Why I Decided to Talk About My Stuttering on Social Media
I’ve been on some form of social media, mainly Facebook, since I was 15 years old. It wasn’t until I was almost 24 that I openly identified as a person who stuttered (PWS) on my social media accounts. Yes, there were times when I would “like” a Facebook post regarding stuttering; however, I would do it in the early morning hours because I knew few people would see that. There was even one rare instance when I shared a video from the show “What Would You Do?” about stuttering in the afternoon hours of December 2013. When I posted the video I said, “Fortunately, this rarely happens to me. However, if you do find yourself in this situation, either with me or someone else, just be patient because it will eventually come out. Also, as the actress said in the end of the video stuttering is not a disability.”
At that point, I had just completed my first semester of speech therapy, but stuttering was still the elephant in the room that I still hadn’t accepted nor wanted to talk about. Looking back at that post nearly five years later, maybe I subconsciously had started to accept the fact that I stutter. Regardless, I didn’t check my Facebook for hours. It wasn’t because I was embarrassed about the fact that I stutter, or at least I don’t think that was the cause. It was because I wasn’t where I am now. I wasn’t ready to advocate for stuttering. I was afraid of any negative comments. I was afraid of any comments that challenged stuttering or gave some BS reason as to what they think caused my stutter. I was afraid of I how would respond. Fortunately, all of those fears did not come to fruition. The video only received five likes and a couple of comments.
A little more than two years after I shared that video of stuttering, I posted an article about how people who stutter are perceived. I now identified as person who stuttered on social media. Unlike my last experience, I was not worried about the comments. In fact, I was looking forward to them and starting a dialogue. By early 2016, I was involved in the NSA, had accepted my stutter and was beginning my road towards an advocate for stuttering. I further identified as a PWS two months later when I posted Erin Scheck’s slam poem “Honest Speech.” For me, Scheck describes stuttering in a way I never could, and every time I listen to it I hear something new. During the next year, I posted that poem many times and highlighted a different line each time. I was becoming comfortable identifying as a PWS and talking to people about stuttering, but for the most part I was still hesitant to share my journey with stuttering publicly. That changed over a six month span in late 2016 and stretching to early 2017.
The first event came in September 2016 when I posted a video about the National Stuttering Association (NSA), a video that included me. After almost a year, my secret was out in the open: I went to the NSA. Prior to that September morning, only my family and a few friends knew I was apart of the NSA. Within the span of eight months, I went from not even posting about stuttering to identifying as PWS to identifying as a member of the NSA. However, while people knew I stuttered and was a member of the NSA, few knew my story. That all changed in early 2017.
My big social media post about stuttering came in April 2017 when The Mighty published my article “How Speech Therapy Helped Me Accept My Stutter.” I was nervous about sharing it on social media because once I posted there was no turning back. Everyone would know my journey with stuttering, and I would be revealing that I went to speech therapy, a secret I held close to my vest for years. My dirty little secret would no longer be confined to just NSA meetings, classrooms full of SLP students, and the closest of close friends, but to the entire world. I was met with an outpour of love and support.
So what changed? How did I go from vaguely posting about stuttering to sharing stuttering related articles, pictures and quotes on a routine basis with no regards to who sees or comments on them? Why now, and why not when I was in speech therapy? I was recently asked these questions, and I struggled to answer it. I think it’s a variety of reasons. One is that I made more progress in terms of accepting the fact that I stutter and most likely will for the rest of my life. I also think it’s because the NSA gave me the opportunity to think of stuttering in ways I had never thought of before. Another reason is I became more confident in myself and in turn my stutter. I think it’s because I wanted to be more of an advocate for stuttering. Regardless of the reason or reasons, I know I want to be part of the conversation and not using my stutter as a means of avoiding the conversation.
Getty image by Sigefride