a love letter to my stutter

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Ever since I was able to speak, there was always something wrong. When other three-year-olds were forming words, I was speaking the brilliant language of “gibberish”. A few years later, I was diagnosed with a popular fluency disorder: stuttering.

The “National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders” describes stuttering as “stuttering is a speech disorder characterized by repetition of sounds, syllables, or words; prolongation of sounds; and interruptions in speech known as blocks”. My stutter was something I was never proud of. I felt ashamed every time my voice would hold my words back. Ursula looked cooler when she did it to Ariel — why can’t my life be a Disney movie?

As stated before, my stuttering has embarrassed me my entire life. It was almost like some hidden secret that I was ashamed of (although the repetition of “like” or “um” before every time I speak makes it kinda hard to hide that secret). I went through speech therapy for 18 years which helped lessen the repetitions and interruptions, but, it didn’t lessen my insecurities. My stutter still felt like some big blinking sign saying “pick on her!” or “make fun of how she can’t speak like a normal human being!”

This is where my sophomore year of college kicks in.

At my local community college, I knew I was destined to take a public speaking class. Because I’m an early education major, it’s basically in my job description to speak publicly to a sea of small children. However, my stutter gave me anxiety dreams of standing in front of my peers. If I couldn’t speak in front of my future classmates, how could I speak in front of a future principal or students? I thought I could never be able to achieve my dreams with my stutter holding me back. My stutter has always felt like some chain around my throat and vocal folds. My anxiety made me impulsively email the professor before class started and basically wanted to explain that my stuttering might affect the fluency of my presentations. To calm my nerves, my professor kindly explained that she would be happy to work with me on gaining confidence with my stutter.

And that is exactly what happened.

In one of the speeches (ironically about the frequency of stuttering with preschoolers), my stuttering just kept holding me back from getting a sentence out. I went over the time limit and couldn’t get out all of the statistics and knowledge I prepared. I left the front of the classroom bummed while all of the rest of my classmates tried lifting up my spirits with compliments. My brain kept pushing the kind words to the side and focused on how my stuttering ruined the perfect speech I had worked all week on. However, I was thinking later that night, and the excess stuttering in this speech made me filled with self-deprecation then, but, I realized it’s taught me what I need to work on going forward. I needed to work on my flaws and appreciate them as lessons to be learned.

So I did just that.

All of the speeches received A’s regardless of my stutter “holding me back”. The phone interview for the Disney College Program that “my stutter ruined” gained me an internship at the happiest place on earth. My stutter that would “make me a laughing stock in the teaching community” also gained me a job teaching at a local daycare.

My stutter is something that has been a part of my life since I can remember. It’s brought a lot of embarrassment and social anxiety surrounding it. however, it’s also brought a lot of individuality and compassion to my life. I used to think my stutter was holding me down, but, I was just letting the voice in my head get the best of me. there are always going to be things you want to change about yourself. However, I’m starting to (finally) love my stutter and I hope you can start to love whatever you may not like about yourself as well.