What it’s Like to Stutter
A few months ago I made a commitment that I wanted to do more to increase the awareness of and education about stuttering. The popular movie, “The King’s Speech,” has done much to bring stuttering out of the shadows and create more awareness and understanding of the affliction.
As a stutterer I’d like to share what it’s like to stutter, to want to say what’s on your mind but your tongue and mouth just don’t cooperate.
Stuttering can be summed up in two words: tension and anxiety. If you saw “The King’s Speech” Colin Firth did a fantastic job of capturing the tension behind stuttering. Tension in the lips, mouth, tongue, and throat. Everything just locks up as the word gets “stuck” and won’t free itself. Relaxing helps but often only momentarily for as soon as you try to say the word or sound again the tension is right there, hitting the brakes.
The anxiety comes from the anticipation of the tension and the blockage. I remember sitting in school (I’m talking high school and college) and awaiting my turn to do some kind of public speaking and literally sweating bullets. My heart raced, breathing quickened, hands began to shake. Writing about it now brings back all those familiar feelings and even now I can feel the tension building in me. It’s a terrible feeling, knowing you’re going to be embarrassed, knowing you’re going to be standing or sitting there in front of your peers, stuck on a word, your face reddening, and there’s not a thing you can do about it but struggle through it. As a child and teen, many tears were shed over my stuttering and frustration and humility that accompanied it.
As a result of all this, stutterers usually opt to just remain quiet in social settings, choosing to say nothing over suffering the humiliation of fumbling and bumbling through a comment or remark, of getting stuck and holding everything up while others wait for you to finish.
In recent years I’ve learned that fighting stuttering only makes it worse. Accepting it eases the anxiety and lessens the tension. I’ve also learned several techniques to move through a blockage. Now, I can hold whole conversations with few “episodes.” But even now, I get the sweats and racing heart when I’m in a group setting and someone says those awful, dreaded words, “Let’s go around the room and introduce ourselves.”
A few other interesting notes:
For most stutterers, the hardest thing to say is their own name, first and last. For years I simply could not say my first name which made for many awkward first impressions and introductions. My own name became my enemy. Even today I get stuck on my name (both first and last) more times than I’d like to and often resort to explaining my hesitancy with “You’ll have to be patient with me, I have a speech impediment.”
Stuttering is not too uncommon among children, affecting 5% of the population. But only 1% remain stutterers into adulthood.
My question for you is twofold:
How many of you know someone (besides me) who stutters?
What are your questions about stuttering? Don’t be shy either. As you can see, I’m not embarrassed by talking about it. I think the more the misconceptions are challenged and questions are answered the better off we’ll all be.
- Stuttering: Let’s Talk About it! (ps20speechandlanguage.wordpress.com)
- Let’s Talk About Stuttering (mikedellosso.wordpress.com)