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The Gift of Laryngitis

By Jessawhy


When I woke up Sunday morning, I hoped my voice was better than the night before, but it was worse. A day managing the admissions of a salsa tasting fundraiser (attended by 20,000 people) had done incredible damage on my already sore throat.

Barely able to whisper, I made calls for help with my Primary class and sharing time. Getting ready for church was interesting, with me gesturing to my husband (brush his hair and teeth) and doing signs to my children (we watch Singing Time videos together, so they understand a lot).

Although I’ve had a scratchy voice in the past, I’ve never lost my voice entirely, until now. It’s really hard. I admit to being an extrovert and very talkative, but I didn’t realize how much I talk until I couldn’t do it anymore.

So, the lessons I’ve learned from this day (and hopefully not many days more, please!) of laryngitis have been rather profound.

  1. People need me, but not necessarily to talk to them: to help them. I’m actually surprised at how well I can do my job without talking.

  2. Since the saying, “Don’t waste your breath” means more to me lately, I realize how much I am inclined to criticize, demand, or control. Today I’ve whispered the really important things, but let the less important things slip. And everyone benefits. My husband was making fun of me to his friends at church, “Jess is mad at me (for leaving us out in the hot car after church), but she can’t chew me out because she can’t talk!” He thinks this is great news.

  3. I am usually the center of all my conversations. Now that I can’t talk, I am forced to listen. It’s amazing what people, including my family, will say if I don’t interrupt them. Wow.

  4. People at church, myself included, make passing comments without caring for answers. I was surprised at how many people talked to me throughout the block who didn’t realize that I couldn’t talk back. I know I do the same thing. So in the future I will try to wait for responses from people I bump into at church, instead of making drive-by comments, “I like your skirt.” week after week. That’s not a good way to really get to know people.

  5. Lastly, I’ve realized that speaking and singing are great gifts. My mom who has always had a beautiful voice recently lost the ability to sing because of a paralyzed vocal chord. I’m beginning to realize how difficult this is for her. At least for now, I’m not taking the ability to speak (and sing) for granted.

A few practical tips, in case laryngitis is in your future. Use a humidifier, don’t use decongestants (they can dry you out), and don’t whisper because it puts more stress on your vocal chords than talking (who knew?).

(I guess the best part of laryngitis is that I can still blog!)


Jessawhy is a wife, mother, community volunteer, activist and student. She is currently working towards a Physician Assistant degree.

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10 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    I get laryngitis all the time. And strange as it may seem, those are some of my best teaching days. The students are unusually polite and attentive when I’m whispering instructions or making mad gestures.

  2. Caroline says:

    And I hope you feel better soon!

  3. Zenaida says:

    Feel better!

    I’m typically a quiet person, so I listen a lot. : ) I can empathize with your mother and I grieve her loss (being a musician, that strikes a chord with me). Can anything be done about a paralyzed vocal chord?

    I hope you feel better soon!

  4. Kirsten says:

    I think I would benefit from a bout of laryngitis! I find myself talking over my kids and interrupting my hubby lately. When one is forced to be silent, she can hear much more than the words around her.

    You could write a whole posting on the “non-talking” that goes on at church. The drive-by comments (love that phrase!) are far too many. I think they happen because our meetings do not allow for chatting. We all are rushing off to “take care of our callings” and feel some need to acknowledge each other vocally somehow. While in grad school in Cambridge, MA, (and I know they happen elsewhere) we used to have “linger-longers”– a time after church when we would meet in the gym for either light snacks, dessert, or at times dinner. This gave everyone the chance to talk and connect more than passing by in the halls. Sigh, our new stake is not encouraging of such gatherings.

  5. Naismith says:

    If the laryngitis persists, do see a specialist. I had laryngitis caused by acid reflux, which was devastating to someone in my career. It was caused by large pregnancies in a small body frame, and perhaps the excessive vomiting of pregnancy which ripped out the diaphragm and ruined the integrity of the valve at the top of the stomach.

    I ultimately ended up having my stomach rebuilt to eliminate the problem. (I didn’t have heartburn; the acid shot up into the pharynx.)

  6. Jessawhy says:

    Thanks for your comments and well wishes. I’m afraid this bit of laryngitis is caused by a cold, I’ve got a sinus headache and a cough, too. Luckily, my sister took two of my kids and the other is napping.
    Caroline: I think my kids are more obedient as well, for the same reason.
    Zenaida: Some people are great listeners, most of my close friends are. (they’d have to be, I guess 🙂
    Also, it’s interesting that you asked about my mom’s vocal chord. It was paralyzed while she was intubated during elective surgery. She didn’t realize what had happened till sometime later, she just had a scratchy voice and she couldn’t sing. She did have surgery to correct the problem, they put some kind of wedge in her vocal chord, and she now has a limited ability to sing, but still chooses not to for church, etc. However, the surgeon says that any singing is remarkable, so I think she’s grateful.
    I’ve heard of linger-longers (all outside the Mormon corridor). I love the idea, although with 3 young children, I don’t know how much I’d like to stay at church a minute longer than I have to. Still, I absolutely agree with your point. Sometimes drive-by comments are all we can do to express out best intentions of love in a very short time.
    Thanks everyone.

  7. Deborah says:

    Three years into a graduate degree in counseling psych, and it pretty much boils down to a single technique: listen. Turns out if one learns to listen reflectively, one can do a lot of healing work in this world.


  8. Jessawhy says:

    Thanks, Deborah. I do try to listen, but I have such a bad habit of interrupting that it’s hard to break. But, being aware of the problem is the first step in solving it 😉 (the second step is laryngitis, although it has other negative side effects)
    Naismith, I’ll keep your advice in mind, as I see how much longer this lasts. I’m sorry to hear that you had such a problem with reflux. My babies have it really bad, but it usually disappears for them at 18 mo.

  9. FoxyJ says:

    I’ve been realizing more lately that I need to listen. I’m often guilty of hurrying my husband and kids and being impatient to get my point of view out there.

    My ward has “linger longer” but I usually don’t stay because I have two little kids and there usually doesn’t end up being enough food. I take two kids to church by myself and I am so ready to leave when it’s done!

  10. Kiri Close says:

    When I was singing (ages ago, come to think of it), laryngitis was death (well, to my choir teachers at least).

    But at some point, slight degrees of laryngitis gave me a sexy huskiness on stage (for both singing and emcee-ing the Polynesian Cultural Center shows).

    my measley 2 cents here…

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