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When I Wondered If Stuttering Would Always Define Me

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The last time it happened she was a friend of mine. I could feel my mouth contorting. My eyes closed without my consent. The air around me darkened and I couldn’t stop it from happening.

She looks at me and waits. The waves of insecurity are at high tide. She’s patient but my brain wonders if she’s thinking “is this worth the effort?”

I finish talking and she leaves and for a few minutes, I fight with myself; a mental manifestation of a lifetime worth of effort.

Then my day goes on. Back to life, to family, to work, to hope.

As I wrote before, I have stuttered for as long as I can remember, for as long as my brain has been able to form words and sentences.

Yet stuttering has done more than distort my words. It distorts my mind.

When one thing runs so deep inside you, it’s hard not to wonder if that’s all you are. If that’s all that defines you. If this life is all there is. And if it is, then maybe there’s no reason for life.

As I write this, I realize this is something I’ve never verbalized. To anyone. That’s the thing about internalizing anxiety and sadness; there’s a fear that no one will understand.

Let me be clear, I have never seriously considered any specific action that would jeopardize my life, but the questioning of whether or not I’d lead a fulfilling life, like the one most kids envision for themselves, lingers. The brokenness and bitterness leads to self-deceit and that leads to inaction and apathy. Insecurity comes from that awareness of weakness.

Stuttering plays tricks with my mind – leaving me unable or unwilling to say what I want, to do what I want – with an anxiety that paralyzes me into submission. But the most dangerous trick of all is the continuous thought that this anxiety of speech will rule me forever.

And sometimes that’s a tempting idea. I feel rudderless for a while. But I talk anyway. We all continue on.

A few years ago, I read a blog that summed it up for me. The author wrote “We have the choice to choose.”

It’s the intention that equips us.

As someone who stutters, we have a choice. We have a choice to speak freely. We have a choice to speak regardless of what others might think of the output. And we also have the choice to own our weaknesses and re-calibrate what fluency is.

In the end, when I might question if it’s all worth the effort, I have the choice to find my own voice, no matter how clear it might sound.

Getty image by Zefart.

Originally published: March 6, 2018
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