Make Room For The Stuttering

Sarah – “Finally Being Me”

Posted on: April 23, 2010

Note: I invite readers to share how they make room for stuttering in their life. Today we hear from Sarah B – her honesty is powerful. Sarah recently did student-teaching and knows a little something about taking risks! Thanks Sarah!

Stuttering is one word I used to hate.  I hated every time I got in a block.  A block is when I try to say a word and no sound comes out, and I am not breathing.  I felt hopeless and trapped with not being able to say what I wanted to say. I did everything I could to stutter as little as possible every minute of everyday. The easiest way to not stutter was to simply not talk. Not talking meant I couldn’t do things like participate in class like I wanted. I was always afraid my professors would think I didn’t read for class, didn’t care about class, but my fear of talking and having to stutter was greater.

So how do I make room for stuttering in my life? I started by accepting the fact that I am a person who stutters, and I will be for the rest of my life. That might sound obvious to some, but for many years I tried to be a fluent person.  Also, I learned that it is OK to stutter.  Stuttering is a part of me, just like I have brown eyes and blond hair. This journey of self-acceptance has been rough at times, but I just got to keep trucking along.  The support I get from my family and friends is invaluable.

Sometimes when I get into a block I stop and tell the person I stutter. Self-advertising has helped me see that a lot of people don’t care that I stutter and helps me to be more comfortable and OK with my stuttering.

Making room for stuttering means I work to reduce the avoidance.  This might be sounds, words, situations, or people.  I will confess some avoidance techniques I used to not stutter. B’s are really hard for me most of the time. My last name starts with a B and I eventually just stopped saying it when introducing myself.

I rarely stutter on my first name.  Occasionally when introducing myself the person would ask me my last name, and then I would block on the “b” and no sound would come out. When desperately trying to say my last name, a person might say, “What did you do forget your name?” That type of comment would usually ruin my whole day because I felt inadequate and embarrassed from not being able to say my own name.

In restaurants, I really wanted Dr. Pepper to drink, but could only get it if my brother ordered right before me and I could then say, “I’ll have the same.” I knew I wouldn’t be able to say “Dr. Pepper.” I knew I would block hard on the “d” and not be able to get any sound to come out of my mouth.  I got Coke instead because I could say that without stuttering. Eventually, I started blocking on the “c” in Coke. I had to switch yet again to a drink I could say which was water. Another avoidance I did was I would NEVER say the word “tomorrow.”  I knew I would stutter badly on that word. I would just substitute the actual day of the week.

Reducing avoidance is about facing my fears by ordering that drink I want (not what I can say fluently), making that phone call myself (not my mom), asking a salesperson where something is in the store (not walking around the store for 30 min) etc.

Everyday I have to work on reducing the control stuttering has on my life.  Sometimes that means just showing up.  Many times I wouldn’t go out with friends because the possibility of meeting new people was way too stressful for me. Consequently, I would stay in my dorm room.  Avoiding those situations was my way to avoid not only stuttering, but the feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment that I didn’t want to feel.

Making room for stuttering comes down to being the true me. I am a person who stutters and that will always be true. For the first time in thirteen years I am starting to say exactly what I want. It’s the most amazing feeling ever.  I feel like I am beginning to finally be me.

Is there anything you would like to share with Sarah? Does her story resonate with you in any way? Please leave comments and thoughts.

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18 Responses to "Sarah – “Finally Being Me”"

Hi Sarah,
I must congratulate you for writing this great piece on stuttering. I appreciate your courage to accept your stutter. It is too hard to accept oneself as someone who has a stutter. Until recently, I too would hide myself being a stutterer but I realized that it does a lot of harm to me. It has changed my whole personality. What I used to do is I would remain quiet and people assume that either I don’t understand what is going on around me or I am very boring and lazy person. They don’t know I am only hiding my stammer.
So, now I have told myself that I have to be very open about my stutter as though it is my second nature now. Earlier, I thought my stutter will make feel I am stupid etc but I have decided not give a damn what people will think of me. I also owe a credit to you for forcing me to think like this as we chatted many times on Facebook . Thanks
Sami

I am very happy I could help. Keep up the great work!

Great post! The 2nd last paragraph totally sums up the stuttering experience.

Thank you Danny. I just did my best to be very honest about my feelings.

Thanks, Sarah, for such a well-written piece about stuttering. I’m impressed that you’ve made such positive changes to your life – what you describe must have taken a great deal of courage and determination. Some of us have a lot to learn from you.

Richard,
Yes, it has been very hard (and continues to be), but I couldn’t have done it (or even half of it) without the amazing support from friends (from group therapy and others) and my family.

Totally awesome Sarah!:) I can relate to this so much. I have a tough time saying the word “tomorrow” as well so I usually say the day of the week, I wonder if people think I am stupid or something. I have had one of my sisters say, “why not just say tomorrow”. I still do a ton of the avoidances but I am trying hard to stop and just accept it but it is hard.

Thank you Bethany! YOU can do it! Take it one day at a time.

Hi Sarah,
This is a fantastic piece of writing ,expressing your true feelings and overcoming your fears.
I wish I had been as brave as you have ,years ago in my life ,but i wasn’t.
So this will inspire other pws to take that step forward .
keep strong
Lisa xx

Thank you Lisa. I wouldn’t have done any of this if I didn’t have amazing support (group therapy has been huge in this department). I would love it if this inspires other pws to face their fears.

Your post sums up, what a stutterer goes through daily.

I am taking small steps in learning to be me, as I now tells my husband, at my age, (42), I should not be caring about what people’s thinks about me and I am speaking in particular to my stuttering. So what if I have to pause to gain composure before I speak. So, what if I do not have eye contact when I speak. What is important is that I am being me, a woman who stutters and is trying hard not to have it define me.

It is hard and thats why it is baby steps that I am taking and I am very impressed with you for dearing to be you as well.

You have really encouraged me on this path of self acceptance.

Annetta,
I am very happy my post has helped you on the path of self-acceptance. One thing you said I don’t agree with is “So, what if I do not have eye contact when I speak. ” I know keeping eye contact while struggling is very hard, but it can be done. It take courage to overcome that fear of seeing the other person’s reaction to your stuttering. YOU can do it!

“Anyone whose listening whose a stutterer, you can’t let it define who you are.” – Vice President Biden

Hey Sarah,
See! Your honesty and courage has touched a lot of people. I am so glad you shared. You need to keep doing it. What you have to say is important. It is VERY helpful to have people who stutter share stuff – good and not always so good. We laugh, we cry, we learn from each other.
Once you start teaching, you need to guest blog again, and let us know how that goes.

Pam

Sarah,

Thanks so much for sharing your inner reality. It is so powerful and there is that universal thread of coping with a personal difference and adjusting to the world. Although I do not stutter, like most people I have a thing or two that makes me feel different from others so I find myself resonating with your struggle. With your permission, I’d love to share this blogpost with my staff as part of an awareness training.

Marcy,
You are more than welcome to share this with whoever you’d like. Thanks for commenting.

Hi Sarah

Your post was awesome, you really are a great writer.
Just listened to your podcast, that was great also.
Keep up the good work.

Hi Sarah-
Thank you so much for sharing and being totally honest. I think you can accept your stuttering and improve fluency. I don’t think it is one or the other. I have been there and understand the fears. I am so glad that you are starting to say what you want. I know the freedom this allows. Tks again for your honesty. It is refreshing!

Thanks a lot Sarah. I too stutter(stammer). And having a tough life! :) But posts liek these and coming to know that there are people who have similar tough times like me, just keeps me grounded that I too belong to this world. Yes acceptance is the first step towrads a life of ease.

Regards
Pramod

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