Make Room For The Stuttering

What It Feels Like To Be Covert

Posted on: March 22, 2012

Like a swan . . . . graceful and elegant on the surface, but frantically thrashing and kicking below the surface to keep it looking that way.

Like I fell off a cliff in mid-sentence . . . .  and no one even noticed.

Like observing life through a two way mirror . . . .  seeing and hearing everything other people are doing and saying, but feeling unable to participate in the conversation.

Like playing a game of hide and seek . . . .  and always being terrifed that my hiding place would be discovered. 

I gave a talk last week to master level SLP students. I was asked to talk about what it felt like to be covert.

I used some of these examples, and also talked about the shame involved with stuttering and trying to cover it up.

I don’t think the SLP students got it. I don’t think SLP students get enough information on what it’s like to cover up stuttering.

Have you ever tried to cover up your stuttering? How did it feel?

I got some of these examples from some of my friends who share the covert experience. Thank you!

5 Responses to "What It Feels Like To Be Covert"

I have sometimes seen it as an imaginary wall that shows up randomly in your life. You never know when it is going to spring up, but when it does, you run smack into it. Sometimes you can pick yourself up, keep walking, and the wall has disappeared, but other times the wall is still there and you hit it over and over again.

It can be the loneliest place on the planet. Life happens all around you and you are too afraid to be yourself and join in for fear that you will stutter or have a big block and the whole social event will crash into a very uncomfortable and embarrassing experience for you and everyone else. It is a huge responsibility to think that being fluent will save your life in every setting, from social to work.

To me, COVERT stuttering is all of the missed opportunities and isolation I have experienced in my life and the current struggle to always live my life to the fullest even if that means feeling uncomfortable for short periods of time.

I am 100% a covert stammer. I do not deal with it at all. I have hidden it (as much as I think I can) for all of my life.I am 28. Nobody knows it’s impact on me, from parents, husband, relatives, everyone. I haven’t had a life where I had any support with it. I took myself to SPLT and any other ‘remedies’ I have tried over the years to combat it myself. At the moment I am unemployed and enjoying the freedom of not ‘having’ to ‘talk’ at work. It has let me down over and over again. I too have experienced being ‘sacked’ from a job I only had for 2 weeks ! Directly because of my stammer which knocked my confidence. I have been to university but I am still happy to do mundane jobs because they are ‘easier’ and often don’t require much talking .. and are fairly routine so there aren’t many suprises involved in them. It is weighing me down to the extent I feel numb and can’t be bothered with life, I stay in, I don’t socialize and I sleep A LOT. It’s depressing.

Thanks for being honest and brave enough to share your thoughts here. Before I decided to “come out” with my stuttering 5 years ago, I was like you. I kept it hidden, missed out on opportunities and felt alone most of the time. As I gradually began to be open and stutter publicly and acknowledge it to to people, I even had some people who didn’t believe I stuttered. Others told me they knew all along
My life changed dramatically when I met other people who stutter, and especially could identify with me, by trying to hide it all the time. Like you said, I thought I was hiding it, but really wasn’t. I really was only hiding from me.
One of the greatest things that helped me was meeting other people who stutter. I would highly recommend that to you. I see from your email address that you are from the UK. They have a great support organization, the British Stammering Association (
I visited London two years ago and met some people affiliated with the the BSA. I attended one of their meetings in North London. There are many women associated with the BSA.
I have also talked with many women from the UK – you can hear some of their stories, many who are covert, on the podcasts here.
Listening to others who share our experience often makes a world of difference.
Again, thanks for your honesty and for feeling confident enough to share.

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