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This I Believe

This I Believe. I wrote this speech for my community college public speaking course in high school.

My name is Grant, and I’m a person who stutters. I consider my stuttering as a gift because it allows me to interact and see the world in a different way than I would have been able to if I were fluent. For, only 1 percent of the population gets the chance to see the world through a stutterer’s eyes. But there’s also a flip side to being a part of the 1 percent who stutter because sometimes I can feel like I’m the only one. Though stuttering has presented me with some unique challenges, it has undoubtedly helped shape the person I have become today, and I believe ultimately helped show me the importance of empathy, vulnerability, and understanding.

The challenges that I face being a person who stutters are unique in themselves and would probably seem benign to the normal fluent speaker. But to me, being a person who stutters, it feels like a life-or-death situation. The red sirens go off in my head to get the word out, and then I start to push. The flight or fight mechanism gets triggered, and I then just want to escape from the situation. At one point in time, just the act of having to raise my hand or speak in class produced anxiety originating from fears of being ridiculed or being made fun of because I stutter.

The toughest thing for me now is having to tell people that I stutter and that I have a speech impediment because having a stutter and being open, talking about it, and letting my voice be heard opens up a window of vulnerability. And sometimes, that vulnerability can get tiring when I have to explain myself to people all the time. But when you stutter, there is not really another option. I can either be open about it and use it as an asset to connect with people. Or I can choose to be silent and suppress my voice. I’ve tried both of these options, and I can say being vulnerable is the best option. Though it does get tiring to have people see ‘’all of me’’ and one of my deepest insecurities that I stutter, I still believe the positives outweigh the negatives. For, being vulnerable allows me to connect with other people on a deeper level because I’m already willing to put myself out there first.

Besides how vulnerability has helped draw me closer to certain people, I believe stuttering has, more importantly, made me a more understanding and empathetic person. Stuttering has a unique ability to shape a person’s character and what they value in life. Given my unique experiences and challenges in life that being a person who stutters has presented me with, it has led me to believe that empathy and understanding are the two greatest characteristics that a person can encompass. For me, there’s nothing truly like a person who honestly tries to understand my struggles and what I’m dealing with. For, that is the type of person that I strive to be someone who is accepting, empathetic, and understanding of all people’s unique vulnerabilities.

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"Social Media is not evil" - a 10 minute essay

“Social media is not evil – it is merely an extension of human nature”

A 10 minute essay

It is all we ever seem to here from all sorts of people in all walks of life, isn’t it – social media is evil, is a force for bad and is to blame for many of the ‘evils’ in our world…

I think that 95% of the negativity people find, believe and/or spread around social media is simply an extension of that inbuilt feature of the human condition that psychologists call ‘projection’ – our natural tendency to allow the negative energy, uncomfortable emotions and unprocessed inner angst – the stresses that are an inevitable part of dealing with life’s problems and pain – to bubble away within us like we are volatile volcanoes, always slowly stuttering towards eruption…

I think our society, western culture and the many pressures and influences we are subjected in our daily lives delude us into believing that the ‘negative’ uncomfortable human emotions; sadness, loss, pain, anxiety, depression, envy etc. are to be ignored, brushed under the carpet or given quick-fix solutions, medicated away or otherwise treated with temporary forms of relief, applied like sticking-plasters. This is where the real evils in our world begin to fester and permeate.

I believe that we need to engage fully with learning to process and deal with our stresses, these ‘negative’ emotions, accepting that they are in reality a natural, essentially healthy an actual fact a truly balancing part of human nature. We need to teach this from the earliest age to our children, and reinforce it continuously throughout every stage of childhood and adolescence. We need to prioritise personal growth as one of, if not the most important things we can ever learn.

Then, and perhaps only then, can we begin to help others learn how to do this difficult but absolutely essential work of self-analysis, thought processing and changing the nature of how we think and feel, and subsequently how we act upon our inner struggles – the very essence of real growth. If we fail to grow – to do the constant work of combatting the built-in resistant to change and ‘entropy’ of our existence – as time moves ever onwards we basically stop evolving – effectively, we fail to truly live.

We call ourselves Human Beings – but how much of our lives are we simply human’s ‘doing’, rather than truly BEING? This has, in my humble but nonetheless considerably long experience of negativity and dealing with pain and problems in life so far, been the biggest lesson I have learned. My only reason now for having a social media presence, be it Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, is to be an example of the change and beacon of the light that I believe is most needed in the world. I will only ever post things which I think serve this purpose.

I believe if humanity as a whole is to collectively grow beyond the selfishness of the prevailing ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality and truly evolve towards thriving, together, to enable our children and subsequent generations to inherit a world that nurtures and enriches life, rather than degrades and destroys it.

CONCLUSION: Social media is not ‘evil’, is is simply a reflection and extension of human nature.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” — John Lennon

R. C. Greenlow [13.09.2019]

Edited: 18.09.2019

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What Taking a Hiatus from Advocacy Taught Me About Advocacy

Part 1 of 2 What does being an advocate mean to you? According to the Merrian-Webster Dictionary, an advocate is “a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy.” While I believe that to be true the way I live that definition has changed over the past seven months or so.

If I’m being honest, dear reader, how I advocated is a big reason for why I took time off from writing, guest lecturing, appearing on podcasts, and participating in research projects. Over the past five years, I was: regularly guest lecturing at different universities across the states, working on various articles, speaking to local networking groups, presenting at national and international conferences, appearing on any podcast that would have me on, and saying yes to every research project opportunity. I said yes because I believed the best way to advocate was to do the big things. Guest lecture to the next generation of speech language pathologists. Write, present, and podcast for all the world to read and hear. Volunteer for any project that helps us better understand stuttering. I did this because I wanted the next generation to know its ok to stutter. Yet, my constant yes came at a cost. After 5 years, I hit burnout and it impacted my mental health.

Not the burnout that’s featured on Instagram. I’m talking about the burnout that makes you hate and resent the things you once loved. Writing went from something I loved to something I wanted nothing to do with. Open word documents on my laptop gave me even more anxiety than I typically have because I felt the (self-imposed) pressure to create content. I dreaded leading support group meetings. Canceling guest lectures and speaking engagements became very tempting. Emails about research opportunities were instantly deleted. The resentment towards all the things I once loved led to guilt. I felt guilty for not working on a new article. I felt guilty for not participating in a research project. Instead of looking forward

to speaking engagements, I was looking forward to their ending. Between the constant guilt, heightened anxiety, and burnout, I started to wonder if this was all worth it. And honestly, I was tired of wearing the mask of being a public figure. Ironic huh? For so long I had worn a mask of being ok with the fact that I stutter. And now I was wearing a mask of being ok with talking about my stutter.  Through it all I felt like James the person was being lost to James the advocate. I wanted to go back to summer of 2017 where I was just James before I became James the advocate.  As a result of all this, I decided losing myself to advocacy wasn’t worth it and I was going to take an indefinite hiatus. I had no timeline on if or when I would get back into public advocacy. And if I’m being honest, I was ok with never getting back into it.

During my hiatus, I spent time on myself. I got back into my first hobby, reading, and rediscovered my joy for it. I somewhat lived out a dream and played in a fan made Survivor game. I went to networking events as me and not as someone looking for their next speaking engagement. I occasionally wrote because I wanted to and not because I felt that I had to. I learned to say no to speaking engagements. I worked on my mental health. I focused on setting boundaries for myself. Through it all, I spent time on reflecting how I can continue to be an advocate without losing myself to it. My new way of being an advocate can best be summarized by the Mother Theresa quote, “Do small things with great love.”

Allow me to explain. I’m still open to writing, podcasting, and speaking to different universities and organizations. In fact, my hiatus taught me that I actually enjoy those things; however, I didn’t enjoy how often I was doing those things. Now, I’m focusing on being an advocate in small ways. This can be something as simple as wearing a stuttering related t-shirt out in public. Or sharing a stuttering related post on social media. I’ve done these things for years, but always saw them as being an addition to the big stuff instead of being enough. Besides that, I’m focusing more on one-on-one connections within the stuttering community. Whether that is through my support group I’m in or mentoring other PWS. Letting them know that their voice is strong, good, beautiful, and worth being heard. Validating them and being a listening ear for them on their rough days. Or just being someone, they can talk to about whatever. I think sometimes doing many little things well is better than doing one big thing well.

Ultimately, my hiatus taught me that living my life to the fullest is the best way to be an advocate. I don’t need to write so many articles a year, say yes to every speaking engagement, wear only stuttering related clothes, or share every stuttering related post on social media

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What Taking a Hiatus from Advocacy Taught Me About Advocacy

Part 2 of 2 . Those are great, but I can still be an advocate without doing any of that. A friend put it best when she said, “Advocacy is not another check on your to do list, you LIVE it.” So that’s what I’m going to do. Live a life that shows it’s ok to stutter. A life where stuttering is just one small part of my story and not my entire story. A life that is good, beautiful, and enough.

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This Fibromyalgia Thing Sucks

I went to my fibromyalgia specialist today and was told that my left thigh muscle is deteriorating and if that doesn’t stop I’ll end up in a wheelchair.

I had a pretty decent fall on Wednesday of this week and after the ambos got me up I couldn’t walk very well at all. After I got home I didn’t walk very far at all.

I decided to stay home from hospital (let’s face it they only toss you out at 3/4 in the morning and getting home is my problem) plus I wanted to see the specialist at my worst point to give him some idea of wat I’m dealing with.

Because I’m so stressed I’m going to fall my brain fog stuttering is out of control and people don’t understand me. My pain Is starting to also play up. So between all this Going on I’m lying in bed wishing my beautiful mum was here as dad struggles to understand what I’m going through.

I feel so alone right now just wishing mum was still here

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#depressionsucks

So, had hard day. So much negativity towards me from my mom. I got up and took a walk with my sons girlfriend. I don’t need fucking negativity in my life. I don’t even watch the news because of it. I’m thinking about my childhood I don’t remember ever finding joy or having enthusiasm. I remember stuttering whenever my dad would raise his voice or yell. Later to find out that’s part of #AnxietyAttack . I remember to laying in bed at 5 afraid to go to sleep because I was afraid of dying or afraid my parents were going to die again #Anxiety . My whole life was abuse from 8-12 #SexualAbuse /#Incest . Later on met my X husband #EmotionalAbuse . I’m done venting #MajorDepressiveDisorder #PTSD #GeneralizedAnxietyDisorde

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Suffering

I don’t post on here much anymore. So, hi! But I just wanted to see if maybe anyone has a similar experience.

I’ve been dealing with headaches. Every day. For going on 2 months. I’m trying to get into the Neurologist, but the insurance is taking its time. It kinda started suddenly and harshly.

I’ve been in my bed for a good about of this time simply because of the imbearable amount of pain. I’ve now been on 5 prescriptions, and 4 shots, but nothing seems to be working. They keep saying it’s migraines. Ringing in my left ear. Running into walls. Almost falling. Cant walk straight. Cant hold conversation a lot of the time.

Pain is one thing that I understand I might just need to learn to somehowww deal with, but the rest of it? Lol. I have to come home and cry a lot because either I feel frustrated with myself that I can’t speak to my friends without just… stuttering and giving up… or coming home screaming and crying because I am in so much pain I feel if I’m around people I might hurt someone.. so.

It’s a lot. Plus, because of my headaches I’ve lost my job(s), and fun nights with friends. It’s ruling my life.

#Headaches #Migraine #help

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Misunderstood

Part 3 of 4 okie of the Year in my first Veterinary Distribution position and went on to be a top performer either first or second in the nation every year for 9 years. Finally, an infectious disease physician in Tampa diagnosed me with #LymeDisease and #Babesiosis in 2009. We got to treating as aggressively as possible WHILE I kept working, never imagining I would not get rid of it. I had no safety net, no husband, no opportunity to stop working to treat and not lose everything. I maxed out any contributions to my 401K and saved and saved, put money into retirement knowing Chronic (not regular Lyme) is progressive. Busting my tail with God’s help and blessing through constant pain and sickness, determined not to lose my livelihood, my independence, my future to the disease all the while infusing with antibiotics, having to go to Germany 2 weeks in a hostile, because 15 years ago treating #LymeDisease was illegal, (Lyme treatments were in their infancy in this country) and in the middle of #Stuttering , falling into things, seeing floaters, God gave me the faith to purchase my home, my sanctuary, smartly during the recession, while at a sales meeting in California. All the while I had to pretend I was OK, enduring burning and stabbing in my head that started in 2005, among so many other neurologic issues.

Having held somewhat of a high profile position because of my dedication and constant activity in the Veterinary Industry, all my body craves and does best with is quiet, peace, no stimulation, and isolation when I need to recover. If I didn’t live through my intense headaches, pains in eyes, face, gums among other symptoms, I wouldn’t live at all but pushing through them every day leaves me exhausted and needing recovery time.

Finally medical leave after medical leave I voluntarily left my company because I decided my faithful (& BEST) customers deserved a healthy person whose body didn’t keep sending them out of the field on medical leaves. Shockingly, I got denied my disability insurance. After being called a liar by the insurance company and that my Germany treatments where I was ACUTELY ill were falsely described as a vacation, I had to hire a lawyer to win disability for the year. I have files and files of proof and medical records from my serious medical conditions, but add the term #LymeDisease , and it is met with scrutiny because the differentiation between #LymeDisease and Chronic #LymeDisease is not recognized by enough of the world yet. I have dealt with a mountain of #neglect by the medical community and injustice by insurance companies. And all the while having to hide my illness. I would collapse in my car, throw up, be unable to walk out of the blue, stutter, and feel shocks of pain in my head, arm cramps, soreness in ribcage, all while speaking with veterinarians or doing presentations. I had to have surgeries to repair tendons and severely injured my back, neck and knees when I would flare and still do. This started in my TWENTIES, not as I aged. It’s not the same. My heart BREAKS for children afflicted with this nightmare. Against the doctors’ advice and reality, I went back to work and worked four more years in equine health, and equine nutrition. The topmost specialist in Washington DC, Dr. Jemsek, found me to be one of his worst patients and during treatments there I actually had my fourth and final interview for the Equine Nutrition position in the hotel before one of my clinical visits and told my doctor that God wouldn’t bring me this far just to see me fail. My ridiculous optimism served me well until it didn’t. It took me YEARS and YEARS to change my expectations due to the inability to get relief despite all the determination, faith, belief, effort, and WANTING so badly to feel anything resembling “healthy.” I am so glad I did go back to work even though it was not sustainable because I found my true talent, and gift in an area I could use all my veterinary and medical knowledge in as well…Equine Nutrition. During a business lunch with co-workers one day, I told them I push on and make the most of every day because of the hope that I could have a good day. They couldn’t conceive of 90% of days living in a torture chamber. It was so beyond their reality, they thought maybe I was kidding and laughed because I never complained. I don’t blame them. Every time I got established and my executive team and employers told me they didn’t care if I only worked two days a week through my illness, what I produced was great and they would keep me hired, the compan