Make Room For The Stuttering

Pushing Past The Fear

Posted on: April 20, 2009

Someone asked me recently how I got to such a good place with my stuttering. I wasn’t sure what he meant by “good place”, as that is obviously very relative, and asked him to elaborate. He said , “well, you seem so comfortable with everything and you just seem to take stuttering in stride. How did you reach this point?”

Trust me, I have not always taken stuttering in stride. It has been a journey with lots of bumps and potholes. Three years ago, I would not stutter publicly, because I was afraid of social punishment (Greg’s phrasing), mostly rejection. I was convinced that people wouldn’t like me because of my stuttering and was afraid to show that part of me.

I had received negative messages about stuttering all of my life. Early on, those messages came from my father, grade school teachers and classmates. I learned to protect myself from mockery by hardly ever talking. It worked for a long time. In high school and college, on the few occasions when I did dare talk, I pretended the stuttering was something else, coughing, forgotten words, anything but admit I was stuttering. It still worked for the most part.

In adulthood, some people would make cracks like, “did you forget your name or where you work?” or “don’t talk much” when something came out repeated or hesitated. I tried to shake those things off, but it became harder and harder. In the workplace, at the job I was eventually fired from, a manager was particularly brutal to me. At that point in my career, I had to do a lot of public speaking.

I was still very much in covert mode, but it wasn’t working well for me any more. When I do stutter, it is obvious. I just never admitted I stuttered when I was covert. I thought I was fooling everyone, but they knew. The only one I was fooling, and hurting, was myself. Anyway,this manager would roll his eyes when I spoke, would slap his face in disgust and would point and say things like, “Do you hear her? Unbelievable. She can’t even speak.”

After swallowing this and other things for a while and then getting fired for being a poor communicator, something inside of me just snapped. I decided on the day that I was fired that I wasn’t going to live like this anymore, allowing people to rob me of my dignity and self-respect.

I was going to do one of the hardest things in my life – accept that I stutter and let others know. I was afraid of being hurt, of being ridiculed, of being rejected. But I wanted to come clean with myself more than I was afraid, so I pushed through the fear and did it anyway, in baby steps.

I found self-help and went to meetings, at first not saying anything. I cried after the first two stuttering meetings. I was afraid to admit that I stutter even to other people who stutter. But it got easier, and my desire grew bigger than the fear. That’s basically how I did it – acknowledging the fear, and doing what I was afraid of anyway. Like the book by Dr Susan Jeffers, “Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway”. (If you haven’t read it, do – it offers great insights for all of us).

You have to acknowledge that fear of the unknown will always exist. Essentially, you make a choice: let fear control you, or “you” control you. I chose the latter, and finally I am leading the life I want. Its not always easy, and sometimes I still hit those potholes. And sometimes I cry , a lot. But life is far better when I am in control and making choices based on what I want and need, instead of fear-based. It’s not always easy, but it sure is worth it.

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2017. 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 2017.