JESSICA:

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 hordes:

Sleep Pattern Disturbed?

Trouble Concentrating?

Lost All Motivation?

Inappropriately Emotional?

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 DEPRESSION.

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 voice."

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 balance.

"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 longer over-burdened.

"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."

 redjelly