Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘stuttering

Episode 223 features Alexis Keiser, a 20 year old college junior. She is from New Jersey, but is attending Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. Alexis is majoring in Hospitality, and declares herself a real “people person.” Her dream job is to work for Walt Disney Company in Theme Park Operations.

Alexis is super involved and busy in college, actively participating in leadership positions in several clubs. All of her involvement includes lots of communication, which she acknowledges is not easy as a person who stutters.

Listen in as we discuss speech therapy goals, meeting other people who stutter, feeling towards stuttering, the journey to acceptance and finally, learning to be unapologetic about stuttering.

Oh, and Alexis is a huge podcast fan, and never could have imagined even two years ago that she’d be a guest on one of her favorite podcasts.

I wrote this paper for this year’s International Stuttering Awareness Day online conference.

I’d love your thoughts and feedback.

“She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.” (Elizabeth Edwards)

I love this quote above. It gets to the very core of resilience. For a long time, I allowed stuttering, which I perceived as a flaw, to hold me down and prevent me from living my best life. I did not think it was possible for a stutterer to live a life of meaning and purpose. I was so smothered in shame that I never even considered that I could do something about shame, that I could get up when knocked down.

I was knocked down a lot due to stuttering. I remember times I was laughed at, mocked, dismissed, and excluded. I remember how I reacted when these things happened. I cried and ran away, careful to not let others see how much it affected me. 

Stuttering began taking control of me in many ways that I was not consciously aware of. I did not raise my hand, volunteer to speak or even allow myself to be out front. I always hid in a corner, sat at the back of class, and avoided eye contact so that I would not be called on to speak. I had convinced myself that when I spoke, people would laugh and not take me seriously. It took me a long time to realize that I was the one leading the shame parade.

I have shared my story of hiding my stuttering many times. I have written articles for past online conferences such as this, I have made videos, I host a podcast about stuttering, and I have blogged about stuttering for more than 10 years. But it took me a long time to get to this point where I now willingly share my story and stutter openly.

I had a pivotal event in my life that paved the way for me to stop automatically equating stuttering with something bad, or believing that I was bad, flawed, or imperfect. Prior to this event, I did not know what resilience was.

I was fired from a long-held job because of stuttering in 2006. As you can imagine, that rocked my world. It was such a blow to my identity and self-esteem, for I had carefully constructed myself as someone who did not stutter, even though I do. I had successfully hidden my stuttering for so long that not many people in my world knew that I stuttered. 

In the process of crafting this “self who did not stutter,” I had unwittingly compromised my real self and tried to pretend that I was OK with being perceived as nervous, shy, quiet and a wallflower. I had created a “Fake Pam,” which I let the world see but I was totally unhappy with. 

Getting fired for stuttering was the beginning of shedding “Fake Pam” and letting “Real Pam” out. The whole process of reconciling the two vastly different versions of myself was the very definition of resilience. I just did not realize it in 2006. It took me a few years to say goodbye to “Fake Pam” and to welcome “Real Pam” to her forever home. 

Once “Real Pam” was out, there was no stopping me. Not only did I shed the fake persona, I also became real in other parts of my life. I learned that while hiding stuttering, I had also been hiding any open expression of emotions, which had suffocated me. If you have ever read the book “The Velveteen Rabbit,” you know that the stuffed rabbit became a real rabbit, which was very much like my own transformation.

Being resilient means facing pain, and choosing to walk through it, instead of around it or choosing to go down a different street. As I became real, I began to recognize powerful moments of resilience in my life. 

After getting fired, I had to go on interviews again to find a new job. I faced the fear of being judged because of stuttering by choosing to openly disclose that I stutter during interviews, for the first time ever. I quieted the inner chatter in my head that said I was not being hired because of stuttering but rather it could very well have been true that I just was not the right fit.

When I did get a job, I openly shared with supervisors and coworkers that I stutter and was still liked and accepted. I learned that I had worried about stuttering far more than anyone else did. Being real and true to myself was such a new and triumphant feeling. I wanted more of that. I wanted to take chances. I wanted to start living my best life.

I joined Toastmasters, attended stuttering support groups, and even found myself hosting a virtual stuttering support group for almost six years. I found myself doing lots of public speaking and making efforts to normalize stuttering as much as possible. I was asked often to speak to college graduate classes about covert stuttering, being asked to come back year after year by the same professors. I was afraid of rejection each time, but I persevered and let “Real Pam” come out and be heard. I liked her voice, my voice, the one that I had always thought no one could ever like because it shakes and shudders and stops and blocks. But I was at a point in my life where I could say “so what?”

I have learned that I can sail in a storm and adjust the sails to another course when I must. This is no longer fear but strength. And a belief that “I can do this.”

I have always had the resilience necessary to meet life’s challenges head on. I just did not know it for such a long time. “Real Pam” did the proper thing and introduced herself to “Fake Pam,” and “Real Pam” said “Nice to meet you, but you are not needed anymore. Get out of here.” And “Real Pam” never looked back.

 

 

 

Episode 222 features Aisha Haynes, who hails from Columbia, South Carolina. Dr. Aisha Haynes is the Assistant Director for the Center for Teaching Excellence. She teaches two online courses at the university. For fun, Aisha enjoys traveling, trying and eating new food, and adventurous activities.

Aisha had been a covert stutterer for many years. She shares that it’s only been over the last 5 years or so that she has given herself permission to “stutter really well.”

Listen in as we discuss disclosure and advertising, not being able to hide stuttering anymore, and being more comfortable in her stuttering skin. The title of this episode comes from an article that Aisha was featured in at her university, which she describes as her “coming out story.”

Below please find a video of Aisha and colleague Dr. Charley Adams discussing stuttering at the university.

We all are probably lining up to kick 2020 to the curb as soon as we can. It’s been an awful year for everyone. Lock downs, quarantines, social distancing and wearing masks. All of it has been relentless since early March 2020 when the USA joined other countries trying to battle the Covid pandemic. Most of us alive today have never experienced such a year of grave losses, of people, employment and our basic interactions with each other.

I am a hugger and I have not been able to hug anyone for 6+ months.

Almost all of our interactions with others has been virtual, using the many options for video chats. That’s been a great way to at least talk to people.

The stuttering community has felt all these losses, some more acutely than others. I’ve heard countless stories of people who stutter experiencing difficulty when masked up and trying to speak. But we’ve stood and fiercely showed our resilience.

The stuttering community has stepped up and many of the stuttering support groups have hosted quite a few virtual sessions to help people feel connected.

This brings a nice transition into my announcement. Every year in October, a small by mighty team coordinates a 3 week online conference that runs from October 1 – October 22, which is the annual “International Stuttering Awareness Day.” This is a day that people from all over the world celebrate stuttering in their countries to raise awareness and educate communities.

I want to draw your attention to the annual online conference. It is interactive, meaning people will have the chance to interact with authors of papers, videos, poems and other media platform. This is the one a year that people come together for a global conference.

This year’s theme is “Resilience and Bouncing Back,” a theme that many people who stutter can relate to. We have around 50 submissions, submitted by PWS ourselves, SLP’s and other professionals, and family members of a person who stutters.

It’s a great theme – I was excited to find out about the theme and I enthusiastically wrote a meaningful piece that speaks to me about my journey of resilience.

The conference will go live on September 30 at noon, since it will be October 1 somewhere in the world. Check it out – you’ll be happy with the many superb contributions and you’ll so many different things about stuttering.

The online ISAD Conference begins October 1, 2020.

Episode 221 features Aashka Shah, who hails from California, but is presently in Cleveland, Ohio in college studying chemical engineering. Aashka is interested in eventually attending medical school.

Aashka shares that she and her parents never made her feel that she was in any way at a disadvantage because of stuttering. As a result, Aashka had very high expectations of herself.

Aashka also talks about how she believed she was in denial for a long time, not recognizing that there were hurdles presented for her regarding things that fluent people found to be easier. She found herself having to constantly prove herself to others, and to herself.

Self actualization has to come from an internal place, not from what others say about us.

Finding the National Stuttering Association really helped Aashka get closer to acceptance and helped her become a better ally for others.

Today I bring you a short episode with no guest, just me, talking about what is has been like during the pandemic lock down.

My last “solo conversation” was in late March, so it’s been six months. I figured it was about time that I bring you another rambling monologue about stuttering. In this episode, I talk about giving our stuttering way more “head space” than we should. And I also talk about how we are affected by constantly seeing ourselves on screen in a little box when we are doing so many video chats.

It’s an unnerving time right now. Most of us are isolated at home, many working, and maybe tending to childcare since US schools closed in March. And there are some, like me, who don’t have a job and find it quite challenging to be home alone, with not much to do. That can be depressing.

How are you managing? Feeling? What are you doing to keep your sanity?

In my last post, I wrote about the 13 year old boy who contributed to the USA Democratic Convention last week. Brayden let his stuttering shine in a joyful and triumphant moment that one does not see much at political rallies or conventions.

Brayden has since been invited to participate with and speak to groups of teens virtually with the National Stuttering Association and Friends.

To my delight, I was contacted by a reporter in my local community to reflect on stuttering and offer some perspective from my point of view. My piece aired on my local news channel on Tuesday evening August 26.

You can see my news piece titled “Advocates Hope Increased Interest Means Change for Those who Stutter.”

This teen’s openness was a great moment for the stuttering community.

Millions of people around the USA and world had the opportunity to see a courageous 13 year old kid who stutters to speak at a major political event. The Democratic National Convention in the USA ended on Thursday night. The theme of the convention was to paint a picture of empathy and compassion that the USA needs right now.

The four days of the virtual convention wanted to contrast Presidential nominee Job Biden with the current sitting president. Biden is known to be a lifelong stutterer. We often hear that he gives his personal cell phone number to young people who stutter.

There were a lot of emotional moments at the convention but a 13 year old kid stole the show. He spoke for two minutes on the national stage. I was overwhelmed with pride when I saw this kid. I could never have done something like that at his age.

See for yourself here.

 

 

 

Episode 29 of the very occasional series of male podcasts features Alex Reynolds, who hails from Eugene, Oregon. Alex and I met a few weeks ago in a Virtual Lounge session presented by the National Stuttering Association. Alex works for an assisted living facility, wear he wears many hats. He enjoys being in the food and hospitality sector because “food brings people together.”

Listen in as we discuss dealing with impatient people, his experiences with virtual speech therapy, and his first involvement in virtual events with the National Stuttering Association. Alex looks forward to when he can attend an in-person stuttering event or conference.

We also explore how it feels when blocking and the importance of breathing to help unlock blocks. Alex also offers the advice: “Be yourself. Everything else will fall in place.”

 

Episode 28 of the occasional male series features Anthony Crozier, who hails from Cleveland, Ohio. Anthony is 25 years old and works as a software developer. He originally planned to study healthcare but this great opportunity came his way, and he’s happy with the career choice he has made.

Anthony shares that his ability to handle the challenges of stuttering greatly contributed to his determination to succeed in his job. He believes stuttering is a strength. When he has disclosed that he stutters, deeper and more interesting conversations result. Being a stutterer has enabled Anthony to move outside his comfort zone both personally and professionally.

Listen in as we also discuss covert stuttering, experiences with speech therapy and the substance of “blocking.”

Feel free to leave a comment for either of us in the comment section.

On Sunday July 26, 2020 I had the privilege and opportunity to host a webinar with several influential people in the stuttering community. Sunday marked the 30th anniversary of the enactment of the American with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law in the USA on July 26, 1990.

We used the webinar as a platform to share that people who stutter can be protected from exclusion or discrimination in our workplaces, schools and communities. A key focal point is that we who stutter have to feel OK with using the word “Disability” when we talk about our stuttering. Full disclosure allows us to then ask for and receive accommodations so that we can be fully included and have equitable opportunities.

This webinar was hosted by the National Stuttering Association’s innovative “We Stutter @ Work” program.

If you missed us “live,” here is the recording. Check it out – it’s great stuff.

This week, I joined a Zoom session that was only for women who stutter. It was hosted by a woman from Scotland in collaboration with the Facebook group “Women Who Stammer.” They have offered Zoom sessions consistently every other week since the early days of the pandemic. I have attended several.

This week’s session included several first timers, younger women who stammer, and a 15 year old who came in with her mom.

During the chat, the issue of therapy came up, and we discussed what drives therapy sessions and how goals are, or should be, set. One of the younger women shared that the SLP she recently began seeing didn’t seem particularly interested in what her goals were.

I shared that taking ownership and the driver’s seat is critical when establishing the therapeutic alliance. I discussed how I felt when I went into therapy for the first time as an adult. I mentioned that at first I thought I was to follow the lead of the therapist as I assumed that she would know what I needed. I quickly came to realize that was not the case.

I mentioned that I had written a paper called “Things I Learned in Therapy” 10 years ago that was all still relevant today.

After the session, the mom of the teen reached out to me via email to let me know how empowering my story was and wanted to read the paper I wrote. I responded right away and sent the link to the paper.

Each of us should always remember that our story, even though it may not seem like much, has the potential to help someone else.

 

Episode 218 features Kaja Bajc, who hails from Slovenia but presently lives in San Diego. Kaja is an engineer and works as a research lab manager at USCD in California. Kaja is an avid surfer and she laments about much less frequent opportunity to enjoy surfing since beaches in Southern California were closed for a number of weeks due to unprecedented pandemic we are currently experiencing.

Kaja has been very involved with the local chapter of the NSA (National Stuttering Association.) She shares that the group is tight-knit and they share all the things going on in their lives, not just stuttering. Kaja is interested in working with high school and college students to empower them to do presentations in school to increase awareness and educate about stuttering, to reduce stigma.

We talked about the “shift in perspective” she has about stuttering, since that is not her biggest concern right now. We also talked about the huge number of Zoom meetings she (and many of us) now face since in person contacts have been restricted. Seeing herself on video has been really good for desensitization.

This was a fun conversation. Take a listen!

I am borrowing this two word phrase from good friend Anita Blom, who always ends her email with the phrase “keep talking.” In my last blog post, I talked about the affects of isolation on my/our stuttering. Being quarantined – or isolated – has been very difficult for me. I am an introvert but still very much a social being. I made a promise with myself to talk to at least one person every day, by phone or video chat, not just texting or messaging.

I’m finding it difficult to keep talking. I am not seeing people daily to keep talking. I have not kept my promise of talking to at least one person every day. When I do, I definitely find I’m stuttering more, or at least it seems that way to me.

I also find I talk really fast, as if I’m worried that I won’t have enough time to get out everything I want to say.

I have written before that communication is one thing that most people do not even think about, that it’s taken for granted that when we open our mouth, what our brains want to say actually comes out.

Now more than ever, I am keenly aware of how I have taken for granted that we should keep talking. I find myself in fewer and fewer social situations where there are opportunities to talk.

The last I worked was June 3, 2019. So I’ve been home alone for more than a year. For awhile I was diligently looking for a job and did actually go on job interviews. Nothing came of any of them, and I’m convinced that ageism played a role.

It feels imperative to encourage all of us to “keep talking.” Otherwise I fear our stuttered voices will struggle to be heard.

Episode 217 features Regan G., who is 16 years old and will be a junior in high school in the Fall. Regan is from Arizona and holds a leadership position with the FFA, the Future Farmers of America. Regan is the first person I’ve had as a guest that raises lambs, which is pretty cool.

Regan also works at two jobs, one as a waitress at a Mexican restaurant and the other at a farm store. We talk about how she manages in two communicative jobs.

We chat about her experience at her first National Stuttering Association event where she shares that she didn’t even realize at first why she was going and what it was all about. Regan spent three years serving on the Teen Advisory Council helping new teens to make connections in the stuttering community.

We also talk about how stuttering serves as a good “friend filter,” confidence and self advocacy.

This was a great conversation with a young leader who will be a model for many in the large stuttering community.

 


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2021. 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 2021.
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