Make Room For The Stuttering

The Prickly Feeling Rises Up

Posted on: May 4, 2010

My good friend Lisa from the UK sent me this story about an experience she just had, about how avoidance makes her feel. I think some of us can relate.

I am a covert stutterer and have been since I was 8 or 9 yrs old. My aim in life has always been to keep this horrible part of me hidden, even when it meant sacrificing the person I wanted to be. I have always “settled” for second best in relationships, jobs and life.

About 2 years ago, I did think I could finally accept my stuttering. As my marriage fell apart, my stuttering severity increased, and I thought I had done a good job managing for a while. However, my old habits are now creeping back.

For example, something happened yesterday that left me feeling terrible about myself. I was faced with one of those typical situations of mine involving having to find something “hard to say” from a shop.

I decided to sort my garden out. I have always relied on a friend’s husband to do the grass, but he wasn’t around and my girls were desperate to play in the garden.

As I went to use my trimmer, I noticed that the cable cartridge had run out and as my grass was high, I needed to use this before I used the mower. I knew going to the DIY store was inevitable. I did text 2 of my friends but they didn’t have one. I wrote down what I needed as in the make and serial number and off I went to the shop.

I sat in the car in the car park and the usual thoughts went through my head.  How can I ask for what I need and switch words if needed? This is always the same for me for any shopping trip that is out of my normal routine.

I headed in and started to look up and down the aisles for some indication of where this item might be. I have often looked for something for over half hour rather than ask where it is. I would go home without it saying it was “out of stock” and try to get the next person who I knew was going to the store to pick it up for me.

I found the aisle quite quickly and started to track down my item. Then I hit a problem – my item code had two options on the shelf, with an ‘a’ or ‘b’ after the numbers. Now, I could see a person stocking shelves and I almost considered asking him, but that sick, “prickly” feeling I get when faced with asking someone something rose up inside me and panic started setting in.

I decided to take both of them. I could always get someone to return the extra one. I got to the checkout and scanned for the older person at the tills. If I do have to speak and happen to stutter, I find older people, mainly women, are not that bothered by my stuttering.

This time it didn’t work.  When I got to the till, the woman stated that I only needed one of these depending on the trimmer, and that I just needed to decide how dense the grass was that I was cutting. My heart was pounding now. I just wanted the items. I could figure this out for myself when I got home, but this woman was not giving in.

I managed to tell her that it was quite thick grass, so I’d still take both (and boy did I stutter). She seemed taken aback with this and gave me this very sympathetic look, which I hate. . .  and then, she called her colleague over to ask his opinion.

There are now about 5 people behind me, as it was very busy. She asks her colleague and he asks what sort of grass I am cutting. Before I can even try to get out the word, she jumps in with the answer, along with “the look” again. Now I am close to tears. I hate this experience, I just wanted to pay and get out of there.

He suggests I take ‘b’ , just in case, then asks if I have the original casing, as this is a refill. Then, I just lost it. I told him ”yes I have the casing and this one will be fine and thanks for his help”. At this point, I was stuttering my ass off and I just wanted out of this hellish situation.

I will never forget the look on his face. He then mumbled something and hastily began serving someone else. The woman put my item through and I finally left.

I felt like crap and got upset in the car, because I stuttered and people heard me. I know the easiest option would have been to ask someone in the first place and not care what I sound like, but I just can’t do that. So I put myself through all this and feel horrible for a few days.

I’m sure lots of other stutterers, especially coverts, can relate to this. Right?

I needed/wanted to share just how stuttering and avoidance affects my life every single day.

Can anyone relate to this? Have you had similar experiences?

5 Responses to "The Prickly Feeling Rises Up"

Great job Lisa! Your post made me think of a particular time in college when I got the nerve to raise my hand to say something. I blocked hard on every word and felt like total crap. I too felt tears welling up in my eyes.

I agree with Sarah. When telling your story, honestly, even though it’s painful, it helps people. We all have felt that “prickly feeling” at one time. It takes guts to share that.

Someone out there is going to read it and say, “wow, I’m not alone. She feels like that too”.

Powerful stuff, whether you believe it or not.

Hey Lisa,
I can TOTALLY relate to this situation because I am too for the most part a covert stutterer except w/ my family. I know that feeling where you want so bad to say something or ask a question but you get this feeling like you described quite well, and you can’t do it. I do the same thing I ask people to do talking for me a lot, I shouldn’t but for the moment it’s the best thing for me but not in the long run at all 🙂


As I read your post, I smiled, because I understand all too well what you are saying.

Whenever I go into a store and cannot find something, I would immediately assume that they are out of stock. My husband on the other hand, who is a stutterer as well, always insist one me asking someone, just to confirm and I always try to convince him that if they had it, it would be on display.

A few times, they do have it and others they really dont. I know my husband is right in wanting me to ask for something that I cannot find, but its just difficult for me.

I guess one of these days, I just will have to let him understand why its not so easy for me to ask, I would rather do without the item in stock.

He is at the point now, where he actually goes into the store and ask to be directed to the items, before even trying to find them. Wish I could be so comfortable with my stuttering to actually do this.

Thanks everyone , I really didn’t think it was interesting enough to print ,but Pam convinced me it was.
I don’t feel so alone now, reading your comments !!!

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