Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘feelings about stuttering

I had an interesting comment on the paper I submitted for this year’s International Stuttering Awareness Day online conference, which is going on now through October 22. Please read my paper, 5 Ways The World Can Better Understand Stuttering.

In one section of my paper, I talk about how the media needs to do a better job in portraying people who stutter on TV and in films. I think we as people who stutter can influence more positive portrayals in the media by continuing to raise awareness and educate people at every opportunity about what stuttering is and isn’t.

Someone who commented on my paper wrote that people who suffer from stuttering can be helped by the celebrities who “used to stutter” because they are good role models for overcoming stuttering. If they can do it, so can we. I gently commented back that I disagreed with her thought that celebrity recovered stutterers can help those of us who suffer from stuttering.

This gave me pause. Do we “suffer” with stuttering? I looked up the definition of “suffer.”  Miriam-Webster offers this: “to become worse because of being badly affected by something.” We certainly can agree that most of us who stutter are badly affected by it in some way. Teasing, bullying, exclusion, workplace discrimination all are examples of what people who stutter experience. But do we become worse because of stuttering?

I’m not sure. I’ve heard many stories where people who stutter think that stuttering has made them stronger, more resilient, compassionate and empathetic. Had we not been dealt the hand of stuttering, we might not have developed the strength that many, many people who stutter have. And that’s a good thing.

So weigh in. What do you think? Do we suffer from stuttering? Are we worse off as people because we stutter?

 

 

 

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I know someone who stutters who refers to himself as someone who stutters “some of the time.” He mentions this in email and Facebook posts every time he comments about something stuttering related.

He’s right, you know! All of us who stutter only stutter some of the time. We generally don’t stutter when we’re alone and talking out loud. We usually don’t stutter when talking to children or animals. And most of us don’t stutter on every single word when we stutter.

This individual often brings up the notion of the “fragmented self” that pioneer speech therapist Charles Van Riper coined. Basically this means that those who stutter see themselves as two beings – one who sometimes stutters and one who is sometimes fluent. Interestingly, I wrote about this six years ago in a post titled Self, Divided. I talked about how I often felt that I lead two separate lives – one being a covert stutterer and the other passing as fluent.

I really don’t do that anymore. Since “coming out,” I largely stutter openly and do not attempt to “pass” as normally fluent. I’ve shared before how liberating it is to not worry about being found out or exposed as a stutterer.

I wonder how you feel about this. Can you relate to the notion that we can be people who stutter some of the time? What does this mean in terms of how you see yourself?

 

img_0734I got a wonderful birthday gift from one of my sisters last week. It was a complete, thoughtful surprise. She had come to my home and left a gift bag on my dining room table, so I saw it immediately when I got home. (She has a key to my place!)

I opened the gift bag and pulled out a mouse pad that was decorated with my initial P and then my full name (Pamela) and underneath the words “Stuttering Rockstar.”

This meant so much to me for several reasons. First, because she made the effort to get something and bring it over to my place so that it would be an after work surprise.

But more importantly, this was so meaningful because it had something to do with stuttering. My sister and I never talk about stuttering. In fact, I’ve always thought she found it uncomfortable and that’s why we never talk about it.

But she clearly sees how important it is to me and must have noticed that friends on Facebook often refer to me as StutterRockStar and she picked up on it. That meant the world to me, that she notices and pays attention and figured that this would be something that I’d really like. And she was right. I really like it and will proudly use it at work.

Maybe this will open the door to talk about stuttering with her once in a while. Or with other members of my family too.

Has anyone in your family ever done something cool and completely surprising like this that has to do with stuttering?

 

He-StuttersEpisode 22 of the very occasional male series features Chaz Bonnar who hails from Glasgow, Scotland. Chaz is 24 years old and is a dancer and freelance creative artist. He works with young kids building their confidence and self-esteem through dance.

Chaz believes that dance has helped him to express himself without words. He has been dancing – specifically breakdancing – since he was 15. Now he works with kids with the hope of offering them the same opportunities for self expression.

Listen in as Chaz shares what has helped him overcome his stuttering. He is a strong believer in the laws of attraction and feels that we have more control over our lives than we have been led to believe.

Chaz also talks about the importance of being completely honest with ourselves with regards to our speech and other areas of our life. And finally, we hit on social anxiety, which has many parallels to stuttering.

Chaz encourages listeners to reach out to him on social media if they’d like to talk with him about his ideas. Instagram: @chazbonnar Snapchat: @chazbonnar Twitter: @ChazB

The music clip used in todays episode is credited to Dano Songs.

I have recently listened to podcasts (besides my own, who knew?) where people have suggested that we can have fun with our stuttering. Micheal Kidd-Gilchrist, a NBA basketball player with the Charlotte Hornets, was recently on a sports podcast where he talked about having fun with his stuttering.

And Chris Constantino, a host with the StutterTalk podcast recently talked about having fun with our stuttering and seeing if we could make stuttering a pleasurable experience.

I have thought of stuttering in terms of making it a positive rather than a negative – “I’m stuttering well today” – but have never really thought about how it can be fun or pleasurable. That takes re-framing from a negative to a positive to a whole new place. A place that many people may not be at in their journey with stuttering.

I brought this idea of having fun with stuttering up at a recent discussion on Stutter Social. It was met with mixed results. Some people were intrigued by the novelty of the concept, as it really is the opposite of what people think about stuttering. One person was willing to explore out loud what it’s like when he makes fun of his stuttering. He mentioned that when he reaches that point, that he can poke fun at his stuttering, then he might not really stutter anymore.

Several people indicated that they could not imagine at all having fun with stuttering. They mentioned the negativity they feel when they stutter and how they wind up feeling depressed during and after long periods of stuttering.

I have been more conscious lately of smiling when I am in a stuttered moment. Whether it be a string of repetitions or a block, I try to remember to smile while I am stuttering. That may not be the same as having fun with it, but it makes me feel better to smile during the moment and I’m pretty sure it helps the listener to remain comfortable and present until I finish.

I am going to challenge myself to play with my stuttering and see what happens when I think about how the repetitions feel as they roll off my tongue and what the sensation of the block feels like. I am far from feeling that getting stuck in a block can be pleasurable, but I get where Constantino is coming from. Anything that we produce – and we produce sounds and words – should be valued as ours, as creative, as something positive.

What do you think of this idea of having fun with your stuttering? What does it feel like when you block? Can you make that a pleasurable experience?

communitySeth Godin in his book “Tribes” writes:

“A tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea. For millions of years, humans have been seeking out tribes, be they religious, ethnic, economic, political, or even musical (think of the Deadheads). It’s our nature.”

People who stutter are connected. That is never more evident than at a stuttering conference.

I just returned from the National Stuttering Association‘s 33rd annual conference, which was held this year in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference was held jointly with the International Stuttering Association‘s World Congress For People Who Stutter, so there were people at the conference from all corners of the world. We came together 825 people strong to celebrate the connection that we have with each other – stuttering.

First timers to the conference and veterans alike all feel an instant connection when they meet someone else who stutters. We feel an incredible sense of community, empathy, freedom and vulnerability. Sharing these feelings and connections together makes us a tribe, at least as far as I’m concerned. And I like being a part of this tribe.

I feel full and whole when I am with other people who stutter. I feel gratitude when other people “get me” without me having to fully explain myself or how I feel about stuttering. A new friend I met at the conference, Dustin, put it quite simply and well: “I’ve never felt more human.”

This was my 11th consecutive conference and I felt the same emotions and sense of family that I did at my very first conference in 2006. I  met a lot of first timers this year, who got to experience the life changing impact that being part of a tribe, or community, has on us. I heard first timers comment that they felt instantly loved and connected upon entering the mix.

And I heard veterans reflect on how amazing it is to catch up with old friends and meet new ones as well. I seized that opportunity – I hung out with friends from previous conferences but also made it a point to meet and interact with as many new people as I could. It was so gratifying to meet people in person that I’d already “met” online in the many stuttering communities, which are also our tribes.

I am at my best when I am with my stuttering community. I feel the sense of belonging and wholeness that I don’t feel in other parts of my life.

The workshops, keynote speakers, and conversations in the hotel lobby and bar, and over dinner, were priceless. But more so was just the general sense of community and being with my tribe. That sense of community was palpable and hung in the air.

It was a great conference. I feel a little “let down” now that I’m home but writing and reflecting always helps me, as does carrying my tribe in my heart.

When I think of my identity, I think of things like brown hair, blue eyes and being short. I think of the tattoos I have and the fact that my initials spell my name.

I also think of my stuttering when I think of my identity. Stuttering makes me unique. It is very much a part of my identity. People know me for my stuttering. I’ve heard people at work (a school) refer to me as, “You know, the one that stutters.”

Dictionary.com defines identity as a noun: condition or character as to who a person or what a thing is; the qualities, beliefs, etc., that distinguish or identify a person or thing.

So stuttering is one of my qualities, a distinctive characteristic that distinguishes me from other people.

There was a time when I thought stuttering was bad and shameful and I did everything I could to try and hide that part of me, that part of my identity. But I was never truly successful hiding it. It was there, not going anywhere, like my blue eyes are always going to be blue.

This reminds me of an exercise I do when I talk to kids who don’t stutter about stuttering. When explaining what it was like to try and hide my stuttering, I have the kids experience a physical and visual exercise. I ask for a volunteer from the audience and give the child a large grapefruit. I ask her to try and hide it somewhere on her body where it’s not going to show. The audience enjoys the child trying to hide it in her clothes – in her sock, in her pocket, in the hood of her sweatshirt. No matter where she puts the grapefruit, it’s lump can still be seen on the person. Trying to hide it is fruitless! 🙂

Like trying to hide stuttering was fruitless. It didn’t work. Over the years, I’ve grown to accept all parts of my identity, both the things I like and the things I don’t like so much.

Having identity makes us human. It makes us unique. It distinguishes us from the pack. Stuttering is part of my identity and I no longer try to fight that fact.

 


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2017. 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 2017.