I’m the loudest and most extraverted person I know. I’ve taken Meyers Briggs twice in the last 13 years and both times scored 100% on extraversion. I go on a family vacation or to a pub and come back with new Facebook friends. When I’m in the car or walking from one place to another, I call someone to minimize alone-time. When I was a child, the best way to punish me was sending me to my room. I love being the center of attention, talking, meeting new people and making new friends. I work in communications, I’m super-social, and I’m a mom of two similarly loud little girls. To put it simply, I talk all day, every day.

And now, my biggest challenge to date: a full week of voice rest. No talking, no whispering, no laughing hysterically. I’ve struggled with hoarseness and throat pain since 2007 – all those years of loud talking and obnoxious karaoke have taken their toll and I have a large growth on my vocal chords. (I’m pretty sure there’s an introvert walking around with the vocal chords that are rightfully mine.) My otolaryngologist ordered complete voice rest for 7 days, plus steroids to decrease the inflammation. For the average introvert, that might sound like a nice break. But it’s my own personal hell: I can’t gossip with my friends, tell my kids to stop fighting, whine about the sendoffs at swim practice, talk with my husband about my day, or yell at the dogs to get out of the kitchen. I’m screwed.

Here’s how it shook out.


  • Call doctor’s office to verify if I am allowed to whistle. (Yes!)
  • Beg doctor to be able to talk quietly at the Mariners game on Day 6 for my husband’s birthday. (No.)
  • Practice singing along in the car silently to see if it has a similar effect. (It doesn’t.)
  • Decide to ignore doctor’s advice on avoiding coffee and alcohol, which are dehydrating to my damaged vocal chords. (I can’t let him take all my happiness away.)

Day 1 – This is harder than I thought…

  • Transfixed by the novelty of my silence, my 5-year-old is full of hugs and I love yous.
  • 2 1/2-year-old wakes up and smears butt cream all over her room, bed and toys. She pretends like she doesn’t understand my angry face and shaking finger.
  • Quickly realize that my knowledge of sign language (“All Done”, “Milk”, “Eat” and “More”) is woefully inadequate for any kind of communication with my family.
  • Go running and thank my lucky stars for my amazing running buddy, who has prepared a whole list of subjects to talk about. Realize that she’s really interesting and funny and that I should let her talk more.
  • Two cute old ladies pull up next to me to ask for directions. All I can do is hold my throat and point in the right direction. I feel like a meanie.

Day 2 – My cat is an asshole

  • Husband has taken to calling me “Silent Bob.” He cracked the joke three times this evening before figuring out that my sense of humor is currently on a 7.5 day vacation.
  • Try to suppress feelings of violence towards people who find my current situation hilarious.
  • 5-year-old asks me no fewer than 20 times in an hour if I wish I could talk.
  • Attempt to stop the girls from fighting by blowing a whistle, shaking my head and frowning. The 2 ½-year-old completely ignores me, while the 5-year-old tells me she doesn’t know what I’m saying. Riiiiiiiight.
  • Start hunting for a triathlon to enter this weekend. I’m on a huge dose of steroids and maybe I’ll have an edge!
  • Go to swim practice and realize that I’m not on THOSE steroids. Got dizzy with every flip turn, got grumpy and got out of the pool.
  • While sitting on the couch feeling sorry for myself, I hear the dog bark and turn to see her guarding a gigantic dead rat, brought into the house by my murderous cat.
  • Realize I can’t even respond to a massive dead rat being in my house with my typical blood-curdling scream. Attempt to throw the rat out the door by its tail. The tail breaks mid-toss and the rat lands in a bush, inches from our wading pool.

Day 3 – Talking in my sleep is not cheating…

  • Husband informs me that I “cheated” last night and talked in my sleep. I don’t think my subconscious taking over counts as misbehaving and give him a dirty look.
  • Decide to start my day right by searching for and disposing of the dead rat. It’s pouring, and I fall into a bush while grabbing the rat. I’m soaked, but pleased that this particular rodent won’t decompose right next to our patio set.
  • Had an extremely unsatisfying whiteboard argument with husband. He’s annoyed and exhausted because I’m not a very useful parent when I can’t talk. I’m furious because I’m in desperate need of a pity party, and he doesn’t feel like throwing one.

Day 4 – Pit of Despair

  • Came to the unpleasant realization that my dog follows my directions when I point, yet my children don’t. Perhaps I’ll create a meme: My Australian Shepherd is smarter than my kids.
  • Came to a second, even more unpleasant realization when husband informed me that the girls understand me just fine, but they’ve figured out that my enforcement power’s at zero…so they ignore me.
  • Took a little trip to the pit of despair today. Parenting when you can’t speak (and you’re me) is impossible.

Day 5 – My marriage requires me to talk

  • I am having nightmares about talking and getting in trouble for it.
  • The cat got the memo that I’m having a rough go and set a hunting record – 5 rats in 3 days, and 4 of the 5 have been in our house. (Note: we live in a lovely Seattle neighborhood, close to coffee shops, gourmet restaurants and a school…but the abandoned house a block from us serves as a rodent hotel.)
  • I keep thinking I’m getting sick…and then realize I’m fine. I’ve never been this quiet –the only time I come close is when I’m sick. Like, REALLY sick. I never realized just how big of a role my voice plays in who I am.
  • Introverted husband doesn’t know what to do with me now that I can’t speak, and our awkward interactions remind me of some of our early dates. The silences are painful.

Day 6 – Men are terrible lip readers

  • This much is clear: women read lips way better than men do, and my husband is the worst of all. If I couldn’t talk, we wouldn’t stand a chance. Interestingly, when I scowled and mouthed the word “Asshole”, he perked up and said, “Ooh, I got that one!”
  • On a positive note, I tried to pick four different fights with husband today, but it took so much effort to explain what I was mad about that I gave up.
  • Voice rest makes me feel boring, but at least I’m nicer. I love making snarky comments and stream-of-consciousness observations about people – and now I’m forced to keep my sarcasm to myself.

Day 7 – Throat cancer…throat cancer…throat cancer…

  • I’m a verbal processor, and all of this silence feeds my inner drama queen. I overanalyze friendships, work projects and my marriage, and reach certainty that the growth on my vocal chords is throat cancer. I begin planning my funeral and silently curse my husband for not knowing how I feel and what to do to fix it.
  • Despite achieving a new high on irrational thoughts, I’m still able to be thankful for the dear friends who have checked in, brought flowers, worked out with me and taken me to brunch. My running buddy entertained me for NINE long miles today – she read my lips, told me stories, and helped me feel normal. So, despite my wallowing, some people are throwing me a rope.

Day 8 – The Verdict

  • I go to work wearing my button that says “I’m on Voice Rest. Therefore, I can’t speak to you.” A co-worker has to introduce me at an executive meeting, I give all my feedback via Post-It note, and everyone who knows me snickers.
  • I’m cranky, tired, distracted and anxious about my doctor’s appointment.
  • The good news: It’s not cancer! (Yay!)
  • The bad news: I have bilateral vocal nodules, and will need speech therapy and surgery to get more function out of my voice. No more yelling to the girls when I’m upstairs and they’re downstairs, fewer raucous conversations, and no singing along at the Lady Gaga concert. (Sigh.)


My diagnosis isn’t worst-case-scenario, but the changes I have to make to be less, well, ME will be quite a challenge. To start, I’m talking more quietly to save my voice, and am trying to spend less time correcting my software engineer husband’s grammar. And next time I do voice rest, I’ll prepare disciplinary videos for the girls on the most common offenses: grabbing the dog’s head, picking up the cat by her tail, hitting each other with Legos and poking each other at the dinner table.

A little self-reflection – and embracing moderation – is a good thing. But the next time I have to go on voice rest, I’m heading to a monastery. Or, at the very least, I’ll wait until at least one of my children can read.