If you’re like I was a few months ago, you have no idea what VCD even is much less what it means. Vocal Chord Dysfunction is essentially when the vocal chords spastically close your airway. They can strike at any moment. It sounds like your body is trying to kill you, doesn’t it? It certainly feels that way.
I was misdiagnosed for 10-11 years. The doctors kept saying I had allergies which cause asthma and mucus (they can and do but oftentimes VCD sufferers go years without a proper diagnosis and grapple with asthma and allergies in addition to VCD). There is no cure for VCD, only try and fail methods to make life easier such as:
- Anxiety medications to calm the vocal chords
- Warm non-caffeinated teas (and bonus: sometimes the warm drink helps soothe the sore throat from VCD)
- Speech therapy to retrain the muscles and learn breathing techniques
- Avoiding acidic foods
I’ve tried all and it’s still a coin toss on whether I will have an attack at work, home, or even as I try to sleep. VCD can also cause Sleep Apnea and Insomnia (as in my case). The attacks can cause panic attacks which leave you fighting for air. This is scary and confusing for VCD sufferers especially since most doctors know little or nothing about VCD.
The constant attempt to remain calm to not overexcite the vocal chords and have the vocal folds choke the breath out of you is enough to keep anyone on guard but for a singer, VCD is akin to paralysis. Not only am I a singer but I’m a songwriter and guitarist. If I play guitar, I usually cannot help a song coming from my lips. I had to learn and still continue to learn how to retrain my breathing, how to save my voice (even at the chance of offending someone) for a show, when to cancel a recording session, and how to relax the muscles through daily exercises. I’ve learned to stay away from acidic foods and other caffeinated foods I once enjoyed in an effort to claim my own voice on a daily basis. Flare ups are still possible. Trust me, when your voice is a large part of your identity, VCD can feel like Goliath.
VCD sufferers don’t want pity. We want medical advancement. We want to educate others on the disease. We want people to understand why we say no or don’t speak or sing. We do it for our health and the hope of speaking up in the future.
Sing on and speak up,