The New York subway train ground into its station.
The crowds began to surge towards the doors. Jessica stayed just where
she was, her eyes fixed on a poster above the heads of the jostling
Sleep Pattern Disturbed?
Lost All Motivation?
Lost your Appetite?'
She read and re-read the questions, ticking them
off one-by-one in her head. "Four out of five!" she
concluded, staring at the advertiser's bold, black diagnosis: CLINICAL
Work in a hit Broadway show seven nights a week,
following a critically acclaimed West End run, had come after three
years of "extreme personal and professional stress and anxiety,
leaving me dangerously near the end of all my resources." She had
been bursting into tears over the slightest thing - "weeping when
I dropped a spoon, or could not get some lid off or other - and
sometimes for absolutely no reason whatsoever!" And through it
all, she had adamantly maintained that she was not the depressive
type, unable to confess the irrational panic attacks and sleepless
nights to her husband or to her closest friends.
The work in America had, in fact, come just at the
right moment, whisking her away from the circumstances which had been
compounding her depression on a daily basis. As she sat on the subway,
she realised just what she had survived - "Yes, I had 'wellied'
my way through it and come out bloodied, but undefeated - after all, I
am difficult to squash!"
Upon return to London, Jessica immediately
developed an extremely painful neck - "it was as though someone
had slammed a metal lid on top of me! - the moment I returned to old
situations, old patterns, all the old anxieties came back with such
physical force that I was even unable to turn my head." Back
home, she was forced to acknowledge that, although she had hauled
herself through the years of clinical depression, all was not as well
as it had appeared to be in the States - "it was as though all
that emotional scar tissue was still getting in the way of me tackling
things in a free and unstressed way - it was as though nothing had
changed." But what she found most frustrating was the fact that
those 'scars' were greatly affecting her voice, upon which her
livelihood depended - "it was literally preventing me from
singing properly." She had to admit that it was time to search
out further help for herself.
Jessica had first come across the Listening Therapy
through a friend, whilst in Paris a few years before. Being a
professional opera singer, the musical aspect of the treatment had
immediately caught her attention and it was this that initially drew
her to the Listening Therapy Centre in Lewes.
Throughout her career, Jessica had felt that she
had been unable to access the upper end of her voice - "the upper
passaggio I have to sing is higher than one would expect to find in a
contralto range." She was, therefore, interested to discover
whether or not the upper limit of her voice was natural, or whether it
could be extended by more attentive, more acute hearing of the upper
harmonics - "trouble was, I simply could not hear those high
harmonics in my 'pitch brain', and hoped that, perhaps, the Listening Therapy
might be able to do something about it."
Jessica has now completed two sessions at the
Centre and has noticed a number of effects:
"My voice still finishes at an A flat in the
upper register - I have obviously reached my natural limit - but my
whole upper range is very much brighter, whilst I am far more able to
access my lower range. Most noticeable, though, is that I have
suddenly developed a completely different quality throughout my whole
voice. I have never been able to use a naturally very low chest
register, with an honest, open 'on the body' sound, and properly
integrate it with the middle and upper parts of my voice, but I would
always modify it into a perfectly usable but kind of counter tenor
sound. Now, I can take that richness of the 'body sound' through my
entire range. You know, I am now able to relax my jaw and the root of
my tongue in a way I have not been able to do before - in fact, I am
suddenly breaking eighteen years' worth of bad vocal habits. And in my
lessons, I find I am more able to follow my teacher - my ears are
somehow more attentive - I am more able to understand what he requires
of me. I now have a greater ease, flexibility and response in my
And those remnants of depression?
"Well, I recognised that I had come through
the depths of the clinical depression whilst sitting on that Manhattan
subway, so by the time I returned home, really half the work had been
done. But it was very evident that I was still carrying that backlog
of stress, through my singing. You see, it is all so connected:
learning to sing is an immense voyage of self-discovery and what you
cannot achieve muscularly is nearly always due to an emotional block.
It's a sort of Zen thing of letting go - a learning what not to do -
of releasing your control. The Listening Therapy has helped me to deal
with my stress. Now, I do not allow myself to get dragged into other
people's problems - do not allow myself to get pulled off my own
"Perhaps the best way to sum it all up, is by
the reactions I have had in my first opera season since having the
treatment: I have been told that where once my voice and myself were
quite separate, today they are one and the same - and certainly I feel
this is now my voice. Another colleague told me he was astonished -
'this is a new, unquestionable sound, a completely individual,
integrated voice which has blossomed out of you', he said. And perhaps
he has the word right there, which says it all - I am integrated! And
whilst my abilities have not changed and the sources of anxiety in my
life remain constant, I am no longer over-whelmed by it. I am no
"Today I can state that I feel different about
myself and my response to life - that my life has greater equanimity.
And this is wonderful."