Many people have stories of being reborn after an illness. They speak of the resulting spiritual enlightenment and a reordering of priorities. They wake up to their lives and are compelled to live in the moment. Usually, it’s brought on by cancer or something equally horrible. I was lucky; my wake up call was a little quieter.

I lost my voice.

I got a cold and just when I thought it was getting better, I went silent.

This had never happened to me before and I thought if you lost your voice, you could just whisper. Not true. Turns out whispering is just as hard on your vocal cords so even that felt like I was being choked.

I was suddenly and completely silenced. No dinnertime conversation with my husband. No phone calls catching up with friends. No laughing. No errands that required conversing with anyone. No idle chatter with my dog.

I was isolated.

Someone suggested to me it was like a silent retreat, which I’ve been wanting to do for years. I wish I had the inner strength to treat it as such — but it was nothing like that. It was stifling and claustrophobic and awful.

So, I filled my days with noise. The TV or the stereo was always on, filling the air with sounds I could not express. Meditation became excruciating. Why would I want to delve deeper into this painful silence? Not to mention the fact that any deep breathing felt like sandpaper on my swollen vocal cords. The solace of silence that had been my savior through the hardest times of my life, was now mocking me.

I got depressed. I read Web MD. I got more depressed. I was convinced I would be voiceless forever.

After a week and a half, my throat started to heal and I got my pipes back in working order. I wanted to shout from the rooftop. I wanted to express every thought that came into my head. I just wanted to be me again. For a person who always wants to just slide by and fade quietly into the background, the fact that I so wanted to embrace my me-ness was something of a revelation.

I’ve always been a people pleaser. Never wanted to rock the boat. Always wanted to be a good girl. To fit in. Even if it meant burying my own desires for my life and my own true self. I often operated through the lens of what other people would think about my choices. I wanted to play my socially prescribed role and not make anyone uncomfortable. But when the ability to express myself was taken away, it was devastating. When I literally could not speak up and be heard, it was all I wanted.

In losing my voice, I found it again.

I am reminded that having a voice is a precious gift. Having ideas and passions and contributions is wonderful. Sure, you might offend someone by speaking your truth. You might be laughed at or ignored. But all that is preferable to engulfing yourself in silence and never using your voice to better yourself or the world. I promise.

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