I came across this article today on my morning commute and it's a vivid and accurate description of what it's like to stutter. Stuttering has been in the news more this past year than it has even been before thanks to the Oscar nominated film "The King's Speech". If I may piggyback on Mr. Heller and add a few more thoughts, I'd be my obliged.
I started stuttering around 2nd grade and have not stopped since. There are days of good speech and months, years, moments of horrible debilitating stuttering. At this point, I've just kind of accepted it as part of me and I've also been able to hide it enough that most people who have met me after college have no idea that I stutter.
It's funny, (albeit in a cruel way) that a stutterer is chasing a career that relies on the mastery of speech and various vocal variations. A peculiar and maddening aspect of stuttering is that no one really knows what causes it and there is no universally accepted way to fix it. I think that, because of that inherent issue people still don't fully understand what it is like to stutter. For instance, I'm not blind, but I understand what it means to be blind. Would you ever walk up to someone with a cane and tell them "Just see it! It's right there, what is wrong with you!??!!?!?"
No, of course you would never do that, it would make you a monster of sorts. So why then, is it socially acceptable for teachers, pathologists, parents, friends etc to say "Speak! Just say it!" ? It's not that easy.
OK, I've been telling you what stuttering isn't, now here is a list of some of the things that stuttering is.
Stuttering is depressingly ironic: When I was younger and I would begin to stutter, people would become very frustrated and yell "SPEAK!" to which I would immediately blurt out "It's not just that easy for me!" How about that for humble pie.
Stuttering is PC to mock: Have you ever made fun of someone in a wheelchair? Of course not. (Even elementary school math text books go through great lengths to assimilate wheelchair bound people into those ridiculous cover shots of the black boy, the Asian chick, the geeky redhead and the Latino/possibly Arabic girl. I promise you, there is always a kid in a wheelchair.) WTF. But it's totally cool to make fun of a stutterer. I was once openly mocked by my 9th grade health teacher in the middle of class. I had to read something out loud and I stuttered on "A". I kept on saying "A A A A A A A A A A A A". The health teacher blurted out "I guess the B never came." The class found this to be hilarious. Me, not so much. I went into the bathroom and bawled my eyes out in the toilet stall. I was late for my next class and got detention. Awesome. I could write a book about the times that I was made fun of, marginalized and insulted. Shouldn't a health teacher be sensitive to stuttering? Or at least...oh I dunno COGNIZANT of stuttering?
Stuttering is fattening: It forces you to order food that you don't want. "Turkey" used to be hard for me to say, so I would order a "BLT" without stuttering. Thanks for raising my blood pressure and cholesterol, stuttering. I would also like to go to Mexican restaurants because I could just point to "chilequiles" on the menu and look puzzled at the waitress and she would write down my order because the gringo could read that word properly.
Stuttering is a dictator: It makes me say certain words. I rarely say "other", I'll say "different" or even "'nother", like I'm a gold prospector or something. "There's gotta be 'nother way" /spits tobacco into bronze urn...puh-TING!
Stuttering is a meaning changer: When you are as quick witted as I am, you want to say things as soon as the synapse occurs, of course this rarely happens. This makes me constantly think a few lines ahead of where I am in the conversation, constantly planning different ways to say things in case I stutter.
Stuttering is my biggest fear: A lock up can happen at any time, so I am always on my toes and worried that I will be laughed at, lose a real estate client, lose a role, be perceived as weak/nervous/whatever.
Stuttering is like drowning: When I stutter, my lungs and mouth feels like someone has grabbed me by my hair and is holding me under water, trying to murder me. Think of the moment when all the air bubbles out of your mouth and nose and how hard you will be pursing your lips to keep the salty death out of your lungs. Bingo. That's what it feels like to me.
Stuttering has defined me: It's who I am, it has shaped me, it has given me a sense of humor, it has forced me at a really young age to pick my friends wisely.
Stuttering is also ultimately my bag, my thing to deal with....so thanks for reading.