Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘family and stuttering

Episode 60 features Val Ostergaard, who hails from Cary, Illinois, which is northwest of Chicago. Val is 25 years old, graduated in May with her Masters degree in Speech Language Pathology from Illinois State University and will start a job as a school therapist in September.

This was a bit of a surprise to Val and her mom, as she always thought she was going to be a nurse. In her first year in college, she took an introduction to speech pathology course, and knew then that she was supposed to be a speech therapist.

Val is one of the original FRIENDS kids. She went to her first FRIENDS conference with her family when she was 13 years old.Val recalls being nervous and not really wanting to go, but her private therapist (Kristin Chmela) had recommended it and Val’s mom really wanted to go. The first conferences were only with 20 people and the evening activities were at someone’s home for a pool party.

Listen in as Val shares the unique perspective of having grown up with FRIENDS and seeing the organization grow and evolve into the national association it is now. Val shares how one year she and her brother actually chose a FRIENDS conference and gave up a promised trip to Disney World.

Val also shares how that same early conference in D.C. did not yet have a teen room for the kids to hang out together. She recalls all of the teens, girls and boys, hanging out in a large women’s bathroom at night, talking and playing card games.

We also discuss Val’s early speech therapy (a lot of it!), family involvement, sibling experience, courage, fears and worries about judgement.

I met Val at my first FRIENDS convention in 2008, and she has been an inspiration. Feel free to leave comments for Val or Pam. Feedback is a gift!

The podcast safe music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.

Episode 53 features Claire, who hails from the Washington, DC area. Claire is 16 years old and a junior in high school.

She is interested in biology, and already knows she wants to pursue further education and a career path involving genetics, which combines  her love for both biology and history.

I met Claire and her family at my first FRIENDS conference in 2008, but really didn’t get to know her well that first year. Since, I have seen her blossom into a very confident young person, who is at ease with herself as a woman who stutters. She’s a great role model for youth, especially girls, who stutter.

Listen in to a very candid conversation about Claire ‘s experiences with school therapy. She shares her frustration at working with therapists who did not seem to know much about stuttering, and how she knew more about stuttering than they did!

Claire shares about working with a metronome and how it seemed she was asked to replace one secondary behavior with another.Very important insights by a 16-year old!

We also discuss family impact, Claire’s relationship with her sister, and how important acceptance is. And as a 6-year member of FRIENDS, Claire shares what FRIENDS is all about, the life-changing significance of meeting other people her age that stutter, and how important self help and support is for parents as well.

Claire demonstrates poise, confidence and humor in our conversation. I was so happy that she (and her mom) agreed that Claire should share her story.

Credit for the podcast safe music used in this episode goes to ccMixter. Please feel free to leave comments for Claire. Remember, feedback is a gift.

Episode 46 features Kay, who hails from West Africa. Kay is a lawyer currently working as counsel for a litigation firm. Kay spent many of her childhood years in France. French is her mother tongue.

We spoke with each other via Skype in early February, when Kay was in the US at the University of Minnesota. As of the posting of this episode, she is now back in West Africa.

We first met on the Covert-s email support group, where Kay was posting a lot and asking questions. I took a chance and emailed her off list. We got to know each other a bit and Kay quickly agreed to share her story to help others.

Kay shares some very personal glimpses into her life, including the effects of some early abuse. She also shares how she chose to become a lawyer, and how very hard it was for her due to her stuttering. She had grave doubts about her abilities to appear competent as a lawyer and worried how her father, an esteemed public figure and lawyer in West Africa, would perceive her.

Kay is gut-wrenchingly honest about disappointing her father and buckling under the pressure of the legal profession and communicating in courts and trials.

We discuss not only covert stuttering, but also the notion of the need to be covert for professional reasons, for self-preservation and protection. We also discuss how Kay never talked about stuttering with anyone until 6 months ago when she entered into some therapy here in the US.

She was always concerned with making her parents, friends and colleagues comfortable around her, and she tried hard to not have to subject them to listening to her stutter. She never let on how anxious and fearful she was, always putting other people’s comfort ahead of her own needs.

This was a powerful conversation. There is some background noise I was unable to remove, but the content of Kay story far outweighs any editing issues. Feel free to leave comments for Kay or just simply let her know how much you appreciated hearing her story. Credit for the podcast safe music used in this episode goes to DanoSongs.

Episode 43 features Elaine Saitta, who hails from Seattle, Washington. She has been an active member of the National Stuttering Association (NSA) for many years. She has held several NSA positions such as Chapter Leader, Regional Chapter Coordinator, Board of Directors member, and Executive Director.

Elaine is a SLP in the Seattle school system and also works in private practice with children who stutter. She coordinates a teen support group as well as youth and adult workshops locally and nationally.

She believes in being open about her stuttering and educating others. But that wasn’t always the case! Like many people who stutter, Elaine was covert for a long time. Even though her stutter was mild, she was always very embarrassed and felt shame. She shares that she didn’t have the tools to talk about stuttering and her feelings.

Listen in as we talk about how and what changed for Elaine. Meeting other people who stutter had a profound affect on her perspective and her very sense of self. Elaine also shares  “the conversation”  she always wanted and needed to have with her dad. And she talks about the journey and how she arrived at acceptance.

We wrap up with how being more open to life’s experiences in general can broaden one’s life. I prompt her to share her recent solo journey to China and how letting go of fear enabled that. How powerful those four words are – letting go of fear!

Speaking of that, Elaine was recently featutred on NPR in Seattle to raise awareness on stuttering! Check it out here!

Feel free to leave comments or just let Elaine know what a great job she did. Feedback is a gift!

Credit for the music clip “Echoed” used in this episode goes to ccMixter.

Episode 41 is a departure from the usual format of this podcast. A woman of strength and courage, Irina, whom we met in episode 16, takes the microphone and the lead and invites me to tell some of my story.

This felt strangely awkward, but I was so glad that Irina was the one asking the inviting questions. We have become friends and share a lot in common. We had to do the Skype session twice, because the first time we had such a poor connection between New York, USA and Burgas, Bulgaria.

I hail from Albany, New York and have been “out” about my stuttering for about four years. My whole life changed in an instant in 2006, when I was fired from a job due to stuttering. That rock bottom moment helped me find resources and support, and my voice. Turns out, I always had a voice, but just didn’t know it.

Listen in as I share what it has been like for me going from “covert to overt”, how stuttering has affected me both personally and professionally, and how I really am not the same person I was just four short years ago. Irina invites me to share how and why I started this unique space for women who stutter, and how this has changed me as well.

I am proud of my journey and have no idea where it may take me next. I look forward to whatever it may be. And I am grateful for what I have learned from the strong, beautiful women from all over the world I have met. My heart and soul has been touched by each of you. Thank you!

Credit for the podcast safe music clip “Fire Babies” goes to ccMixter.

Have you ever dealt with painful stuff that you just hoped would go away if you just ignored it? I used to be an expert at it – trying to push pain away, hoping it would just disappear. But sadly, it doesn’t work like that. We have to feel it if we are ever to move past it.

Part of the reason I was so good at being a covert stutterer was that I had learned from a very early age how to pretend everything was OK when it really wasn’t. How it felt to stutter, to struggle, to feel different, to not be able to talk about things.

The same with the childhood stuff. Covering up my mother’s alcoholism, my father’s abuse, and his crazy religious ideas, and not being able to talk about any of that, ever. Everything was covert, not just the stuttering.

I had myself convinced for a long time that if I just pushed the painful stuff away and denied it, that it never really existed. But it never went away, it just stayed buried in a deep down place. Lately its been surprising me by exploding all over, much like a dormant volcano when ready to erupt.

Funny how these things happen. You begin to work on one thing and you find yourself dealing with everything else. Opening Pandora’s box about stuttering has allowed an opening for the other stuff to seep out. I can’t process how I felt about hiding my stuttering all those years without also talking about how it felt to hide the other stuff too.

I had myself convinced that not feeling, being numb, was safer, easier somehow. I did not want to feel yesterday’s pain anymore. But what I have learned is this: in order to heal and keep moving forward, I have to feel those painful moments and give voice to those painful memories. I have done well with facing my fears and shame about stuttering, by talking about it and being open, not hiding any more.

Now I have to do the same thing with the other stuff, in order to continue my healing and rid myself of guilt. Maybe I really am on the path to forgiveness. Then I won’t have to be so uncomfortable with feelings anymore. Because that’s what most of my journey has been about – being numb and not dealing with feelings.

J has been helping me with this. As we go deeper and deeper into that inner space of mine, the feelings are coming up. I have been really angry at my parents for a long time, and sad for that little girl that I still identify with, who was lonely and scared and confused.

When these feelings surface, and they have more and more lately, J pushes me to identify what I feel. I used to just swallow the feeling, push it down, but now I am letting myself feel, even when it causes real pain.

I talked with friend Jill recently and we shared some deep stuff. She used the phrase “eating light bulbs”. I knew exactly what she meant. Every time I feel the wave of sadness or anger or guilt come up, I feel like I am swallowing shards of a light bulb or a Christmas ornament that was dropped.

Tiny, jagged pieces of glass ripping at my throat and insides as I swallow. It hurts. But it hurt way back then too and I need to acknowledge it. Maybe that’s what I am learning here – how to eat light bulbs the right way.

Episode 31 features Darlene Brown, who hails from Beltsville, MD, by way of Buffalo and Albany, New York. I first met Darlene in Albany several years ago, when we both attended therapy at The College of St Rose.

Darlene took a break from college when she was studying speech language pathology. She came home to Albany to spend time with her family and attended group at St Rose when I was there.

One vivid memory I have about meeting Darlene was the night when her parents came to observe group. She wanted her parents to understand that her feelings and attitudes about stuttering were not just “her thing”, but that other stutterers shared similar feelings. That was so significant to me, that she felt comfortable enough to have her mom and dad there. She talks about that in our conversation.

Listen in as we also chat about the challenges and opportunities of being a SLP who stutters, being an adult in therapy,  designing your own “therapy outside of therapy”, and what Darlene has learned about Darlene.

Credit for the musical clip “Scott Waves His Salty Grace To April” goes to ccMixter.

Please feel free to leave feedback for Darlene. She would love to hear what you thought. (There are a few squeaks and squelches from static that I could not remove. I still have so much to learn about audio editing!)

Episode 22 features Heather Baier, who hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Heather is an apprentice meteorological technician. She explains precisely what this is, after it is evident pretty quickly that I have no idea!

I first met Heather through the Twitter community. We periodically ran into each other on-line, and chatted together in a couple of group Skype calls. We eventually became Face book friends too. But we didn’t really get to know each other until we did this podcast episode.

Listen is as we chat about Heather’s work in a non-traditional career path, as well as her prior military experience. She has always been interested in electronics and science, and a secret passion for FLYING.

We also chat about the importance of her close-knit family, life lessons she has learned, and how positive attitude and choosing happiness has indelibly shaped her life.

You can find out more about Heather by reading her fantastic blog, The Adventures of an Apprentice Met Tech Ti-ger. Here, she talks about her work, stuttering acceptance and how everything all fits together.

Musical credit for the clip “Silver Shine” goes to Dano Songs, which is podcast safe music.

Feel free to leave comments or questions for Heather. She’d love to hear your feedback. I would too.


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© 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.
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