I feel like I might've been abusing my voice. How do I know for sure?
The voice consists of several elements. The vocal folds themselves are muscle tissue with a fine edge. The fine edge may get superficially damaged by screeching, particularly with an untrained backdrop. Frequently overexerted voices map develop nodules (which are sort of permanent sores on the vocal folds which often require surgical removal). All of that affects good closure which is necessary for a rich, efficient non-breathy tone and for reaching higher pitches.
With considerate use, changes and damage are similar to that of other muscles. Extreme overdoing of stuff is a bad idea but most solid use will tend to strengthen the muscle.
However, the way to reach higher pitches is to stretch and tighten the vocal folds between their fixtures. The fixtures are at the larynx which consists of cartilege to a good degree. With the vocal changes in voice change (which females also have), there is a growth and change process making the larynx larger with considerably supple material that calcifies over decades. The higher the pitch, the larger the pull on the cartilege. Also inefficient singing leads to larger than necessary forces for similar effect.
Cartilege damage does not readily mend. It tends to be there to stay in one form or another, affecting available pitches, strength, closure, sound quality, endurance. Children have small larynxes and thus small leverage for pulling on the larynx. As a result, crying, shouting, screeching a lot is quite unlikely to cause permanent damage. As the voice grows and changes, you are no longer as lucky.
There are a few simple rules: keep drinking a lot of water (a dry throat is just unnecessarily asking for trouble). Stop before it hurts. And most certainly, stop when it hurts. High pitches have to be approached with respect and have to be confined to a small percentage of the overall singing practice, like sprints in the practice regimen of a long distance runner.
Well some ways you know you're hurting or harming your voice.is if you scream a lot or you don't drink enough water. Not staying hydrated off balances your throughout and vocal cords.
You can easily know if your voice is being hurt by
- Simply trying to sing lower notes.
- Or note that when you talk your voice funnily changes its tone and then comes back to normal within a flash.
- Or your voice becomes awfully husky you aren't even audible.
If so you can confirm that your voice is being hurt.