Me vs. My Voice: My Battle with Vocal Fatigue and Burnout
Hello lovelies! It has been a whirlwind, insane, mind bending, emotional last 6 months. From finalizing my divorce, to moving out and selling my beautiful home, tough doesn't even describe it. I've tried to stay focused and find moments to write all the pain and experiences I've been going through, I know I have some good source material, but most days I just want to crawl into bed and not come out. To add a nice little cherry on top I've been diagnosed with vocal nodules and have been experiencing extreme vocal fatigue in my performances. So, it was definitely time to make some adjustments. I've always had a big voice. Yes, I am the loud girl. I can't tell you how many times I was singled out in school, was the recipient of corporate glares, and people just straight up asking me, why are you so loud. I blame it on my loud, obnoxious, amazingly talented family. It takes a big voice to cut through all of that chatter on holidays and gatherings. But unfortunately my loud nature, heavy talking and bellowing laughter, coupled with performing 3-4 nights a week has finally done me in, for the time being.
When I would sing I started noticing the feeling of a wall in my throat when I would go for high notes that I could usually hit with no problem. I just couldn't hit them, or I would have to strain to reach them. I'm a belter and have never really liked the sound of my falsetto so I wasn't utilizing it enough. That's unfortunate for two main reasons; the audience gets tired of listening to a person sing in their chest voice constantly, and well, it rips your voice up. Vocal strain coupled with living in allergy central, I'm basically allergic to the outside, can cause a lot of problems. On top of that, I'm a food fanatic and going through my divorce I haven't stopped eating. I've basically drank and ate my way to falling a part. So why am I telling you all of this? To give you an update on what's going on with me and in the hopes that some of my fellow vocalists can take a cue from me and not get themselves into this hot mess.
The first step was getting to a vocal specialist, and not just your typical ENT. I went to an Otolaryngology specialist at UT Southwestern here in Dallas, Dr. Childs. She specializes in the voice and is a vocalist herself. She scoped my throat and took pictures of my vocal cords. Let me tell you, when you see those soft muscles moving back and forth you have a much deeper appreciation for your vocal cords and how tender they are. I saw the small nodule resting snuggly on my right vocal fold and knew I had to make adjustments. So I quit the party band I was in and tried to get on a less grueling schedule. Side note: you can make some great money in party bands but IT IS NOT WORTH IT. It will ruin your voice, especially if you're a big singer.
The next step was consulting with my coach and mentor, Cari Cole. She's been a vocal coach for 20+ years and is a pro at restoring singers and their voices. She's coming out with a new book on vocal health. Check her out, she knows her stuff. The first order of business is vocal rest. Yep, no talking for 2 weeks. Actually, it's suppose to be no talking or singing at all for 2 weeks but unfortunately I already have gigs booked so I'm doing my best to only use my voice on those nights. The second order of business...diet. Yes my loves, I've had to take some drastic measures. So much of our food is loaded with chemicals that cause acid reflux. Laryngeal Reflux alone can cause nodules. So I've gone on an all vegan diet. No dairy, no alcohol, no meat, no fun. I am allowing myself eggs so I can make sure I get plenty of protein but that's it. But yes, my beloved Mexican food and cheese had to go. I'm on week two right now and aside from the occasional headache and fatigue, I'm still adjusting, I feel pretty good. I've lost 5 pounds, probably mostly bloat and water weight, and I'm less congested. I'm still battling allergies and all the congestion that comes with that, but it's not as extreme.
The biggest challenge I'm facing is changing bad habits. The more I consult with Cari, a well-trained vocal expert is a must, the more I realize I've formed some really bad habits in terms of how I sing. I've been using her set of warmups before and after every show and training my voice to open more to relieve vocal strain. She also suggests yoga and messages every week during recovery to ensure those muscles are relaxed. Tense neck muscles result in vocal strain which is a huge problem for me. With all the stress and change I've been going through it's just something else added to already stressed vocal cords.
Falsetto falsetto!! I've actually become quite fond of my upper register and use it a lot more. I've extended my range and strengthened those muscles to where it's much easier to sing in falsetto then it was before. I know my audiences appreciate the fact that I'm not screaming at them all the time.
I'm looking forward to improving my lifestyle, removing the high stress, and getting my voice back into shape so I can upload more videos for you guys and get back into the studio. But in the meantime I'm going to crawl out of bed and keep writing my story for the new record. Life has flipped my world upside down but we are all where we're at for a reason. I believe that 1000%. And I know this journey will only make me stronger and better at my craft.