“Would You Take a Magic Pill to Cure Your Stutter?”

Report Card Day 1989 — Columbus Avenue School, Freeport, New York

I dreaded report card day every year. Was it because my first memory of one was a bad one? Perhaps. Either way it was a day I will never forget because that’s when I learned I had a stutter.

I was five years old and just starting my path through school, one that would cumulate with a Master’s degree from the University of Southern California this past Spring.

On my report card my teacher jotted down a note to my parents at the very end which said the following: “*Stuttering A Problem.” I always wondered why she felt the need to use the asterisk mark? From then on I was labeled as a stutterer whether I liked it or not, thanks a lot teach!

Nearly 3 million Americans stutter in their everyday lives according to the National Stuttering Association, thats roughly 1% of the population. Most people hide it and don’t discuss it, I was one of those people until now.

Hofstra University, Early 1990s, Speech Therapy Sessions

My parents sought to find the root cause of the problem. Stuttering has no origin or pattern, which sucks when you’re a parent trying to find a way to help your child. I was hesitant to go therapy at first, fearful that my friends would find out and worried how that would turn into unparalleled embarrassment at school.

I was awoken by my father early on a windy Saturday morning for my first trip to speech therapy roughly two years after my parents were made aware of the situation through that report card. They were in the midst of a divorce at the time so I was already confused as to what was happening. I remember thinking sometimes that I could cure my stutter if my parents got back together or if everything just went back to normal. The mind of a child is really something else.

I look back at my own stubbornness with some understanding for both sides; my parents just wanted me to be able to talk without repetitions and I just wanted to be outside with my friends.

Roughly 65–75% of children who develop a stutter will see it disappear within a few years, but mine never left

In my opinion there is no typical stutterer. Everyone is different. However many would opine that anyone who stutters will likely experience depression, low self-esteem and find it difficult to make friends or be outgoing, especially when they are young. I was the opposite, of course. I made more than enough friends and I loved everything about the person I was becoming. Thats why the whole thing made no sense to me. Why did God (or whoever) pick me to have this issue? Why did they place this “burden” on me and why at such a young age? Surely there had to be a different challenge that they could have chosen, right?

Eh-Eh-Eh-Eh-ELOY vs. E-E-E-E-LOY

The tension filled pause that comes when I say my name has always been something I’ve struggled to grasp. I have become a “covert” stutterer, saying my name in different ways or with varied accents in order to avoid stuttering, thus causing confusion when people hear my friends and family say my name. “Why’d you tell me your name was different?” they ask. I don’t know. Even I stop to question why I’m teaching people incorrect pronunciations of a name that is so meaningful to me. I will never understand that part of my mindset or why I choose to do such a thing. But that ends today.

Managing My Stutter

Phone interviews always made me nervous. Not because I was unprepared but rather due to by uncertainty of whether I could make it through the entire interview without stuttering or not. When I would stumble on words, the recruiters would often say that perhaps we had bad reception. How kind of them to assume that. In reality it was just hard for me to simply…talk.

Nowadays my stutter is manageable. Some people notice some people don’t. Sometimes they laugh. Most of the time they don’t even say anything. I will forever be in a constant battle with my voice and I am content with that. Certain letters are easier to say than others. My stutter worsens when I haven’t gotten enough sleep. I even get nervous and stumble in conversation with people close to me.

I am not cured, nor will I ever be, and I’m fine with that. Its easier for me to pick up the phone now and order food (even though Seamless has made that unnecessary) or strike up a conversation with a stranger. But it took thirty years to get to this point.

My stutter doesn’t define me anymore. For some time it did and it drove me crazy. My stutter has opened me up to a wider range of emotions than I ever would have imagined, from jubilation when I absolutely crush a presentation at work to feeling mortified when I can’t get a word out when ordering dinner on a date.

If you had a magic pill, would you take it?

This was the original question that opened me up to discussing this topic. If I had a magic pill to cure my stutter, would I take it?

Looking back on everything I’ve been through with my stutter I can’t imagine growing up now and having perfect fluency. By having a stutter that has never fully gone away, I’ve learned more about who I am as a person…as cheesy as that sounds. I’ve learned to respect and understand that everyone struggles with something whether its noticeable or not. Perfection is impossible.

I will never give up the on-going battle with my stutter but I will never again let it define me like it has in the past. My name will be spoken correctly from now on when it comes out of my own mouth and I will take a pass on that magic pill. My heart is stronger than any pill will ever be.