Life as a S-s-stut-stutterer


H.M. King George VI of the United Kingdom.

Image via Wikipedia

The King’s Speech just released last week and is already gobbling up nominations for awards. It’s a movie about King George VI, England’s reluctant stuttering king. I have to see this movie, not because it stars one of my favorite actors, Colin Firth, as King George, but because it deals with the issue of stuttering.

I stutter. I always have. Less now than when I was younger but it still plagues me.

I don’t talk much about my stuttering, not because I’m ashamed of it or embarrassed by it (though there was a time when I was both) but because others just don’t ask about it. It’s one of those subjects that seems taboo to discuss.

The movie deals with King George’s fear of speaking, his struggle with stringing together a single fluent sentence, and the unorthodox lengths he went to to try and control his stuttering.

All of this is very familiar. I’m hoping the movie creates awareness of what stuttering is and what it isn’t.

For a child who stutters, each day is lived in dread. Dread that the teacher will call on you or you’ll be asked to read aloud in class, dread that someone will ask you what your name is, dread that you’ll have to answer the telephone.

Public speaking is like death for a stutterer. I remember well when it came time to give a book report or speech in class. My pulse raced, palms grew sweaty, breathing shallow. My chest would tighten and knees would knock. I used to pray for an earthquake or fire or anything to postpone the torture, the embarrassment, the stares.

Saying my own name was the worst. I couldn’t do it. And it seemed everyone wanted to know my name. I grew used to comments like “Did you forget your name?” or “Cat got your tongue?” Sometimes, if the meeting was unimportant, I’d lie and tell them my name was Steve because it was easier for me to say.

And talking on the phone was impossible. I used to run into the bathroom when the phone rang so I wouldn’t have to answer it. “Hello” just wouldn’t come out. I’d stand there with the phone to my ear, my throat frozen, while the person on the other end said “Hello? Hello?” over and over and eventually hung up. Then they’d call back and it would start all over again.

In groups I never spoke. I was quiet and withdrawn, kept my thoughts to myself. Every word was a chore. Talking was my enemy, a constant and persistent source of frustration and stress.

And all this lasted until I was in my mid-twenties!

Then two things changed everything. One, I decided (quite out of the blue) that I just didn’t care if I stuttered. I accepted it and determined not to fight it. This was how God made me and I would make the best of it.

And two, I started writing. I discovered that I could express what was on my heart and in my head with perfect fluency and people actually wanted to hear what I had to say. I fell in love with words.

My acceptance of myself and my acceptance of words led to a freedom I’d never known before.

I still stutter occasionally, still get stuck on words, still hate saying my own name (and now my wife’s name too), still get sweaty and nervous when speaking in group settings, but I’m much, much better than I was. I teach children at church; I teach writing at conferences; I talk on the phone; I hold whole conversations with nary a stutter.

I don’t think much about my childhood stuttering anymore but when I do I grieve for that boy who missed so much because he was hiding from himself, because he hated who he was.

I think I’m going to do more to help create a greater awareness and understanding of stuttering.

If you’re interestd, just for fun, here’s  a list of famous people who stuttered. Some of them may surprise you.

Question: Did or do any of you stutter? Do you know anyone who stutters?

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About mikedellosso

Mike Dellosso is an author of wide-eyed suspense. He writes stories that not only entertain but enlighten.

Posted on November 30, 2010, in Life in General and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I’ll never forget when I was in high school and I got to go see John Jacobs and The Power Team and I heard him speak firsthand about stuttering and how God helped him overcome that. Although I’ve never had a problem with stuttering, I’ve had my other issues (and still do), but that time I heard John speak so well and with such power I knew that if God could help him and put him on a stage to be a witness to others, what couldn’t He do in my own life? Thanks for sharing your own story, Mike, and I do hope that you are successful in your own part of raising awareness of stuttering.

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  2. When we open our hearts, we give the gift of encouragement. You’ve done that here.

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  3. As always, you are a great encouragement. We could all use a little more acceptance of who we are…God’s children…created by the master sculpture. He does nothing by mistake, although, for many of us, we continue to scutinize and dissect our “imperfections” relentlessly. Living life in a genuine way doesn’t just inspire stutterers, it inspires us all.

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  4. I was thinking about this blog when someone sent me the following quote, which seems to fit: “I thank God for my handicaps for, through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God.” ~ Helen Keller

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  5. Bold, brave, and so cool, Mike. Thanks for this.

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  6. Thought you’d be interested, Chuck Swindoll was a stutterer. God used a teacher of his to help him. How amazing, isn’t it, that God had preaching in mind for him.

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  7. Great post!

    You described everything I went through to a T! Including the part about suddenly not caring anymore and embracing that it’s what God created you to do. Acceptance was the best thing to happen to me and after encountering to much negativity on stuttering forums, I decided to start up a podcast called Stuttering is Cool (stutteringiscool.com). It has been fun meeting other stutterers all over the world and seeing each and every one of them experiencing the exact same feelings as me.

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  8. I feel for you. It’s heartening to hear that you were able to come to terms with it. I have never been a stutterer. But I’ve suffered from another strange Malaprop disorder in which my mind goes completely blank and then attempts to supply substitutes for the words that went missing. As a child, I was just as likely to stand in front of a classroom saying nothing at all, because I was afraid of saying something that made no sense. Usually this doesn’t happen in writing mode–just in speech mode. The sad thing is–and I know this is no different for stutterers–that most people in the past assumed I was stupid.

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