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Why I Believe Stuttering Is a Gift

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One of my favorite Christmas movies is “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” During one of the final scenes the lovable protagonist, Clark Griswold, receives a one-year membership to the jelly of the month club as his Christmas bonus in lieu of his expected check. Clark’s bumbling cousin-in-law, Eddie, refers to it as “the gift that keeps on giving.”

I recently saw a Facebook post in a group for people who stutter (PWS) that described stuttering as a gift. I have never thought of stuttering that way, but maybe it is. Just like the jelly of the month club, it’s a gift I would never give to someone nor ask for. Yet, I have it and I choose to see the beauty of the gift. So, if stuttering really is a gift, then what has it given me?

Stuttering has given me a community of people who get it. I’ve been a part of the National Stuttering Association (NSA) for close to three years. This group reassures me I am not alone. They challenge me to see stuttering in a different way. The NSA is a group of people who have helped me grow in acceptance of my stutter.  It is a group that I can celebrate the small victories of stuttering with, and also share my struggles. A community I’ve grown to call my “stamily,” or stuttering family.

Stuttering has allowed me to strengthen friendships. For the longest time my lack of willingness to discuss my stutter was a good way to choose friends. If anyone would say the even the slightest negative remark about stuttering, I would immediately chew them out and end our friendship.  A few years ago, I only talked about my stutter with the closest of close friends. It was my way of showing him or her that I trust them. Now I openly talk about stuttering with anyone. As a result of me sharing one of my biggest vulnerabilities, people tend to trust me quicker and share their vulnerabilities in return.

Stuttering has given me the opportunity to learn and re-learn many life lessons. For example, I see and hear people for who they are, I appreciate the small victories in life and I am resilient. I see the positive in the negative. I know some days will be harder than others, but I have patience. I understand that while I may not be able to change the outcome of a situation,  I can always change my outlook on it.

My stutter has allowed me to become more self-confident. Before I was able to accept my stutter, I buried my feelings about it and in turn hid my feelings about everything else. Now that I’ve accepted it, I proudly wear my stutter for everyone to see and hear. I’ve allowed myself to be more open with my strengths and triumphs, but more importantly I no longer try to hide my struggles, insecurities, weaknesses and my many quirks. I am proud of who I am because I have accepted my stutter.

I have also gained the opportunity to serve others. Through my openness about stuttering, and willing to write this type of honest story about my stutter, I am showing other PWS that they are not alone. I like to think that those who read my stories get an honest view of stuttering and are inspired to try and find the good in all things.

Stuttering has allowed me to discover the joys of writing. Up until a year and a half ago I only wrote academic papers and the occasional “thank you” note. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would write recreationally, much less write about stuttering. I wanted to get my story out there and writing was the only way I knew how to accomplish that goal. I finally had an outlet to express my thoughts on stuttering in a way that could reach, and hopefully impact, others.

So maybe Cousin Eddie is right. Maybe, just maybe, stuttering is indeed the gift that keeps on giving.

Photo credit: Rawpixel/Getty Images

Originally published: September 7, 2018
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