Posts Tagged ‘feelings about stuttering’
“Are you sure?”
I was covering the phones this past Friday afternoon in my office for colleagues who were in a meeting. We answer the phones by saying good morning or afternoon, and state the name of our school building.
One call I answered I stuttered pretty good on all three words of our building name. The caller laughed and then said, “Are you sure?” and laughed again. I so wanted to say something to her, but didn’t.
She went on to introduce herself as being from the department of social services. I wondered if she laughs at clients who might sound different than she does on the phone.
I wasn’t in the mood to hear a sarcastic “are you sure?” that day. I politely and professionally helped her and then cursed at myself when I got off the call.
Would you have said anything to her about laughing?
I had a situation this week that brought back all the bad memories of reading aloud in school. Oh, how I hated to do that. Like many who stutter, I attempted all kinds of strategies to get out of reading aloud, as I always stutter when I can’t switch words and feel the pressure of others listening and watching.
I remember counting ahead to when it would be my turn and frantically trying to read the section and rehearse it in my head before my turn came. Or when there was only two people ahead of me, I would suddenly have to go to the bathroom or get sick and ask to see the school nurse.
I still have a piece of pencil lead in my hand from when I stabbed myself with a pencil so that I could go to the nurse’s office. Just to get out of reading aloud in class and feeling humiliated.
I sit on the Board of a non-profit literacy organization. We had our board meeting this week. The Director wants to introduce sharing the profiles of some of the individuals we serve at every meeting.
She had a list of about six paragraphs, each describing the profile of an individual on the waiting list to get literacy tutoring services. She thought we should share the wealth and each of us read one of the profiles aloud.
My mind went right to panic mode. My first instinct was to somehow figure out a way to opt out. I did not want to stutter in front of my fellow board members. I was new, so several of them did not know that I stutter. I didn’t want them to find out about my stuttering when I’m at my best with it.
After a quick moment of pondering how I would explain that I didn’t want to read aloud – sore throat, laryngitis – I realized that it would be worse for me to opt out. I just needed to do it like everyone else and be as smooth and confident as possible.
So, that’s what I did. When it was my turn, I read my paragraph and stuttered on about every other word. During the stuttering moments, I felt my face flush and felt embarrassed. But it was over quickly and we moved on to the next item of business on the agenda.
No one reacted. I didn’t sink into the floor or get hit by lightening. The worst that happened is that now everyone there knows I stutter. It’s out there now, so I won’t have to worry about it anymore.
How do you react when something like this happens?
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.
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.
No words needed for this. Utterly powerful. Thank you, Erin.