Make Room For The Stuttering

Happy Birthday, Stuttering!

Posted on: May 4, 2009

Today is May 4, 2009. Three years ago on this day, my life was irrevocably changed. I was fired at 10:36am from my job of 21 years. Because of stuttering publicly.

The day was a Thursday. I had just returned from 3 days off, where I had moved into a new apartment. Not having a clue my life was about to change, both emotionally and financially, I had purchased a new dining room set and living room coffee table. I had taken an extra day off to get all this delivered.

When I went into work, the managers let me go through the morning routine. I hosted a welcome breakfast and attend a managers meeting. When that was over, my boss asked me to go up to the Directors office. When got up there, I saw the HR Manager waiting in the room and knew something was up. When I went in, the Director told me I was being terminated and had to  leave that day. My manager sat in the background, looking at the floor. The official reason was “not meeting performance expectations”  and “ineffective communication.” (This after 21 years – new boss, convinced Director and Corporate to go along with them, short version.)

I was escorted to my office, not given a chance to talk to anyone on my way down. Security and the IT guy were there, and maintenance was called to help me get some of my pictures off the wall. I had a lot of stuff- 20+ years worth, and I was not going to leave a thing there. They said they would pack everything and deliver it to me. I didn’t want anyone going through my things.

The whole thing was surreal. My stuff was put in a shopping cart and rolled down the hall. It was lunch time, and students were milling about. They weren’t allowed to come and talk to me. Some staff came by, and saw what was happening. I  felt  like a criminal. One of the maintenance guys was unscrewing my name plate from the door while I was standing there with tears of grief streaming down my face.

Someone  said, “This didn’t have anything to do with your stuttering, did it? You should sue.” I was shocked someone would say that, because I thought my covert self had kept my secret a secret. Guess not.

I didn’t know what to do the next day, and the days after that. No one called me, I was grieving and depressed. I felt abandoned and isolated. But a little part inside me was saying, “this is it – you have to deal with this, you cannot hide your stuttering anymore.”  I had been looking for a way, and the way found me. 

Like a tsunami, feelings crashed together and washed over me –  fear, anger, shock, bewilderment, confusion – but I knew what I was going to do. Not suddenly, like overnight, but in the days and weeks to come.  I saw a therapist, a lawyer, found self-help, got a referral to speech therapy and joined Toastmasters, all at the same time, it seemed. I also was unemployed for 4 months, and sat outside by the pool in my new apartment complex, and cried, and swam, and read, and got a tan for the first time ever in my life.

My life changed that day forever, and so did the life of everybody around me.  I decided to take a stand and not go away quietly. I filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission in my state, sought ADA advice, and filed a right to sue notice. After two years of not backing down, my former employer agreed to a minor settlement.

The money was not important (though it helped!) What was important that I was getting my life in order. Settling was a small victory, because I was ready to move on with my life and look ahead.

I wound up going on several interviews and openly disclosed that I stutter during those interviews. It was scary. Some people never called me back. It may or may not have been because of the stuttering. I took a part-time job in a place that felt right. On the second day, I asked my manager if I could talk to him. I planned to discuss my stuttering for a minute and get it out in the open. He started asking questions and that minute turned into an hour.

That part-time job soon turned full time. I was comfortable stuttering freely. People told me they admired my willingness to put myself out there. I found something else I was interested in. During the interview, they said they needed someone who was comfortable doing presentations. I said I had a lot of experience. They asked me on what topic. I said stuttering. They said I would hear back if I was to be invited back for a second interview. I was, and offered the job. I have been stuttering openly at work around colleagues and high school students ever since.

My life changed that day. I was re-born in many ways.  Happy Birthday To Me! Happy Birthday, Stuttering! I am so glad I found you.

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6 Responses to "Happy Birthday, Stuttering!"

Yowza- What an experience! No doubt a lot of learning and soul searching occured up to the moment you wrote this post. Happy birthday to your stuttering!

Yeah, you got that right. I keep surprising myself being so honest, but it really helps me. And if it helps others too, then i am doing what I am supposed to do with these experience.
I have done much soul searching, self-discovery and healing before I wrote this, and I suspect I will continue to do as well.
Thanks for the feedback!

Wow… I have been staring at the screen & thinking what to type for around 10 minutes…

Sometimes, Words cannot express the feelings & emotions… :o)

Good for You… You are a Rock Star… Keep it Going… :o)

tears in my eyes…. Stefan

As I wrote it too, trust me . . . . I don’t know why, but I feel I must share this stuff, right now, at this time in my life.

You did good: you turned human evil into a blessing.

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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.