Make Room For The Stuttering

Still Switching Words

Posted on: August 17, 2009

We have all done it! Got stuck on a word, got frustrated and fearful that it might never come out, and switched to another word. I hardly do it any more, because I feel more comfortable with just stuttering freely. But sometimes it happens and honestly surprises me when it does.

I was on the phone with a good friend that stutters, having a relaxed conversation. I tend to stutter more on the phone anyway, as many people who stutter do. But when the person on the other end also stutters, forget it, I can really let go and just speak freely, with almost no self-consciousness. We both understand how to listen to each other.

So, I was really surprised when I word switched anyway. I guess it speaks to the complexity of stuttering. Even though I was at ease, the word giving me trouble really made me feel uncomfortable. Like I went to that “nowhere place” and was afraid I wouldn’t come back. If I didn’t come back, where would I go?

I was trying to say the word “easier”. It came out “eeee-eeee-eeee-eeee” and that’s all, at least four or possibly five prolonged attempts. It was not coming. I felt myself tense up and get frustrated.I just wanted to get to my point. So after a pause, which added to the feeling I already had that this was an incredibly long stuttered moment, I abruptly switched and said “better”. I felt a hot flash come over my face as I said it, because I knew I had given in to something I don’t want to give in to anymore.

And I knew my friend was going to catch it, because as a stutterer herself, she was patiently with me in the blocked moment. So it was no surprise when she did say something like, “Ohhhhh, what are you doing? Noooooo!” Unlike a fluent listener who may have no idea of the struggle I felt at that moment, she knew and stayed with me, patiently and unconditionally. I wasn’t patient. I still chose to bail myself out. Why?

I don’t remember doing this so consciously when I was actively trying to be covert and keep my stuttering largely hidden. I think now that I am not fighting my stuttering so much, I am having more surprising moments. More teachable moments, perhaps? Hmmmmm.

I honestly don’t know why I felt I had to switch like that to move past that stuttered moment. Except for just the pure desire to do just that – “move past the moment.” I did not like how it felt. It was slow motion, “eeeeeeeeee – eeeeeeeeee – eeeeeeeeee” , like the sound a creaky floor or step makes when you step on just that right part. It can be kind of jarring to step on that creak and just as quickly, you move to another spot on the floor where it doesn’t creak. So maybe that’s what I was doing. Not liking the sound of the creaky step and moving to a spot where the creaking would stop.

But this I know: I do not want to switch words. Creaks in steps or on the floor are OK.

Does this happen to you? At those unexpected moments? How does it make you feel?

5 Responses to "Still Switching Words"

Hi Pam,
Absolutely understand how you feel and i’m still very much at the stage where i,m not totally open with my ‘st’.
But after being away with a friend i feel comfortable with and speaking openly,being myself …i came to visit other friends and found myself back to avoiding when i met new people ….
so reading this just reinforces my need to keep going ….
cheers again Pam .
lisa xx

Even though I have never been a covert pws I do it all the time. I think for me it is almost at an unconscience level because I do it so quickly without much thought, especiallly when around fluent people (which is 100% of the time). Sometimes I wonder if they know what I am doing.

First of all, I am sure it did not sound like a creaky floor and it really wasn’t that long. Then again, if you did go to that “no where place” and never came back (which I doubt would happen), it would be one hell of an experience!

Thanks for the responses. Its comforting to know that even with the best intentions, we still do that which we don’t want to do.
And that makes us human.

And dear friend Jamie, to me it seemed an eternity, and my brain must have wanted relief. That is the key when we talk about stuttering – how we perceive the stuttered moment. I felt it was just stuck in gear and not moving forward no matter what I did.

And that seemed to long, for whatever irrational reason. Reactions to stuttering are often irrational, huh?

After I was comfortable with the idea and practice of not switching words, it was still difficult to get into the habit. I spent most of my speaking life avoiding words that I thought would lead to stuttering and my speaking habits developed entirely around that. Choosing not to switch words is liberating but it’s also unfamiliar; I’ve had to rearrange tons of intellectual and emotional processes to get less wily and defensive in my diction, and I still pull crazy word substitutions under pressure sometimes. I don’t even require the words to be synonyms anymore…

I’d call it progress that you’ve developed this feeling about the behavior. For a long time my only problem with word substitution was that I wished I knew more words!

Do you find yourself avoiding words more often when giving public speeches? I tend to panic and disregard my academic ideas about healthy speech when I’m talking to a group of strangers. I just took a teaching job and the last thing I want to do is deprive students of appropriate vocabulary on account of my emotions, but the temptation to try to pretend not to stutter runs pretty deep.

Take care ❤

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