Make Room For The Stuttering

You Don’t Belong Here

Posted on: February 22, 2009

I remember attending a support group meeting for people who stutter, almost 3 years ago. It was one of the first ones I had attended. I was nervous and unsure of myself, and afraid. I was afraid to talk, to stutter, to admit I stutter, to share anything that might make my tenuous emotions spill over.

Yet, I wanted to be there. I had finally found a place where people understood what stuttering was all about, and what went on inside my head. You see, I spent a ton of time rehearsing what I was going to say, practicing it, saying it over and over, worrying about how it would come out, worrying about how it would sound. I tried to sound perfect when I spoke, or I just didn’t speak. Other people who stutter would understand that, get that, get me, and I would have a place. I had never been part of a group where I would totally fit in.

I did not actively participate in the group. I introduced myself and answered one question, but mostly just listened. I was trying to take it all in. Here was a group of about 15 people, all different ages, men and women, talking like me. Some were more severe, and some stuttered differently, but nonetheless, they talked like me. I was rejoicing in this -wow-there are other people, this will be OK, I will come back, I will let them in, and I will gradually share about me.

After the group, a woman came up to me. She asked me, “Why are you here?” I remember being somewhat shocked, not being sure exactly what she meant. She went on to say, “you don’t stutter – you don’t belong here”. She turned around and left, leaving me just standing there, not sure what to do or how to react. My eyes welled up and I felt the familiar sting of once again, not fitting in. Why had she said that? She stuttered differently than me -she had a pronounced hesitation before most words and some tension was evident. When I talked that night, I had substituted words and sounded very fluent, very smooth.

Maybe this woman felt I didn’t fit in because I didn’t outwardly stutter. I didn’t allow myself to stutter. But she burst my bubble. I left feeling I didn’t belong there, and that I had invaded their turf. I sensed she didn’t want me to come back.

When I went out to my car, I cried. I was so disappointed: in myself, for being afraid, for letting this woman get to me, for letting my tears almost show. I was also disappointed that something so close was still so far away. I didn’t think I was going to be able to go back. Maybe I didn’t belong there.

I obsessed over this for a while, and did not go back for two weeks. And I never told anyone that this had happened. But I did go back two weeks later, and I never saw that woman again. I eventually joined this group, and let my stutter out, and began working on stuttering openly. I felt accepted. One time a group member actually congratulated me when he heard me stutter openly for the first time.

I have since learned that people who try and hide their stutter sometimes feel caught between two worlds, not stuttering enough to fit in with the stutterers and stuttering too much to be considered “normal” (whatever normal is of course).

I don’t worry much about fitting in anymore. I belong where I am happy.

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1 Response to "You Don’t Belong Here"

I’m afraid that’s what might happen to me if I went to one of those support groups.

I’m also a very covert stutterer and most people don’t even know I stutter (only close friends and family)

I’m very good at replacing words and waiting to speak when I feel I can.

And so outwardly it might look like I’m completely fluent but internally I’m constantly stressed out.

I think it might be good if the stuttering support groups were divided based on levels of fluency since I’m sure what we deal with different issues.

Because I often feel that if I had an evident stutter, I wouldn’t be as stressed out about being “discovered.”

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