Sarah – “Finally Being Me”
Posted April 23, 2010on:
Note: I invite readers to share how they make room for stuttering in their life. Today we hear from Sarah B – her honesty is powerful. Sarah recently did student-teaching and knows a little something about taking risks! Thanks Sarah!
Stuttering is one word I used to hate. I hated every time I got in a block. A block is when I try to say a word and no sound comes out, and I am not breathing. I felt hopeless and trapped with not being able to say what I wanted to say. I did everything I could to stutter as little as possible every minute of everyday. The easiest way to not stutter was to simply not talk. Not talking meant I couldn’t do things like participate in class like I wanted. I was always afraid my professors would think I didn’t read for class, didn’t care about class, but my fear of talking and having to stutter was greater.
So how do I make room for stuttering in my life? I started by accepting the fact that I am a person who stutters, and I will be for the rest of my life. That might sound obvious to some, but for many years I tried to be a fluent person. Also, I learned that it is OK to stutter. Stuttering is a part of me, just like I have brown eyes and blond hair. This journey of self-acceptance has been rough at times, but I just got to keep trucking along. The support I get from my family and friends is invaluable.
Sometimes when I get into a block I stop and tell the person I stutter. Self-advertising has helped me see that a lot of people don’t care that I stutter and helps me to be more comfortable and OK with my stuttering.
Making room for stuttering means I work to reduce the avoidance. This might be sounds, words, situations, or people. I will confess some avoidance techniques I used to not stutter. B’s are really hard for me most of the time. My last name starts with a B and I eventually just stopped saying it when introducing myself.
I rarely stutter on my first name. Occasionally when introducing myself the person would ask me my last name, and then I would block on the “b” and no sound would come out. When desperately trying to say my last name, a person might say, “What did you do forget your name?” That type of comment would usually ruin my whole day because I felt inadequate and embarrassed from not being able to say my own name.
In restaurants, I really wanted Dr. Pepper to drink, but could only get it if my brother ordered right before me and I could then say, “I’ll have the same.” I knew I wouldn’t be able to say “Dr. Pepper.” I knew I would block hard on the “d” and not be able to get any sound to come out of my mouth. I got Coke instead because I could say that without stuttering. Eventually, I started blocking on the “c” in Coke. I had to switch yet again to a drink I could say which was water. Another avoidance I did was I would NEVER say the word “tomorrow.” I knew I would stutter badly on that word. I would just substitute the actual day of the week.
Reducing avoidance is about facing my fears by ordering that drink I want (not what I can say fluently), making that phone call myself (not my mom), asking a salesperson where something is in the store (not walking around the store for 30 min) etc.
Everyday I have to work on reducing the control stuttering has on my life. Sometimes that means just showing up. Many times I wouldn’t go out with friends because the possibility of meeting new people was way too stressful for me. Consequently, I would stay in my dorm room. Avoiding those situations was my way to avoid not only stuttering, but the feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment that I didn’t want to feel.
Making room for stuttering comes down to being the true me. I am a person who stutters and that will always be true. For the first time in thirteen years I am starting to say exactly what I want. It’s the most amazing feeling ever. I feel like I am beginning to finally be me.
Is there anything you would like to share with Sarah? Does her story resonate with you in any way? Please leave comments and thoughts.