Why I’m Getting Botox.
To settle your curiousity, it’s probably not what you think…
Before recently, I had no understanding of what Botox was and how it worked. I just thought it was some kind of cosmetic procedure which added to the list of beauty buzz words fuelled by celebrity gossip magazines and Hollywood.
This year I discovered much more about Botulinum Toxin (that’s right; TOXIN!), one of the most lethal poisons to humans and animals. Botulinum Toxin was named by its discoverer Dr Justinus Kerner in the 19th Century who also coined the name of the disease Botulism, an ailment that slowly paralyses different parts of your body until your heart stops. This doctor realised that sufferers of this new ailment usually consumed cheap meat. ‘Botulus’ is the Latin word for sausage. See what they did there? All those movie stars are getting highly lethal sausage poison injected into their face. But that’s none of my business!
So why am I bothering to educate you on Botox? In September I was diagnosed with a neurological condition called Adductor Spasmodic Dysphonia. The exact cause of this condition is unknown, but the outcome is a miscommunication between the Basal Ganglia and the voice box, resulting in spasms in one’s vocal folds. These spasms cause the folds to slam together (in the case of Adductor type of Dysphonia) and this manifests in an inability to produce sounds while speaking (or shouting or singing).
If you’ve spent time with me in the last couple of years you may have noticed my voice “cutting out”. This has been gradually happening over time, and certain triggers such as stress, tiredness, and nervousness make it worse. The sounds I find most difficult to produce are long vowel sounds; when my voice is spasming I simply cannot produce these sounds, so you will only hear me pronouncing the consonants in certain words (consonants are my friend because they don’t require the vocal tract to be open in order to articulate them). At its best, my voice is completely ‘normal’ (this never lasts for an entire day). At its worst I can barely get sentences out, resembling what you hear from someone on a train going through a tunnel in a phone conversation.
Being a neurological condition with no known cause or determined pathophysiology means that there is no cure. What’s the good news? Botox! When injected in tiny doses to the throat, Botox paralyses the voice box which stops spasms and allows sounds to be produced. Results vary for each patient and require follow up treatments (injections) every three to four months (because it’s a toxin your body slowly rejects it).
Having a condition which at times severely affects your voice is quite a challenge for a teacher, avid karaoke fan, and conversation enthusiast. It’s a struggle not to fall into the spell of social anxiety, asking myself before an outing or day of teaching “Will my voice work? Should I avoid talking as much as possible today? Will I be able to say the things I want to say?” Rather cruelly, this pressure actually makes my voice work. So instead I endeavour to focus on the positives, of which there are so many. I’m very grateful that I do not have a life-threatening condition. Furthermore, there is treatment for my condition and I have access to it. What a blessing!
I really appreciate the opportunity to share this knowledge with friends, family and coworkers and it means a lot to me to have this condition understood. Just to make it abundantly clear, Spasmodic Dysphonia is a neurological condition, not physiological or psychological. Please don’t tell me to “try drinking hot water with lemon and honey”. Also, while I agree that it’s important not to abuse your voice, this condition hasn’t been caused by yelling too much at naughty students or singing too much karaoke. On a final note, please don’t worry about my throat hurting; while it is painfully frustrating, it does not hurt me physically in any way, no matter how strained it sounds. Thank you for reading, and thank you in advance for your understanding.