When I began testosterone therapy as a health necessity—my overall testosterone level was 10 and my free level was 0.2—my biggest fear was my voice changing. I had a lot of fears. But my voice changing loomed over them all like a great monster ready to pounce on my femininity.
My best friend lives in Washington, so we mostly talk on the phone. I would ask her day after day, week after week, "Is my voice changing?" Even though her answer was always "no," I still waited with bated breath for my mother to ask what was wrong with my voice. I heard it. Phantom changes. Imagined. My self-conscious thoughts flooded my voice box. I truly feared the disappearance of my ability to speak with my original voice intact.
It's not like I actually liked my voice to begin with. I remember being a sophomore in Honors World History and hearing my voice speak back to me out of a recorder my group and I used for a project assignment. I was horrified. That can't be me! I don't sound like that in my head. I have a huge nose, frizzy hair texture, a huge butt no one else has, freckles and pale skin. What is this? Rain down on Jodi? I have to have a voice that sounds pathetic too? Teenage girls are their own worst enemies, until they grow up to be women who don't love themselves. Then, they are their own true enemy.
Let’s return to reality now. My voice didn't change. But I have changed. Where I was once judgmental and stoic in my opinion of drug use in female competitors, I later learned to loosen the reins of my opinion. After all, I had officially jumped the natural ship and swum in the dark waters of steroids.
Women don't talk about this topic. And women hurt each other by not discussing it. I joke with others that men brag and exaggerate their usage details, but women downplay and deny. But only women can tell women truly what to expect with each type of drug in the bodybuilding world. Only women can relay to women the emotional war that will exist when we swallow or inject the supposed magic that will make our muscles grow and our fat disappear at levels and speeds the natural way seemingly could never do.
I am not necessarily prepared to open my book and bare 100% of my pages of this particular chapter to everyone. But I will tell you that I am honest and forthright with clients and friends. I explain where my line exists and why. I come from a background in which until I turned 41 and had to cross my line in the sand due to health reasons, I didn’t even step on the beach. So the line I have on this side of things…well, it's a pretty sharp line. I am 45 years old, and I like looking younger than some of the 20-year olds out there. Call it vanity. Call it sanity. But I have drawn my line, drawn it sharply, and so I have zero problems telling coaches or friends, "hell to the no," when certain suggestions are made that would help me reach that supposed magical level for my physique.
I remember a time—back when I was natural—that a guy told me, "You don't want to win badly enough." I became livid with him. I spouted (and probably spitted in my rush to fling words and emotions at him), "That's ridiculous! I do want to win." But I am older and wiser now. I can admit it. There are some things more important to me than winning. My health. I visit my doctor every six months; I get my blood work done every six months (or more if I am competing several times in the year); I ask tons of questions when I receive my prescriptions…both of my doctor and of my pharmacist…the one at CVS and the one at the legitimate drug compounding pharmacy. Not the one who sits on the bench at the gym and says he knows where to get stuff. I. Put. My. Health. First.
I wish more women would follow this. Or admit that they prefer winning above all else. It would make it easier on newcomers to make thoughtful, researched decisions that allow for wide open understanding of risks and consequences. It doesn't mean decisions will change. It just means a woman will enter the decision with everything laid out in front of her. No surprises. No gimmicks. No regrets.
I don't regret the decisions I have made with getting onto testosterone therapy. I HAD to get onto testosterone if I wanted a better quality of life. And I will be on it for the rest of my life. The side effects of my body having shut down almost 100% of its testosterone production and been in that shut down for a full year (quite possibly due to age) were too numerous and too overwhelming to deal with: depression, anxiety, breakouts, hair loss, vision loss, memory loss, sense of self loss, lots of loss. The people closest to me were begging me to put aside my pride of being natural and put my health and happiness first and foremost. They were right. I now can look back and see the silver lining to something that truly and originally devastated me. But that doesn't mean I enjoy doing it. I administer my shots weekly…by myself. In the bathroom. In the side of my quad. I take deep breaths. Take a few more. Close my eyes. Tell myself I hate having to do this. Remind myself I have to if I want to remain whole. If I want to avoid drowning in the deep waters of my depression. And then I prick the skin. Slowly slide the needle in. And let out the breath I forgot I was holding.
My voice hasn't changed. But I have a voice. And as I get older and quit caring more and more if I'll be shunned for choices I have made and transfer the care to the health and sanctity of women in this industry, I will use that voice to speak up. Will you do the same?
Jodi Leigh Miller is a Women's Physique IFBB Pro with experience in all divisions. She is a record-achieving power-lifter, posing specialist, certified trainer, life coach, and author. She holds an English degree from The University of Texas at Austin and is a certified educator. Jodi was recently accepted into the low-residency MFA in Writing program at Pacific University Oregon and begins January 2018. She is an experienced, knowledgeable, multifaceted phenom who shares her soul in this blog.