Silent Treatment

4 MIN READ

Looking bankruptcy square in the eye is an intimidating thing. But rising to it, and standing firm in the face of that threat, brings new urgency to possess every reward available in the midst of the challenge. As Alec and I settled into the journey of defying that financial death sentence, it saw us going hard at life. We worked day and night to reclaim the territory that could have been lost, our sights firmly fixed on building our online business at the same time as my teaching career. I would love to say that we worked tirelessly, but after a few years of non-stop effort with work and kids, and a commitment to being actively engaged with our friends and community, the cracks started to show.

Alec’s passion for his business really was relentless, and drove us through the years as they passed. I must confess that I struggled. Although an over-supply of teachers makes it difficult for many to get work, I quickly developed a strong reputation in my area. I enjoyed working full-time hours, but even back-to-back temporary contracts left me high and dry over the Christmas break. I felt vulnerable financially, because I knew that my teaching income served our family with much needed stability. It seemed that no matter how hard I worked, I couldn’t get ahead. Any gains we made were lost through school holiday periods, and in keeping up with the ongoing flow of debt repayment.

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I hung everything of my identity on things I did with my voice

After a few years the endless stream of work got the better of me and I became increasingly run down. Disillusionment started to creep in and take over the conviction that I had for the importance of the task at hand. I was tired and frustrated, and the well of fulfilment that I normally drew from was becoming dry. Honestly, I really just wanted to give up most days.

Term 2, 2009 saw me commence a position teaching in a private primary school library for four days a week. The contract was to see me through to the end of the year. It was absolutely perfect because it gave me that one spare day to keep up with my admin and, of course, join Alec with our online business building.

Starting that job was exciting and I had my best optimistic pants on for my first day. I was hopeful that this four day balance could give me just a little bit more time to invest into our business in a way that made a difference to our bottom line. Our demanding lifestyle marched steadily onwards through my first week of the new job, and then my second, but by the third my momentum was waning with a cold that I picked up. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt the deflating squeeze of the steam-roller of life. With no reserves in my personal tank, my sickness quickly developed into a sinus infection. I soldiered on through as long as I could, but decided to take a day off at the start of the Easter break. I figured that this would give me six days at home to help the antibiotics work their magic, and knock this sickness on the head.

It worked … sort of …

I did recover well enough for my sinuses to clear and my energy levels to return nearly to normal, so I went back to work. And then on the next Sunday I did what I always did and lead songs at my church where worship was more like a concert. I continued everything as I normal: teaching, singing, training my dog, and taking my usual extroverted energy to animated exchanges with my friends and family. Despite feeling under the pump emotionally, I loved living and threw myself into everything with abandon.

Unfortunately, this season of my life was neither the time nor the place to splash my natural exuberance around recklessly. As time passed I did continue to regain physical health, but my voice remained hoarse, and became progressively worse. I took my frustrated self off to the doctor once again. I was tired of facing road-blocks to my progress, but I had to admit that I would not be OK unless my voice got better. Everything I did in my life relied on my ability to express myself vocally. In hindsight I know now that I used all of these different parts of my life to define my very identity.

You can imagine my concern then when my doctor sent me off to the ENT specialist with a worried look all over her face. And you can imagine my worry when the ENT specialist referred me on to another specialist for further examination. And you can imagine my distress when this specialist inspected my throat with a small camera on the end of a thin flexible tube before giving me the diagnosis that would change every part of my life as I knew it. At this last stop, I learned that I had sustained a voice strain injury that would see me out of action for at least a year. I learned that I might not recover unless I was strict with my prescribed therapy. What was this treatment? Silence.

Literal silence.

For three months I was not allowed to speak at all. Not. A. Word. My prescribed vocal activity was restricted only to trilling, vocal exercises, and therapy. In that one doctor’s visit my ability to function in my daily life ended. Without a voice, I couldn’t teach, or sing, or share with my friends, or converse with my kids, or my husband. I could not even train my dog. Talking was replaced with emails and notes, head shakes and nods, gestures and clicks of my tongue. Communication was now a privilege that I had been withdrawn from.

In an instant my life had become an echo of a world I was instantly disconnected from. And I was devastated.

 

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