Make Room For The Stuttering

Fort of Shame- Episode 24

Posted on: September 10, 2010

Episode 24 features Mady, a student at Cal State University Northridge, in Los Angeles, California. I got to know Mady at the 2009 NSA Conference in Scottsdale, AZ. We have since become face book buddies.

Mady is studying psychology and wishes to combine research of stuttering and anxiety in her eventual doctoral program. Mady is also a wonderful writer and enjoys photography.

Listen in as we discuss Mady’s “seasons of stuttering” and how she dealt with denial and covert behaviors. She shares feelings about being secretly conflicted and broken about stuttering, and how she found a good therapist who helped her make sense of those feelings.

Mady also freely shares how she built a “fort of shame” – which she describes as hating something so much that you try to protect yourself against it. She describes how it started to corrode her.

Musical credit for the podcast safe clip “Scott Waves to April’s Salty Grace” goes to ccMixter.

As always, your feedback is encouraged and welcome. Let us know what you thought.

10 Responses to "Fort of Shame- Episode 24"

Madison, one of these days I would like to go to lunch with you. I have some specific questions about your experience with stuttering and how you have worked to overcome this issue. The first thing that strikes me, as I often analyze a person’s speech pattern while they are first speaking in order to recognize them later, is that you seem to have a poetic or lyrical style of speaking. Is this intentional as a way of keeping the stuttering under control? It is a very nice, pleasant way of speaking. One could listen to you speak for hours 🙂

As I replied to your comments on facebook, thanks for the kind words. I would love to do lunch sometime, and share more of my story, and also hear yours!
In regards to a “poetic” or “lyrical” way of speaking, the day that we recorded this podcast my speaking anxiety was especially high, so I know that at certain points I cut myself short/didn’t say everything I wanted to, etc. ( a big “No, No!” in the stuttering community) 🙂
For some reason, I have been experiencing a pretty remarkable “season of disfluency”—one of my most ‘severe’ in a long while. It has been accompanied by some chronic speaking anxiety/compulsive physiological tension triggered by certain scenarios. Stuttering can be fickle, unpredictable, and topsy-turvy…for those of us who do not stutter constantly and are more situational or sporadic, onset of a more difficult “season” can really throw both one’s body and mind for a loop.
I am not sure that my tone/style of speaking is compensatory, or merely product of my listening to too much Ira Glass and Garrison Keillor, as well as having taken a number of law/debate-oriented classes… 🙂

Pam, you should know that I admire you quite a bit for creating this entire platform for women who stutter to express themselves, share their stories, and experience some sort of catharsis by sharing their feelings

Great podcast, Madison! You sound a lot like Anna Kendrick, by the way!

As people might know from my podcast, my stutter is more severe than yours, but I really appreciated what you said about mild/covert stutterers also feeling anxiety and shame about their speech. I do have mild periods as well (pretty rarely), and even then, I can feel very nervous, anticipating when I will trip up again or hit another long block. I think it was Viktor Frankl who said that suffering is like gas in a chamber; it does not matter how big the chamber is, the gas will fill the chamber evenly. The amount of suffering we each experience cannot be compared, because it fills all of us up evenly and completely. But I do also understand what your friend says about having a harder time with it, and I always try to keep in mind that the more and bigger the obstacles, the greater chance there is for triumph and an even sweeter victory. I do struggle with that myself day in and day out, itching for that victory, but while doing that, it’s important to stop and look around and realize we are comprised of so much more than our way of speaking.

I also wanted to say that it is great you are going into the psychology field with an emphasis on stuttering; I had strongly considered doing that as well, but have decided on taking another path. It is so important to have competent, knowledgeable researchers in the field of stuttering as it relates to cognition, psychology, neurology, you name it, because there is definitely room for more in all of those areas, especially in the U.S. I wrote a research paper my senior year of college on stuttering and anxiety and was disappointed by the lack of current, relevant research conducted in the U.S. Australia seems to be leading the research in that field right now, which is good, but I think we can do some catching up!

Anyway, great to hear about someone with similar interests and I’m sure you will do great things in this field.

I wanted to just replace a word that I think was badly chosen: I don’t mean mean that I feel there is a “lack” of research in the U.S., but more of a shortage. I certainly do not want to diminish the efforts of our researchers in any way.

Hi Cheryl,
Thanks for your thoughtful response, and I just scribbled down that Victor Frankl quote—how applicable to the varying severities of stuttering, yet one common and universal struggle amongst us!
I find it fascinating as both a person who stutters and as a researcher, how unique each individual’s experience is in regards to their speech.
As indicated to David, above, I tend to go through pretty distinct “seasons of disfluency” which tend to arrive without signal/warning/rationale, and are accompanied (especially as of late) with a pretty intense, compulsive speaking anxiety/general physiological tension, triggered by certain situations. A curious mix of social anxiety/conditioned fears, etc.
If anything, these “seasons” have fiercely challenged me to constantly reexamine my attitudes/feelings toward my stuttering, and have served as prime opportunities in better learning to “let go” of that which I cannot control. They have also taught me to let people in, reach out, and disclose candidly to my audience. In my experience, the “victory” has been in the showing up—despite fears, physical fatigue, etc.
Over and over, and over again. In as much as it’s still a struggle, I try to remind myself that it is in part, through my stuttering that my passions have been born, that many doors have opened, etc.
While stuttering is but one component of who I am, it has touched every area of my life, and in as much pain as it has brought me, it has also brought much joy and abundance.
I would love to get to know you better, Cheryl. Thank you again for your candid posting, and encouragement as I try and pave my way into this field—and you are right on the money, Australia is proving itself to be a stuttering research hub! 🙂

This is a great podcast. I especially appreciated hearing what you had to say, Madison, because our stuttering experiences are very similar. I have a mild stutter as well, and it is also very situational/sporadic. Like you, I have days where I can speak for hours and stuttering isn’t really as issue. But on other days, I can barely say my name, ask my roommate how her day was, or have an ordinary phone conversation without a struggle.

Stressful situations usually trigger my dysfluency, such as interviewing someone for my university newspaper (I am a student journalist). But sometimes the reverse happens – I am very fluent in difficult speaking situations and then completely lose control during casual conversation. My speech is very unpredictable.

I am also covert, and although my avoidance behaviors are much less than they used to be, they still exist. I am currently trying to be more open with my stuttering (easier said than done), because I’ve noticed that switching words all the time can sometimes be more stressful than just letting my stuttering happen.

I also attend an NSA support group, and I am very welcomed there, but once someone did ask me whether or not I am actually a person who stutters. Although my stutter is not always obvious to the listener, my struggle is (as you know) still very real.

Also, because I can usually pass as fluent, I feel that I surprise people when I have a difficult stutter, and it comes as an unexpected roadblock in an otherwise smooth conversation.

I am so glad that someone has very similar experiences to my own, and I just had to comment to share these thoughts. Thanks for this podcast, Pam — I found your blog by change a couple months ago and have been a regular reader/listener since then. It’s always great to hear these stories from other women who stutter. Keep them coming! 🙂

Hi Amanda,
Wow, from your sharing, we certainly seem to have a great deal in common! I can’t even begin to tell you how comforting I found your post—in truth, I feel like such an “odd duck” sometimes. And, while I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with disclosing, and have found that incredibly helpful in my personal experience, every once in awhile I’ll receive a comment like, “Interesting. I mean, I just saw you give a lecture for an hour on your research to a faculty audience without a hitch…” after I stutter on something like the title of a movie, the name of a building in casual conversation, etc.
The curious nature of my stuttering has definitely impacted me deeply in regards to formation of my identity. There have been instances where other people who stutter have doubted my “credibility,” and peers/colleagues have exclaimed after a “rare” instance of observing me block severely: “Wow. You weren’t kidding. How does that all work out?” There have been times when resentment has built, and my weariness at sharing/explaining has been geared me to be more defensive and less open…
However, as I indicated to Cheryl, my “saving grace” has been in disclosing, and sharing my story—not as an explanation, but as a means of education and me opening up a part of who I am to connect with those around me. And, I have reaped so many good memories and friendships from this increased authenticity…it’s amazing how even the most critical of people, will often soften and be receptive to one’s vulnerability.
It’s such a journey, though. Keep heart, and I would love to get to know you better!

Hi Madison-
I remember meeting you in Atlanta several years ago. It was great hearing your story. You speak beautifully . I also never stuttered in speech therapy early on. I was always discharged and labelled “stubborn”. Shame and embarrassment developed at an early age for me. I am glad you found the NSA. I really enjoyed meeting you at my first NSA conference in Atlanta. Lori

Hi Lori!
I really enjoyed meeting you, as well! Thank you for the kind words, I have so appreciated reading all of your responses to my podcast—-it has brightened my day! My apologies for the delay in my responding, my schedule has been more hectic than usual, as of late.
I would love to hear more about your story, as well. I hope to see you in Fort Worth?

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