Scott Adams and his Dilbert cartoon have brought me a lot of mirth over the years. In fact, Dilbert and Dogbert look down on my right now from an animation cell over my desk. So I was very excited to see his good-news story about his partial recovery from a disease that stole his voice.
As regular readers of my blog know, I lost my voice about 18 months
ago. Permanently. It's something exotic called Spasmodic Dysphonia.
Essentially a part of the brain that controls speech just shuts down in
some people, usually after you strain your voice during a bout with
allergies (in my case) or some other sort of normal laryngitis. It
happens to people in my age bracket.
I asked my doctor "“ a specialist for this condition "“ how many
people have ever gotten better. Answer: zero. While there's no cure,
painful Botox injections through the front of the neck and into the
vocal cords can stop the spasms for a few months. That weakens the
muscles that otherwise spasm, but your voice is breathy and weak.
The weirdest part of this phenomenon is that speech is processed in
different parts of the brain depending on the context. So people with
this problem can often sing but they can't talk. In my case I could do
my normal professional speaking to large crowds but I could barely
whisper and grunt off stage. And most people with this condition report
they have the most trouble talking on the telephone or when there is
background noise. I can speak normally alone, but not around others.
That makes it sound like a social anxiety problem, but it's really just
a different context, because I could easily sing to those same people.
Except in Scott's case, he may have actually recovered. How he got there is an amazing story, read it all. From it, you can pick up three lessons:
- The human brain is weirder than we can imagine
- You do not want to get Spasmodic Dysphonia
- Never give up