Make Room For The Stuttering

Woman’s Perspective on Stuttering

Posted on: March 10, 2010

I had a great experience speaking to Dr Gregory Snyder’s fluency class Monday night. We hooked up through audio-visual Skype, and it was just like I was in the class with the students. They were in a classroom in Mississippi, I in my office in New York. The students were eager to hear a woman’s perspective on stuttering, and to my surprise, they asked a lot of great, thought-provoking questions.

I started off introducing myself and my early memories of stuttering as a child. I shared the negative reactions I got from my father and kindergarten teacher, which distilled fear and shame very quickly. I learned how to hide my stuttering as a child, to protect myself from being hurt. I grew to become an extremely covert stutterer, who did not come out of the “covert closet” until about 4 years ago.

The SLP students had reviewed my blog and had lots of good questions to ask. One question was how did I manage to fool everyone and be covert for so long. I discussed how I constantly used word substitution and avoidance. I also mentioned that in my family, stuttering was never brought up. It was there, very obvious, but very much the pink elephant. That’s why to me it remained awful and not normal for so very long.

I shared that it was such a big relief years later that my sister mentioned that she had always known I stuttered and had always wanted to talk with me about it. We do now!

The students asked if I thought men and women view stuttering differently. I shared that women tend to be more emotional and expressive, and are OK with talking about feelings and attitudes, whereas men seemed more in tuned with wanting to find fluency. I shared my experiences with attending a predominately male stuttering self-help group, and how I often feel when some men become hyper-critical to a comment or remark I might share.

The students asked if I sometimes get defensive about stuttering. This was meant in a different way than you may think. One student had read my blog entry about meeting my sister’s  friend Max for the first time. Max had made the comment to me that I didn’t really stutter, and I responded that “yes, I really do. Just you wait – you’ll hear it”. My sister thought that sounded defensive, like I didn’t want that taken away from me.

Hmmmmm. That’s interesting, as I have often been asked if I could take a “pill” and suddenly become perfectly fluent, would I? The answer is NO. Stuttering is a part of me, has always been, it makes me the unique me that I am. I wouldn’t recognize me with out it.

Finally, Dr Snyder asked if any of my relationships had changed since coming out of the “covert closet” and embracing my stutter for the first time in my life. I honestly shared that since I had changed dramatically and found acceptance, that many of my relationships had changed. Relationships with some siblings have improved – we can openly talk about something that has always been taboo and scary for me. Relations with new co-workers are very authentic, as I don’t hide my stuttering in the workplace anymore. 

My significant relationship – with a longtime partner – changed as well. Some may say that this was a negative byproduct. We split up after 21 years. In face, this has been nothing but positive for me. I recognized that as I was growing and changing and evolving as a person, he wasn’t interested in coming along for the ride. He did not want me to change, and tried to keep me the same as I had always been with him – quiet, insecure, deferring to him all of the time, willing to not take control.

As I embraced my stuttering, other things fell into place and he wasn’t growing with me. I changed and he did not. So, we decided to move on from each other. That was one of the biggest transitions in my life. And it has been OK. I have landed on my feet. We still talk from time to time, but I have found that I am strong enough, stronger in fact, to live my own life and be comfortable with my own person, just as she is.

I emphasized to the fluency students two of my biggest life lessons: that it is OK to stutter, and that it is not only the person who changes that is effected by change. The people around us also are affected by changes we make.

I was very glad I gave this talk and went outside of my comfort zone to talk with future SLPs about the emotional aspects of stuttering. I was also glad to get really genuine feedback from Dr. Snyder, who by the way, is one of my stuttering peeps in my twitter group. It makes a lot of sense for people who stutter to talk openly with SLP students. We can help them learn lessons that go way beyond the scope of the textbook.

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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.