Disclaimer: If you’re reading this for the first time, it was written Feb 2011… I was 20 years old.
I don’t have stage fright, I have shame.
That’s my thought on public speaking (also an excerpt from a spoken word poem that I wrote for a creative writing class… that I presented in a slam poetry contest thingy).
They say that most people stutter a little when they give speeches. But I seriously doubt anyone gets up for a (what was supposed to be) quick presentation in their community college, general education film class, only to literally stumble through every other word, with a pained looked on their face, begging the words to PLEASE JUST GET OUT OF MY DAMNED THROAT already. Just me? Thought so.
This is one of the (very few) things that people are afraid to ask me about. Heck, I think people would rather ask me about religion or sex than about my stutter. The thing is I don’t mind when people ask me about it. Actually I prefer when someone brings it up (in a non-teasing or demeaning way, of course) and are somewhat curious about it. Because to me, it means they aren’t judging me; they’re really just curious. I’m surprised when someone mentions it – after all, we live in America, land of the let-us-not-offend-anyone-by-ignoring-truths.
So here are some questions that I HAVE been asked in the past… or comments made. This is like those articles in magazines called “13 things you wanted to know about your period but were afraid to ask”.
1. Why do you stutter?
I usually answer this with a “when did it start” kind of roundabout because I have no idea what they mean. Mine started in 1st grade, I have been told. Not entirely sure HOW that happens, but it does. I think it’s something in the brain. Someone I knew that also has a stutter developed hers after being thrown off a horse and hitting her head (way more epic than my story). So I think it’s a combination, for me, about confidence/stress and how my brain reacts to that.
2. Do you stutter more when you’re nervous?
Yup. If I had only one FAQ, this would be it. It’s most common because people usually ask it after they have noticed I don’t do it as much which means I have become more comfortable around them. Not to say that it’s 100% – I often stutter with friends and I have times where I don’t stutter in what should be a nervous situation. This one’s always super awkward to tell people that I don’t know very well or am currently stuttering my face off in front of because they always ask if they make me nervous. I always say no – but really yes, yes I am, that’s why I’m stuttering so much. I don’t know you; don’t take it personally please.
3. Will it ever go away?
It’s possible. I won’t say yes or no because each case is different. Mine I have had for fourteen years. That’s a long time. But also, I have had a confidence problem for fourteen years. If I were to gain a ton of confidence, would it go away? It’s possible. The less I care about my stutter, the less it bothers me. It’s a really irritating the way it works like that – the more I NEED confidence, the more my stutter comes to eat at me.
4. Is there a cure/treatment you can use/have?
No cure, no, but treatments yes. The girl I mentioned earlier uses a chiropractor and that helps her. My insurance doesn’t cover that or else I would. Since I was six, I have gone to countless speech therapy sessions, practiced thousands of words and nothing worked. I’ve been told to “slow down” more times than a race car driver when he tries to drive in a normal car. It was engrained in my every day life and NOTHING worked. However, I have been told that since I have noticed it to be stress related that a chiropractor could help. How? The top of my spine, where my neck is and all that, is unusually tense for someone of my age – which I have noticed, as I am constantly tensed up. This can cause problems with your speech. I’m not sure the exact dynamics of it, but it really intrigued me. Often times, I now take deep breaths and focus on relaxing before I speak and it sometimes works. It explains why I stutter more at the beginning of a school year and I stutter least during the summer.
5. Do you hate it?
More than you can imagine.
6. Is there a particular sound you stutter on?
Yes and no. For most people, they have certain things they can always say and certain things they can always not. It is predictable and they can avoid it. Whereas for me, it is extremely random. I often find myself stuttering over words such as “mint” and “movies” and “minutes” (so an MM sound for sure) or my NAME -___- (almost every time I introduce myself I stutter over just my name, usually for long enough to make it uncomfortable). I remember once, I was speaking to a friend over the phone and he asked me to read a bible verse. I said “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of hhh–hh—hheaven”. After a long silence he said quietly, “I just… I don’t think I’ve ever heard you stutter on an h” (it sounds like a long forced breath). I burst out laughing; it was the first time he had ever mentioned my stutter to me after being friends for like two years. He then asked me if he could ask questions and asked some of these.
In a sense, I can’t believe people are actually curious about this. It’s not something that others can share in with me so I always feel slightly strange talking about it. They can’t offer advice; they can’t relate. They can’t really do any of that. Maybe people just like to understand. Maybe something that is unique to certain people interests them. I’m not sure.
When it comes to a relationship with God, this is always interesting. I believe that God gave me a speech disability to show the world that He can speak through me when I can’t speak right. The blocks and the stumbles don’t screw up the Kingdom of Heaven.
I still struggle though. I hate it so much. It’s embarrassing and fills me with shame. The poem I wrote about it was the most frightening thing to say in front of a crowd. But I never felt more free in my entire life than when I stood in front of them and read it– even if I don’t believe what the poem said at all times. I love speaking so much. But I hate stuttering even more.
In the comments, ask me any questions you’d like! Or better yet – do you know someone with a speech disability? What do you think of it?