If someone would have told my 20 year old self what was ahead of me, I think I may have jumped of a cliff. The thing is if you were told what was going happen in your future you wouldn’t experience the inner growth or emotional part of the journey, and I think that’s the most important part. We are born into this world as a blank canvas with the thread of the canvas holding some of our parents and relatives genetic make up. Being told at the age of 4 that I was adopted was easy to accept but as I grew older I wondered which parts of myself were learnt behaviour and which parts were deep inside my DNA.
As young as I can remember I wanted to be a singer and dancer. I wanted to go to stage school at the age of 7 I had researched the price and place. My mother was horrified, being an adopted only child my mother suffered from separation anxiety. I took every opportunity to sing and dance to anyone who would listen. I would set up my garage with an old gramophone. In the late 70,s this was an antique and it would only play really old songs, my favourite being the Banana Song. I would sell tickets to the kids in my street and surrounding area and of course I was the star of the show. At the age of 21 I was a fully fledged professional actor/dancer and singer. I was working in the day as an actor in various dramas and films, and in the evening singing, songwriting and producing dance music. My life was full of work but not many friends I was never in one place long enough. At the age of 28 I decided to start working in background within the music industry, I was working in artist development and as a singing teacher.
I felt the need to find out where I came from and who my birth parents were so I contacted Barnados, which was the children’s charity that my adoption process was done through. I had to attend numerous counselling sessions to ensure that I was emotionally stable to cope with the situation. After about 6 months of sessions I was finally handed a file which contained information on my birth parents , siblings and situation.
I contacted my birth mother via a letter sent to the address listed for her electoral register. I was contacted by her sister and a meeting was arranged. Her sister had told me that she was mentally unwell and that she didn’t speak much. I prepared myself and finally there she was. I was introduced to her as a friend of her sisters, so that it wouldn’t upset her. She stared at me for what felt like forever, I knew she knew who I was. We met up again once more and she told me she knew who I was. When she spoke she appeared to be in pain and her face would go scarlet red. I thought this was due to her mental health problem, but later in life I was to discover something that could have changed the course of her life, if she and her family had have known.
After having my first child I set up a stage school called Stage C.A.M.P an alternative school to Stage Coach that would be affordable to anyone aged between 7-21. I did some wonderful work with the young people. Writing and staging original musicals throughout Wales.
In 2008 my father became very ill and later passed away with motor neurone disease. I had a young family to look after so I decide to put stage C.A.M.P on hold for a while, but being the type of person that I am, I have always felt I have to be doing amazing things to qualify my life meaning, just being me never felt like enough. I decided to write an album, a now or never moment. I had a little free time for the first time in my life and felt like I needed to use it wisely. Just after I recorded the album I started suffering with a terrible croaky voice, and some days no voice at all. At first doctors told me it was a virus but it went on and on. Then they said acid reflux, depression, anxiety and finally after 4 years I was diagnosed with vocal dystonia, otherwise known as spasmodic dysphonia. In those three years all the friendships I had built up, my business connections, and the album suffered. I found myself day after day sitting quietly in my own space until my children got home from school. My throat would lock up violently in mid sentence and the pain and embarrassment I would suffer was sometimes unbearable.
I decided I could either be a victim or a fighter and just work around any obstacles in my way. I tried every single therapy possible but nothing helped. I began singing again and to my amazement I could sing even better than before, but not speak without most of my voice cutting in and out. I took it upon myself to set up a Facebook group for fellow sufferers, even though the condition is rare the group grow to a healthy number of members. I made some brilliant connections with people and finally had people’s support who really understood this awful condition.
In 2011 I released my album, it was album of the week on various radio stations in the UK and being played on Internet radio in America and other parts of the world. To promote the album I did many radio interviews, which for me was a massive step as I was so embarrassed and scared of speaking due to the pain, I would never have imaged I could have done it.
I started teaching again only for few hours each week, which helped with my emotional well being. I informed my fellow workers and students and they were and have continued to be really supportive and understanding.
I have found it hard to except that I am no longer a professional singer. I am no longer singing and being paid due to the fact that agents, and venues etc do not understand that I can still sing and cannot talk. They are to scared to book my services, and I have to say I think I would feel the same. There is fierce competition within the music industry and you show a weakness, and that’s it game over.
In 2014 I spotted an add in the local paper for full time art course enrolling now. I went for an interview took my paintings and sculptures, which is what I had been doing in my free time and was excepted onto the course, from there my life was about to change. I am know on a full time Fine Art and Design Degree and life is exciting again. I am learning new skills, renewing some old skills, joining new communities of like minded people, and finally falling in love with music all over again.
I mentioned my birth mother earlier in the blog the reason for this is that Dystonia is a hereditary disease and the redness that happened in her face when she spoke, happens to me when I talk my voice locks up in my throat. I think
there is a possibility that she could have the same condition and if they would have known what they now know she wouldn’t have been taking into a mental health hospital, which is where she remains to this day.
There is still so much to know about dystonia, doctors, healthcare professionals and the general public still may not have heard of it, and I hope through my art I may be able to help raise awareness and educate people about it.
As I am writing this blog I am on my way to London to meet some of the members from the Facebook group that I have set up. Their stories are similar to mine in that their work and social life’s have suffered due to this condition that we all share. One in particular was a famous successful singer throughout the world in 70s and 80s. When your voice is your lively hood this condition has a massive impact and I take comfort today that I will meet someone who will really understands my journey.
I state that it’s a journey because that’s what life is, a series of events that alter your conscious and sub conscious. Mine has altered tremendously since my 20 year old self. I am such a nicer person now. I have empathy, patience and understanding. I am aware that I am not the centre of the universe and I have developed an ability to change course when the other course isn’t working.
The things you feel were so important are no longer important. Being a success is no longer my main drive but being happy and true to myself is. Which is why I am making this journey alone today all the way from Cardiff to London, and being reflective.
It’s all part of the journey.