Living With A Stammer - What It Feels Like
Stammering or stuttering is a speech problem characterised by hesitancy (as words are stuck and won’t just come out), long pauses in speech, prolongation of certain words and repetitions. It mostly starts in childhood during speech development, but it could start in adulthood as well. Stammerers make up about 1% of adult population worldwide.
Ever wondered what life was like for those who stammer? Well, imagine yourself in their shoes. From personal experience, here are some of the challenges you are very likely to face daily.
1. Tension every time you meet a new person. Nodding and smiling as they introduce themselves, but in your mind you are praying, ‘please don’t ask my name’. Worse still with round table introductions. You get a panic attack as it nears your turn. Unfortunately, there is no way of getting around that. If you decide it is time to use the loo, when you are back, you become the centre of focus.
2. Being the one that sits still and listens to every other person in a conversation, meanwhile having valid arguments and contributions you just cannot utter. Being mistaken for an introvert. If only they really knew you.
3. Substituting words mid-sentence and not completing your line of thoughts. Saying only as little as would permit. Coming across as having poor vocabulary. Then people tell you, "you don’t really stutter. I could hardly tell". Well, this is why.
4. Hoping and praying you get skipped when chapters are being assigned for public reading during a literature class or Bible study. Yet feeling bad when you are skipped.
5. Appearing incompetent despite knowing your stuff in toto because of a stutter that strips you of your confidence.
6. Not being able to say ‘thank you’ when you should. Appearing ungrateful or queer when you rather say, "God bless you" or "Gracias".
7. When exchanging phone numbers, asking for people’s phones so you can type your number rather than calling it out. No you are not intrusive. You are just a stammerer.
8. Talking over the phone and the person at the other end says, "can you please repeat what you said, your line is very poor". Well, except you can come up with alternative words, that line will remain poor.
9. Choosing a less vocally demanding occupation like IT, research, writing despite having a flare for say theatre, stand up comedy, teaching, radio/tv presenting or marketing or if you happen to be in a vocally challenging career, every day's work is a battle to conquer.
10. Being accustomed to feelings of embarrassment, self pity, helplessness, anxiety, anger, frustration or social phobia.
I hope with these few scenarios you can understand a little about what stammerers go through and how we feel everyday and have more empathy.
How Can You Help A Stammerer?
Let’s start by how you cannot.
You don’t help when you take your eyes off me during our conversation. You only make me feel you are embarrassed by my stammer which makes it worse for me.
You may be tempted to finish my sentence, but that does not change the fact that I must complete it myself as I cannot just hang there. Besides it could come across like I am wasting your time. Then I might want to speed up which makes it all worse. So don’t.
I know there are various options to help stammerers including speech therapy, feedback devices and apps. If you are a stammerer and have tried any of these, please share your experience in the comment section below. Did it work for you? I have tried a phone app that uses delayed auditory feedback (DAF), it didn't help. I am looking at trying speech therapy now. Would appreciate recommendations for any good ones in Norfolk. I have gone months without a stammer and then suddenly relapse. It's very frustrating. I want a permanent solution.
Isaiah 32:4b - "and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear". This is what I believe.
Radiant ~ May 2019
Update - December 2020
So I am getting acquainted with the new Stammering Pride movement which seeks to encourage stammerers to freely stammer and not try to avoid stammering as it is okay to stammer; and the social model of disability that simply means that the problem is not with stammerers but with the environment that is so toxic to accommodate the stammering speech.
Since imbibing these ideas, my stammering experience has been less traumatic because most of the struggle was in order to avoid stammering. Taking away the need to not stammer frees me to be myself. I am happier, more confident (with or without a fluent speech) and no more shying away from speaking situations.