resources address voice disorders from a mindbody perspective.
Now, two years later as I share this strange, yet wonderful story with you – I remain The Frog Princess. And yet, I am grateful for this gift in disguise that has served me by connecting me with long lost parts of myself.

I see with new eyes and float in a pool of heightened awareness that continues to deepen.

Our voices are often viewed as metaphors for “our truth.”  A long time ago, I learned that if I “shut up” and “sucked it up” I would not distress my parents and grandparents.  I played it safe and abandoned parts of my true nature in order to receive the love and approval all young children need. 

As infants and small children our very survival is totally dependent on our parents or caregivers.  Babies quickly learn to associate how their behavior impacts their caregivers and are strongly attuned to the slightest expression of disapproval. This survival strategy is part of our evolutionary wiring. See more on this video.

By the time I was five years old, I had experienced persistent and numerous throat infections.  These continued until I was about thirty.  In retrospect, I believe that all of these experiences and symptoms are pieces of a puzzle that hold profound wisdom and insight for me.

“…the voice is suppressed and becomes constricted in both large and small trauma – as in the ability to call out for help or express ‘I don’t want to do this now.'” Judith Blackstone, PhD

I do know this for sure:  Our physical health cannot be separated from any other part of our lives.  The word “health”, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is ” a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

The Old English origin of the word health is “wholeness, a being whole, sound or well,” and from the Old Norse origin the meaning is “holy or sacred.”

Our bodies hold infinite wisdom and speak to us through sensory messages that most of us either ignore or battle.  It’s rare that we stop our endless quest to “feel better” and instead engage in the practice of “getting better at feeling.” (Adapted from Michael Brown’s The Presence Process)

As the Frog Princess, I sometimes deal with frustration and shame.  My condition cannot be hidden unless I remain silent.  But I choose to use my voice to share my truth.  When I practice compassionate self-reflection along with self-kindness, I become aware of the opportunity buried within the obstacle – the gift in disguise.

I want to acknowledge, allow and accept each moment as it is right now and still remain curious about the possibilities that may lead to the restoration of my voice.  Acceptance in the moment opens the door to transformation.

I hope you find these final words from Brigit Anna NcNeill as inspirational as I do:

“…I worried I would lose it all if I spoke out…I didn’t realize that what I would lose from speaking my truth would be something I never really had anyway, something that was never really in line with me to begin with…I didn’t understand that losing the people and moments that depended on my quiet compliance would free me.”

And always remember that each of us holds the key,