By Stacie Rose
Dear world…I have recorded five songs for my upcoming album. I am going for a more live feel here. Less over-dubs. Less fuss. More focus on the songs, the mood, and creating the right kinda energy with the right kinda musicians. So far, so great, until I showed up to do a small amount of re-singing. (We’re using most of the original vocals from the recording session at Grand Street in Brooklyn). Really going for performance over perfection here, which brings me to the crux of my story.
In the absence of utter perfection, one still needs the performance aspect to be all that and a bag of chips or at least in tact. But what if the performer could not perform?? I had never crossed this bridge before. TERRIFYING is an understatement.
Backtracking a bit, I have been singing in some capacity since I was four. I’ve been choirgirl, musical theater girl, rock and roll, garage band girl, and singer-songwriter girl. Now I found myself at the mic at my good friend Robert L. Smith’s recording space as what the hell is happening here girl!
I stepped up, opening my mouth, ready to do my thing and my thing was not happening. My throat buckled. My voice was at half capacity and I could hardly speak, let alone sing. I drank the water, swallowed the honey, sipped the tea, lozenged it up, but it didn’t matter. I had known for months that something was not quite right.
Shortly after the successful five song recording session, I started having coughing spells, throat spasms, tightening of my vocal chords, and asthmatic episodes. Most frightening was the multitude of trips to the ER with anaphylaxis. I began slowly sorting through it all. I was allergy testing, journaling, and switching up my already healthy diet. I was studying health coaching and becoming super aware of all the symptoms but had no idea what was happening.
Mortified and stressed and feeling shame and doubt, I said I was dealing with some minor throat issues, but was too freaked to tell my pal Robert what was really going on. I guess, mostly because as self aware and health-crazed as I had been, I truly did not know myself.
I showed up for a few more sessions to do backing vocals for the album, hoping that my voice would miraculously return to me. I had always been able to sing through colds, exhaustion, or a bad day. But this was different. It wasn’t about my will or my positivity. Some horrifically mysterious thing was thwarting me.
Well, I am the kinda person that is NFA. I have a small child who depends on me, a man that I love, and an album to make, damn it!! I need to sing my songs and share them with the world. Writing and singing, has always been my happy place. I could not go on without my voice!! After all, we all need a voice, literally and figuratively. Right?
So, I sat down with myself and thought …If doctors have not been able to diagnose this, I need to work with them to get to the bottom of it and get back to my life and making music. I stopped taking freelance work for a little while. I canceled social engagements. I stayed close to home (mostly because I was scared of what was happening to me). I read everything I could, took notes, and went for a battery of food allergy tests. Finally, after spending a great deal of time with a sympathetic allergist who had been note taking and really listening to me (a unique trait), he said…”I think you have reflux.” But there was no burning, no acid, and no refluxy symptoms of which I was aware.
Turns out there is this thing called SILENT reflux! How ironic. It silenced me all right! We decided to do an experiment while awaiting an appointment with a gastro doctor. I went on a strictly (boring as heck) acid reflux diet. Anything to get my voice back. I was truly NFA.
I ate gluten-free pancakes and grilled chicken, black beans and kale, baked potatoes and bananas, oatmeal and rice and almost nothing else for a month or so… Lots of water. No citrus, no sauce, no chocolate, no cocktails. No fun!
Turns out, reflux can cause crazy voice/throat symptoms. And to make matters worse at the time, I was using an inhaler to manage the asthmatic symptoms I was having (even though I had never had a day of asthma in my life until now). One thing led to another and the allergist and the gastroenterologist sent me to an ENT in the name of leaving no stone unturned. His thoughts were that the inhaler I was using was dulling my voice.
Well, a month or so after ditching the inhaler (turns out I did not need it anymore), and adhering to the strictly boring diet, my lost voice found its way home.
At some point in the middle of all this mayhem, I confided in my pal Robert and told him what was doing. He was super supportive and I felt a lot less self-conscious.
The point here being–we need to let people in. We need to trust people. But mostly, we need to trust ourselves and listen to our bodies so we can advocate for ourselves and not give in to things that bring us down. We need to tell people what we’re dealing with. If I hadn’t talked to doctors, conferred with my family, and trusted my instincts to take a time-out in the name of getting back on track I might still be voiceless.
You know your body better than anyone. And at the end of the day, health is wealth and if we don’t have that, we cannot sing our song, or do a little dance or make a little love… or shine our light and do the things we are meant to do. So in the spirit of living life to the fullest, making music, and NFA, take good care of yourself and the ones you love! And never give up your voice!
Stacie Rose is a singer-songwriter who has cultivated a body of work that’s earned her high praise as an independent artist. She’s fused bits and pieces of her greatest influences, crossed genres, and created her own recognizably, sultry sound. She’s currently working on a new album, due out later this year.
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