Make Room For The Stuttering

Guilty, Your Honor

Posted on: June 15, 2009

On the game show Jeopardy, you are given an answer and you provide the question. So the question that fits today’s post is: “How do you plead?”

I felt guilty for a long time after getting fired. Its been more than 3 years now, but I am suddenly thinking about it a lot. That could be a byproduct of the fact that I am thinking about and writing quite a bit on stuttering. (Bet you couldn’t guess that, huh?) But some thoughts just enter my mind and refuse to leave until I have processed it in some way. Like this guilt. When I first started feeling it, I pushed it away, like I was always so good at pushing emotions away. But it’s in my mind and I need to try and make sense out of it.

I was fired from my job because of my stuttering. My boss thought I was not communicating effectively. I’ve mentioned this  before. What I didn’t mention was that for a long time I thought it was my fault. I was very covert and afraid to admit to anyone, including myself, that I stutter. Because of this, I let my boss think what he wanted: that I was nervous, anxious, and afraid to speak in front of groups. Anything but admit that I stuttered. I was too afraid. I continued to keep it a secret (even though it really wasn’t  – my covert mind just thought it was).

So, for a long time, I thought it was my fault that I got fired. That if  I just had the courage to admit that I stutter, explain that it is a speech impairment and that it wasn’t my fault, that everything would have been OK, my job would have understood and and I wouldn’t have been fired. This is the first time I have put this on paper (so to speak – well, the computer.) I have thought about it, worried about it, obsessed over it, and finally, deeply buried it. For some reason, it popped back up this week.

Looking at it from a distance, I do not think that owning my stuttering would have made that much a difference. The company wanted me gone, and they would have found another key reason. “Not meeting performance expectations” was the main reason I was let go, with communication difficulties at the core. I’m sure they would have found something else.

My boss and his cohorts were not enlightened enough to accept stuttering as an acceptable style of workplace communication. After all, he did make fun of me, laughed and encouraged others to do the same.  I know now that I am much better off not being there. Moving on has been a good thing. People have told me it was a “blessing in disguise” that I was fired. It was what I needed to open this new chapter of my life and emerge a stronger, better person.

So, I was surprised when Guilt re-visited me. Put in an appearance. Rolled around in my mind. I know I have no reason to have felt guilty about stuttering at work, and the choices I made about being open about it. And it’s also not wrong for me to have felt this guilt. It’s a human emotion, and feeling emotions are OK.

So, if this were to happen again, if I was unfortunate enough to  lose my job again, it will not be because I have been covert about stuttering. I have been very open, and have put myself out there time and again. I like being able to say that. No, if I ever get fired again, it will be because I used up all the toilet paper in the staff restroom or made a mess in the microwave.

Have you ever felt guilty over something that you shouldn’t have? Whats the best way to deal with it?

Copyright © 2009

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7 Responses to "Guilty, Your Honor"

Yes, I sometimes feel guilty about things I shouldn’t, and then feel guilty about feeling guilty.

I remember one break-up, when I was kicked out of a social group. I felt guilty about what I did to cause it. I then felt badly about wanting to dance with the freedom — would that mean I thought hated the people I left? I don’t hate people — so I never danced. My fear of hating them also got in the way of processing how I really felt about them. It took many revisits before trusted myself enough to dance, and to come to terms with how I felt about them.

My advice? Trust yourself. If you don’t trust yourself, find someone you do trust, who know the real you. Then let yourself explore, maybe for a set period of time, knowing that you have a lifeline.

Thinking more on it: Sometimes an uncomfortable emotion covers a path we need to explore. Sometimes we take a few steps then turn around, or try a short-cut. We keep coming back to it, though, until we finally explore it, and all the side-branches. Then we know what’s there, and have collected the lessons or tools found there, and can move on. Again, it’s a matter of having faith that we will come out the other side.

You are a strong person Pam and are helping so many people. Interestingly, I had a job many years ago in a rehabiitation company as a speech pathologist. It was early on in my career and I was still learning. Also, I had just moved away from home and had other stresses in my life. A parent commented that I stuttered and my boss, a SLP, panicked. I have to say she not only panicked about me but about another lovely employee who suffered from MS. She was embarrassed that this woman had to bring pillows to a meeting to sit comfortably. She obviously did not belong in a helping profession. At first I felt guilty about stuttering, but then I realized it wasn’t my fault and I communicated well. I think I learned from it and it made me stronger.

Crickett, Lori,

Thanks! This was a hard one! My head and heart can’t seem to get on the same page. I welcome the feedback as I move on this journey. Sometimes it honestly feels as if I move backwards and sideways as much as forward.

The comments generate such honesty! This is such a great way to share the trip!

Pam

Hm, this is a difficult one. You do know everything in your head. You’ve written it and told it to me. You know it’s not your fault that you were fired, and you know it’s not your fault that you stutter. And still, for some reason you feel this guilt. Emotions are strange aren’t they? They often make no sense at all. And as good and important as it is to listen to your emotions (as I have pushed you to before) this one I think you need to listen to your head. Yes it’s a natural feeling, and yes it’s normal to look into yourself first when something happens in your life. That is a good quality btw. The world has enough people who blame everyone else for their problems. (But I digress) You can ponder about this until it makes you blue. But it won’t change what happened, and the person you’ve become because of it. I am among those of your friends who say this was a good thing. But I can’t tell you where the guilt comes from now, or how to deal with it. I’m sorry! But I will say that you have nothing to feel guilty about.

The thing about your ex-employer is that it would have taken SO much work to be accepted there, that you would have spent all the energy you were meant to spend on the kids, to try to be accepted by him. And that would absolutely not have been a good situation for anyone. He didn’t get it. And he was also not willing to try.

We need to surround ourselves with loving and supporting people, who accept us for who we are. If you are in a work situation (or any other) where you don’t feel comfortable being who you are, and don’t feel accepted for who you are, do something about it! The only person who can make you feel bad or guilty for being you, is you. Don’t give people that amount of control over your life!

Guilt is a useless emotion and depletes one’s emotional energy supply. The feeling of guilt will not turn back time or change the current guilt inducing situation. There is a reason for everything that happens to us and the best thing we can do is continue to move forward which you have done so beautifully Pam. What is happening in your life today that has triggered you to revisit
this old experience? Something triggered it and you may want to take a look at your current situations, thoughts, and feelings in order to identify your trigger. Once identified, you will then understand and only then will you be able to let go.

Fondly,
Jamie

Pam, I do beleive Jamie, something has triggered this guilt. I do have that experience from time to time as well.

I even had an identical expereince like yours where the only bad job appraisal I had ever received made mention of my bad speech. I had just lost a pregnancy and was severley depressed and so that made my speeh worst.

I did comment on my appraisal that I do not acccept my manager’s comments re me speech because it was not my fault that I stutter. What I am feeling guilty about is that I did not meet with my Manager and tell her my feelings exactly about what she wrote on my appraisal.

I also walked of the job and has never worker full-time since, in fact I am having a hard time getting back into the work world. Probably I would still have my job if I had sought audience with my manager as she would probably have understood me and my stuttering more.

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