Make Room For The Stuttering

Archive for the ‘Posts’ Category

“A turtle only makes progress when it sticks its neck out.”

I love this quote. How do we define progress? Progress in school (think report cards,) progress at work (performance evaluations, or getting a raise,) or just doing something really uncomfortable. Maybe public speaking, performing improv, or giving a toast at a wedding.

All of those things can be challenging for people who stutter. I was always afraid to volunteer at school or work, afraid they would think I wasn’t competent or laugh. I unconsciously thought those things would happen, so I learned to hide my stutter as deeply as possible, without looking like a recluse.

Do you ever look at stuttering as something with which we can make progress? I mean like stuttering more openly, more comfortably, or even taking part in therapy to lessen our stuttering or struggle behavior.

I had such a long experience with covert (hiding) stuttering. I was swimming in shame and the belief that no one would want to hear my voice, or even that I was unworthy of talking, as it was different than “normal” speech.

Progress for me was just letting go and confronting my shame, which took a long time. I began to open up more, took speaking risks I never would have dreamed of, and most importantly, I met other people who stutter, especially other women. Through the community of the National Stuttering Association which offers one day and 4 day conferences, chapter support meetings, and online webinars and groups, I found out that progress means something different for everyone.

Discover what it is you want to do, and go after it, as slowly or quickly that YOU want to. It’s not a race, it’s a journey.

Progress – “A turtle only makes progress when it sticks its neck out.”

I haven’t written in a while as I’ve been grappling with big issues. Anxiety and depression, talking less often to people, feeling isolated, fun stuff like that.

But my mind keeps wandering to relevance. I worry that I am not relevant to, well, anyone. I don’t work, and I don’t have regular social interaction, unless you count the “thank you” at the grocery store. I felt relevant and productive when I worked, both with colleagues and clients.

So I’ve been stewing over why I don’t feel relevant. And have been thinking a lot of about with who do we need to be relevant to, in order to feel relevant. Is it engagement with others that makes me/us feel relevant, is it doing something for someone else, or is it just about being relevant to myself?

It’s so easy to let negative self-talk and self loathing consume our thoughts, as I did for so long because of stuttering. I felt like I didn’t measure up, or ever could, to others who did not stutter. Avoidance became a self preserving habit, one that spilled over into other areas of my life. I intentionally chose not to interact with potential friends or many co-workers out of shame and fear of being seen in a negative light. That used to eat me up.

Then I found the stuttering community and dove in and realized instantly that helping others helped me. In little ways: encouraging others, sharing my stories, celebrating triumphs with others who may not even realize what they just did or said was a triumph.

I felt relevant in that world. I took on volunteer opportunities, led groups, presented workshops and generally felt good. I felt I was making a difference. I felt relevant.

But it seems now that everything has changed. I’ve had major life changes that have been difficult. I stepped down from the NSA Board of Directors because I thought my messy life would adversely affect my ability to help others and be a leader. I also worried that financially I could not contribute and of course afford to pay my way to conferences. At times, I feel extremely irrelevant in the stuttering community, which is funny, because it was deep involvement that helped me so much and made me see, really see, that I could help others.

I guess it’s most important to feel relevant to yourself. Find ways to be relevant. I’ve been trying to do that, from afar, on Zoom, like most of us have become so used to. I try to talk to people as often as I can, but honestly, that’s an effort, just like getting out of bed on some days.

But that’s OK. Being messy and unsure is what makes us human. I remind myself of that often. Helping others to realize that being messy, including not taking a shower every day or hardly making the bed, is relevant because I know others can relate to that. We all are messy. And being able to be comfortable with that helps me realize that relevance is a matter of perspective.

Today is the last day of another year. It was a tough year for me, as it was for everyone. I haven’t worked in two and a half years now, and it’s wearing on me. I haven’t done all the things I could’ve and wanted to do this year.

I didn’t get as involved with the stuttering community, which has been my lifeline for so many years. Especially since I’ve not been working – writing about stuttering and talking with others who stutter had sustained me, and truth be told, kept me sane. Writing, thinking and engaging becomes vital when you don’t have the structure and identity of paid work. It kept me sharp and feeling productive.

Until someone criticized me for it. It was implied that if I could write and use a computer, then I could work, should work.

So I cut way back and basically only wrote or talked with someone for my podcast about once a month, even though it was killing me to step back from something I love. Helping others has always been the way to help myself. I’ve written this blog and worked full-time for years. Now, I feel as though I’ve robbed myself. I’m practically doing nothing to keep myself well. Losing my outlet has heightened my depression. That might happen to anyone who involuntarily stopped working and then curtailed a passion as well.

I can’t do that anymore. I have to decide what’s best for me. And that is being engaged with my world.

So I hope to reset in 2022. I’m going to try and do more things that bring me joy, despite this not being such a joyful time. I can either sink deep into that rabbit hole or I can do stuff that will keep me out of there. Rabbit holes don’t smell all that great!

I’m excited that I’m going to help someone get a monthly women’s connect group up and running for women who stutter. It will hopefully kindle some of that fire and passion that I’ve seriously lacked for over a year.

Here’s to a new year of hope and helping others, which always helps me.

It’s been such a rollercoaster year for me, as has 2021 been for everyone. I think we’ve gone through the quickest slowest two years ever.

For me personally, I’ve struggled with physical health and mental health issues and this year, everything has seemed so heightened and intense. It’s hard to live alone and experience a lot of changes. We all know that changes will occur in our lives, but I didn’t see it coming how fast things have happened for me.

I haven’t worked in over two years and have felt the strain and stress of constant worry and panic that I won’t have the means to support myself. My depression sometimes stalls me for days. I don’t sleep well at night so often sleep a lot during the day. I am always tired. Depression does that to you.

Physically, it’s been a lot harder to get around this year, as my neuropathy inflammation flares up much more often and sometimes I can’t even move my legs, as they throb from being so tingly and inflamed. So, I don’t get out much and barely exercise, even though I know it would be so good for me and help me sleep at night.

To say I have been really down is an understatement. I have not been myself. And I am one of those people who has a very hard time asking for help. I think because of stuttering I always tried to overcompensate and be a “people pleaser,” to get people to like me. I didn’t think anyone would like me because of stuttering. Silly now, but that’s what I thought for a long time.

I reached a breaking point a few weeks ago and needed help. Friends called me at the exact time I needed them to and they “talked me down from the ledge.” They probably saved me that night. They offered to help and I accepted it, with some initial shame that has now turned to pure gratitude.

These friends from the stuttering community opened their arms and hearts to embrace me and show me that I am not alone. The strength of the stuttering community lifted me up when I needed it the most. These friends dropped everything to help me and I couldn’t be more grateful.

The mission of the NSA never spoke louder to me. If you stutter, you are not alone.

download people talking

As I mentioned earlier this month, I’ve had the good fortune to be involved in several fun activities this week promoting awareness and education about stuttering.

My favorite was yesterday, the actual day of International Stuttering Awareness Day. I moderated a panel of 5 people from around the world talking about stuttering across the globe, and what we have in common no matter where we are from.

I felt proud to have international connections and to be part of such a valuable conversation.

We talked about how stuttering is seen/viewed in different countries, what types of resources are available, and individual and societal acceptance of stuttering.

Opportunities like this to chat with people from other countries enriches our understanding of the stuttering experience. And further cements wonderful friendships.

whs logo smallEpisode 241 features Ai Leen Choo, who is an assistant professor at Georgia State University, where she teaches classes in fluence and neuroscience. She earned her PhD in speech and hearing science and shares that she eats, drinks, sleeps and thinks about stuttering all of the time!

Ai Leen’s dad stuttered yet it never was talked about in the family. Her dad was successful, so it never occurred to her that stuttering would hold her back.

As a researcher, a lot of her reading really reflects her, which gives such meaning to her work.

Listen in as we discuss differences in stuttering between men and women, how society can become more accepting of stuttering, and how stuttering voices are not LOUD ENOUGH.

We also talk about accommodations at work for people who stutter and the need to expect more from our communication partners, as there should be no burden of fluency. Communication is a two-way street.

I’m lucky. I am involved in several opportunities this month to help raise awareness about stuttering.

International Stuttering Awareness Day is October 22 every years. Coinciding with that, there is an online stuttering conference that runs through the month of October. People who stutter, parents, SLPs and researchers contribute submissions in any media style for others to learn from and react to. This year we have close to 50 submissions from people all around the world.

This years theme is “Speak the change you wish to see”. Here is my paper on Change Changes Everything.

I also had the opportunity to be a guest speaker at The Indian Stammering Association’s national conference on October 2. I was asked to share my story and speak on my “moments of truth”.

I received a wonderful feedback email from the group. It made me feel so good.

On behalf of TISA, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking time from your busy schedule to be the guest speaker at TISA National Conference. It was our honor to host you.

Your splendid presence and wise words helped magnify the cause in the most magnificent way. Your session was a massive success. The audience loved your moments of truth and especially the poem you recited.
All thanks to your enlightening words based on your years of research & activism, depth of understanding of stuttering and your wonderful ability to present the subject in such an interesting way that produced one of the most memorable evenings in our Conference’s history.

I am also participating in a 2 day practice interview session through 50 Million Voices October 18-20. We will have over 100 people serving as interviewers and interviewees for this wonderful global event.

I am also leading an international conversation on ISAD October 22 for the National Stuttering Association. I will moderate a panel composed of people who stutter from five different countries. I am really excited with this.

And I’ll close out the month doing a talk on Hidden Disabilities at the MITRE organization. I spoke with them in person last year, a few weeks before the pandemic started. I’m happy to be asked a second time. This will be a virtual meeting.

This may seem like a lot of stuttering activity, but it helps me stay connected with the stuttering community. And that’s very important to me. 🙂

 

I am excited that I will be speaking about my story and journey at The Indian Stammering Association’s National Conference in early October.

I’ve been asked to speak covering three key points: searching for acceptance in relationships, how to break free from self-imposed shackles, and authenticity as a core value. The organizers want me to speak a bit specifically to the challenges that women who stutter face (although there will be men in the audience). 😊

One of the organizers works in IT and put together a short video of me talking about stuttering and sharing some of the poems I have written over the years. I was so surprised that she had “stalked” me and found some of my old stuff and did great editing to make it all flow.

It is so important to share our stories. Sometimes we forget that so many people who stutter feel frightened and alone. Those farther on our journeys sometimes need to step back and think (humbly) that what we share can lift someone up, and help them feel seen and heard.

Many of us who stutter have similar stories. But we often don’t hear those stories because not enough stutterers  stand up and speak out. Many people try to pretend that everything is OK, but inside they feel alone and rejected. I felt like that for years. I had created a “Fake Pam” that I wanted the world to see, but kept “Real Pam” hidden. I often felt suffocated by my own doing.

Being able to share how I found freedom with others is a gift to me. I am honored and humbled to be asked.

Earlier this week, I had a chance to talk with someone I met through a virtual NSA event last year. It’s always invigorating to find out what others are doing to manage their stuttering, especially during these unprecedented times of virtual everything.

He remembered that I had expressed interest in learning about how a particular therapy went that he had considered.

He did the McGuire Program, which is not a therapy program per se, but is a speech management program run by past graduates of the program. I’ve interviewed several people over the years that have participated and many have felt it is beneficial. It’s an intensive four day program, that requires 10-12 hour commitments each day. My friend participated virtually, so it was only three days, but just as intense. He said it was 12-13 hours each day.

He shared why he chose to take the plunge to enroll and what he learned. As I’ve learned from other participants, it’s a technique based on costal breathing, which helps many people deliberately focus on speaking on exhaled breaths. It’s not for everybody, that’s for sure, but my buddy seemed grateful to have tried a different way of managing stuttering.

He said initially he was practicing 2-3 hours daily, but may have lessened up on that now. He also shared how pleased he is knowing he’ll have life time follow up and support from past graduates.

It’s so important to have a support system and a circle who really understands the complexity of stuttering.

I am so glad he reached out and that we took time to connect and talk.

Saying “let’s keep in touch” and then not, robs of us the opportunity to be there for our friends and truly walk the walk that “if you stutter, you are not alone”.

When someone calls or emails, answer the call. It’s important.

This year is the first time in 15 years that I have not attended the annual NSA conference. I found the NSA in 2006 and have gone 15 consecutive times. I see friends posting pictures on social media and I’m finding that I am fiercely missing the conference and my friends. Some of those friends I only see once a year, but it’s OK, as we pick up right where we left off.

For so long, I felt shame and fear about stuttering, thinking as many of us do, that I was the only one who stutters. It was never discussed in my family, so the feelings of shame, guilt, and fear kept me in hiding for a long time.

When I attended my first conference in 2006, it was like a weight had been lifted off my chest. There were other people and all looked normal, like me. We just talked differently. That profound experience helped me realize that I could now help people deal with shame and coming out of hiding.

This blog and my podcast gives me joy. I’m using my experience to help someone else peel that personal stigma off.

Friend Hanan has more than once told me that finding others who stutter has been like oxygen for him.

That and finding our tribe – where we can stutter openly with no fear of judgment. I am really missing my tribe, my friends, my mentors.

I am having surgery on my right hand this Friday, so I may not be able to type or text for a while. I needed to post this today. I love seeing the pictures friends are posting on social media, but it is also bittersweet.

Last week was National Stuttering Awareness Week in the United States. This special week, always the second week in May, was enacted by Congress in 1988 after National Stuttering Association (NSA) pioneers raised their stuttered voices in an effort to bring more understanding to an often misunderstood communication difference.

I took the opportunity with friends who stutter to share what we want people to know about stuttering.

We created this powerful video message for you to see. I was so happy to be a part of this.

Here it is, coming to the end of April, and I realized that I haven’t posted anything this month yet. We must correct that.

This morning I had the opportunity to co-present to an audience of people who stutter and people who don’t. This was a project of 50 Million Voices, of which I am the leader for the USA. After a month or so of planning, we were ready to have our second round of “Practice Interviews” with people who stutter to get a chance to practice both being interviewed and being the interviewer.

Why is this so important? Well, interviews can be stressful and intimidating for anyone, as we fret about how we are doing, what the interviewer may be thinking of us and do we sound competent. Most people fear judgement and rejection.

For people who stutter, this is one of the most stressful situations, as we worry about disclosing, should we wing it and not mention that we stutter, and should we answer questions in short blurbs, to perhaps minimize the chance of stuttering.

This is such a unique opportunity. We had about 80 people at the overview about stuttering we delivered this morning. We reviewed what stuttering is and isn’t, and talked about interviews and offered tips for success.

Many of the fluent people participating have volunteered to take part, many from key companies in the UK and three other countries. It’s an amazing testament to how people who do not stutter really want to understand it more and learn how to be successful allies in the workplace.

Over the next two days, people will be paired up with one or two people to go through practice interviews. And on the second day of this initiative, we will hear from both interviewers and interviewees on how it went and what did they learn.

Stay tuned to another post sharing how it all went.

Episode 233 features McKenzie Jemmett, who hails from Salt Lake City, Utah. McKenzie is a SLP working with pre-school children. She has a long held interest in counseling and believes that plays a part in speech therapy. She also teaches Zumba on the side, a great release outlet while helping others.

McKenzie became interested in stuttering due to her curiosity about how the brain works. She describes herself as having a “mild overt stutter.”

For a long time, McKenzie tried to deny she stuttered and tormented herself trying to appear fluent. It took the help of an incredibly honest and caring friend who told her she was a mess and needed to take care of herself. It was then that she began confronting her demons.

Listen in as McKenzie shares about her worth as a person (it’s not based on cupcakes) and her wish for being more brave. We also discuss what it takes to change, and doing for self what is done for others.

McKenzie is now involved in several stuttering initiatives – she is a committee member of the online ISAD conference held every October and is also a Stutter Social host.

It was great chatting with McKenzie and putting a face to a name.

It’s important today to recognize the importance of this day. “International Women’s Day.” So many women who stutter have shared such inspiring truths on the podcast “Women Who Stutter: Our Stories.”

Today women are recognized for their achievements and contributions to our world, both past and present. Women who stutter have also achieved great things in their personal, social and professional circles.

There isn’t anything we cannot do. In fact, we often produce better results or achieve goals sooner than fluent people. Why? Because we have developed such grit and perseverance through our everyday lives and adversities we may have had as children, teenagers, adults, spouses and parents.

We know what it is like to be knocked down and get right back up. We have to! The world does not work without women.

Remember that as women are celebrated today for all that we do and are.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to present a session on covert stuttering at the South Carolina Speech and Hearing Association. A good friend and SLP, Charley Adams, co-facilitated with me. Our session was titled “Deep Cover – Exploring Covert Stuttering.” The audience of 80+ consisted of licensed SLPs and SLP students.

It seems that SLPs look forward to learning about covert stuttering, as there’s not a whole lot of information out there in the research world. It’s especially helpful to learn about covert stuttering from someone who covertly stuttered for years. Me!

We had the first session of the day, on the first of the 3-day conference. We were given 90 minutes. At first I thought that was too much time, but actually we could have gone much longer.

We helped educate SLPs why people want to hide stuttering and we gave examples of avoidance behaviors.

I think the biggest take-away was considering the answer to the question “how do you help a stutterer who does not stutter?”

 


Podcasts, Posts, Videos

Glad you're stopping by!

  • 679,987 visits

Monthly Archives!

Copyright Notice

© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2022. 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 2022.
Follow Make Room For The Stuttering on WordPress.com
%d bloggers like this: