Brian Wood recently posted about his life as a stutterer, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. How he felt as a kid, how he handles it as an adult — everything he said I could easily say “that’s me.” His post was full of things that I wish I had told people. But, ultimately, Brian’s post was about how he grew to be at peace with stuttering. I can’t stop thinking about it because, for some reason, I’m still not.
My stuttering is something I don’t speak of outside my house. I try every day to hide it from friends, co-workers, the drive-thru person, and anybody else I might meet. Brian touched on being a “covert stutterer,” and how a person works to achieve that protection. This includes a fairly long list of words that I know I can’t say and have to avoid at all cost. Some words I just can’t use at the start of a sentence because of their first syllable. Instead, I have to add a word or two in front of it to get the sentence started for me. I need momentum. I have an extremely hard time with numbers as well — “eight” more than any other for some reason. I know when I go to order food there are some things that I’ll never be able to order unless my wife Melissa is there to do it for me.
It can be very frustrating knowing you never get a chance to say what you want.
I know when I carry a conversation I have to stay far enough ahead in my mind with what I’m saying to know when to slow down and avoid a word. I know that my choice of vocabulary and frequent long pauses can come off as strange when I’m really just struggling to contain my stutter.
I’ve stuttered my entire life. I was in speech therapy from grade school to high school, where I learned plenty of techniques to overcome or manage my stutter on a daily basis, but in the end nothing worked. Stuttering as a child, you learn pretty fast to laugh at yourself when being mocked. You also learn to make fun of yourself first, before anyone else can, because somehow that’s better. Some days I can hide my stutter without an issue; granted those days tend to be when Melissa is around to do most of the talking for me. Other days, I just want to avoid the world.
I have severe social anxiety, which I try to play off when I talk about not wanting to be around any size group of people – large or small. The past few years I have attempted to put myself in social situations that would require me to talk to people, but because I’ve spent my entire life mastering skills to avoid social contact my instincts often take over, and I tend to shy away from eye contact, to keep my head down, my body turned slightly away from the people nearby. I stand in the corner, or near the door, pretend to be texting, and finally act out answering a phone call, walk outside and don’t come back…rinse and repeat.
What Brian shared got me thinking about why I’m not at peace with my stutter. I’m almost thirty years old, have dealt with it my entire life, and yet I still try to hide it and hope one day I wake up and it’s gone. That is not going to happen. Coming to terms with it and not having it hold me back from at least trying things that I actively avoid can happen.
“Because, at this point in my life, my stutter isn’t going away. I kind of don’t want it to. It’s as much of who I am as anything else. I’ve lived with it longer than anything else I have going on, so sometimes I think it’s the most defining thing about me.” -Brian Wood
I started with how much Brian’s post made me say “that’s me.” I felt that way through his entire post until the quote above, which appeared at the end. I don’t feel like that, but I want to.
Originally posted to medium.