This has been a really rough year for my poor body. In February I got cellulitis in my lower right calf and ankle. I'd never heard of this before, but it's a dangerous illness. The antibiotic treatment worked for me, fortunately, so I didn't have to deal with any of the serious complications (like MRSA).
Then at the end of April I was hit with ischemic colitis, which is basically having a stroke in your large intestine. That put me in the hospital for 5 days on IV antibiotics and left me seriously weak for over a month - I'm still not entirely back to normal.
Two days before the colitis whacked me, I'd awakened with my voice all odd - breathy and hooting, higher than normal, unable to speak loudly. I couldn't cough properly, either. My doctors thought it was asthma or COPD, though it didn't make a lot of sense for either of those things to come on overnight. The doctor prescribed inhalers. But then I went into the hospital and although it bothered the hell out of me the way my voice sounded, the hospital didn't care about that because I was in there for something different.
It was just over a month before I felt I could handle going to see the throat doctor. (For one thing, I had to be sure I could drive the 16-mile round trip safely.) She'd helped me when my voice went funky last year, which turned out to be because of vocal cord inflammation. What was happening now was not at all the same thing, though.
It didn't take her long. She put a tube down one nostril, then the other, then said, "Well, your left vocal cord is paralyzed."
She told me some of the things that can cause this, what tests would need to be done, and some of the possible treatments. After getting a required blood test, I went home and scheduled the three lab tests - two CT scans and a video swallowing test (because one of the dangers of vocal fold paralysis is aspirating food, drink or even saliva).
The next day I couldn't do a thing. I just sat and stared at the computer. It took me something like 6 hours to realize that my mental paralysis was due to anxiety. At that point I took a Klonopin. It knocked me out at first, but I felt better when I woke up.
The next day I had the swallow test, and I think that's why I did better emotionally. I had to drive and interact with people. I even got some work done.
Yesterday, I found myself grieving. If I understood the doctor right, there's little chance my voice will ever be entirely back to normal. And believe me, I sound awful. Sort of like a breathy Mickey Mouse. I have no control over tone or timbre, very little pitch range, easily run out of breath for speaking, and can't raise the volume of my voice at all. I feel like a freak when I talk.
I might never be able to sing again - I, who have been a singer all my life.
The anxiety is still bad, but at least I haven't crashed into depression. It gets hard, though, to tell the difference between the inertia of depression and sheer lack of energy from illness. I've had days when I've done quite a bit, but each one is generally followed by at least one day of exhaustion.
What would I be like without my meds? Based on my memories of times when I've been ill for an extended period, I think I'd be brutally depressed. And I'm not. The right diagnosis - bipolar disorder - and the right medications are making a world of difference between then and now.
Published On: June 10, 2012
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