Make Room For The Stuttering

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I tend to stutter the same way on the same words all the time. Even when I try to focus and use a technique or slow down, there are just certain words that come out the same way, every time.

Communication is one of those words. I don’t stutter on the first “c” in the word. No, I block and stutter on the second “c” sound – right in the middle of the word. It usually takes the form of three or four repetitions on the “ca” sound. Communi-ca-ca-ca-ca-tion. I am very aware of when I am in the stuttering moment with this word, as it’s a word I have to say a lot in the presentations I deliver to high school students.

I talk to them about career planning and the essential skills needed to be college and career ready, with good communication being one of those essential skills.

I am not ashamed that I stutter and I am of the belief that good communication is so much more than perfect fluency. But for some reason, when I block and stutter on key words, the same way, every time, I feel quite vulnerable and exposed. Perhaps it’s because this mostly happens when I am speaking to young people.

It’s important to me to be a good role model when I am speaking to people, especially young people. I maintain eye contact when I’m blocking and when I complete the word, I usually smile and just keep moving forward. I like to think that communicating in my own style, with confidence, is good role modeling for young people.

I want them to see that moving through vulnerability can yield good results.

A good friend of mine suggested I do a little dance when I say “communi-ca-ca-ca-ca-tion.” To the beat of the “ca-ca-ca-ca.” I think it would be a good ice breaker when I am giving a presentation on stuttering, but maybe not so much when I am talking career preparation to high school students. They might think I’m nuts and call the security officer.

What about you? Do you have words that you stutter the same way every time? How does it make you feel?

Someone wrote this on one of the stuttering email groups I participate in. It really resonated with me.

“The pain of stuttering is not in speech interruptions as that just takes an extra moment… And the speaker sometimes doesn’t even know it’s happening.  What’s painful is feeling different and feeling that the difference is unacceptable to you and to the world….”

How many of us can relate to this? How many of us have had a stuttering moment happen and we felt so embarrassed that we felt different? That stuttering was unacceptable?

I first experienced the pain of stuttering as a young child. I don’t remember what stuttering was really like for me at 5 years old, but I do remember the pain I felt when it seemed that my father was ashamed of me. He would yell at me when I stuttered and make me feel as though I was doing something bad.

As an adult, I stutter pretty openly and confidently but sometimes I still experience the pain and shame of stuttering. And I believe some of that rises up from those early painful memories.

I feel the pain of stuttering when I get stuck and someone laughs at me. Or looks at me quizzically, asking if I’ve forgotten my name or where I work. I am sure everyone who stutters has experienced that and probably more than once.

I feel the pain of stuttering when I feel I’m being judged by someone in authority. That makes me feel inadequate, thankfully only momentarily, but inadequate nonetheless.

I feel the pain of stuttering when I explain myself to put a listener at ease. Sometimes it’s painful because there’s times I just don’t feel like explaining.

I feel the pain of stuttering when I want to chime in with a joke and I stutter on the punchline and people give me “the look.”

There has been more and more awareness of stuttering in the media, especially over the last year. But I’m not convinced that the world is ready for stuttering yet. It’s still not acceptable.

What do you think?

 

There’s been a couple of good pieces by women recently related to being honest with our speech and our stuttering. I posted Erin Schick’s brilliant poem, Honest Speech, last month.

And today, Katherine Preston has a great piece, Speaking Honestly, published in The Huffington Post.

Both authors are women who stutter and speak to the importance of being authentic with our stuttering. Erin talks about speaking fluently when she stutters and Katherine talks about liking being remembered for her stuttering.

Both of these pieces resonate with me, as I did a speech on Being Memorable at the National Stuttering Association annual conference in D.C. in July and again for my 2014 ISAD contribution.

Stuttering is a part of me. For years, I tried to hide it, push it away, deny it. I was ashamed of being associated with stuttering, for I had been conditioned to believe that stuttering was bad and that I deserved the sometimes negative reactions I received from society.

But something changed. I stopped trying to hide it, I began stuttering openly and honestly, I talked about stuttering and began to accept that some people were going to associate me with stuttering. And, THAT’S OK. It’s a part of me. It’s who I am. It’s good to be remembered in today’s world. I rather like having people remember my name.

Just yesterday I was at a school doing some presentations and someone came up to me and said, “I remember you. I took an excellent bullying class from you several years ago and you talked about stuttering. And you came to our school and did a talk on stuttering. It’s so good to see you again. You’re a great speaker.”

That made me feel good, and proud and happy that she remembered me.

Being honest with our speech and with ourselves is so much easier than hiding and pretending to be someone we’re not. I’m sure happy I just let my stuttering hang out these days.

 

Buzzfeed has a great article called “25 Things All People Who Stutter Will Understand.” It’s surprisingly spot-on and doesn’t make fun of, or demean, people who stutter.

Enjoy! Can you relate to any of them?

mirrorWhat do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you see how great you are, or do you look for the things that need to be fixed?

Like many people, I often notice what’s wrong instead of what’s right. I lament over a new zit or a sudden sprung hair. I check to be sure my hair looks OK and look to see if I messed up my make up.

Rarely do I just look in the mirror and smile and say to myself, “you look great.” I have long struggled with thoughts that I’m not good enough and that often translates over to what I see when I look in the mirror.

I heard a powerful keynote speaker last month who reminded us that we need to like what we see when we look into that mirror. We need to tell ourselves that we like what we see and start our day off on a positive note.

That resonated with me, especially as I was working on a workshop about positive affirmations that friend Annie and I would present at a stuttering conference in early October.

Annie and I worked on our workshop for 6 weeks, trying out different affirmations that we would encourage people to use when looking in a mirror, both generally and about their stuttering as well. We caught ourselves saying things to ourselves and each other that were not affirming and found out how loud our inner critic’s voice can really be.

We did our mirror workshop on Saturday at the NSA regional conference in Anaheim. We were both a little nervous, worried that people wouldn’t get “into it” and that we were not well prepared enough.

We were prepared enough and people did get into it. We handed out small mirrors and asked people to look deep into their eyes while we took turns gently reading positive affirmations. We then invited people to come up and sit in front of a large mirror and say something aloud, affirming their self and their stuttering. Several people took the risk and we then shared out at the end how all of this felt.

It was a powerful workshop where we were present with each other. We ended by sharing this with the group, which everyone read aloud together.

I AM STRONG

I AM KIND

I AM BEAUTIFUL

I AM SMART

I AM IMPORTANT

I AM FEARLESS

I AM AMAZING

ISAD 2014This year’s International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD) online conference begins on October 1, 2014 and runs for three weeks through October 22, 2014.

Authors will present papers on a variety of topics relating to stuttering – attitudes and feelings, therapy techniques, research updates and personal experiences.

Presenters are a mix of people from the international stuttering community – people who stutter, family members of people who stutter, clinical therapists and scientific researchers. This is an exciting conference where different voices from all over the world are heard.

This will be a treasure trove of information on stuttering, and you will have the opportunity to interact with the contributors and ask questions of professionals in the field.

Plan to check out the conference and plan to learn a lot. Spread the word!

What do you think of this? Being around other people who stutter is like seeing a reflection of our self. We see ourselves in other people who stutter.

Maybe when you are around other people who stutter, you think to yourself, “oh, that’s how I sound.” Maybe you’re OK with that. Maybe you are not.

Maybe it makes us feel vulnerable when we’re around other people who stutter.

Other people may remind of us ourselves, both the parts we love and the parts we don’t love quite as much.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

 

 


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2014.
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