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What It Feels Like When I Stutter

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Whenever I stutter, I get involved with mental gymnastics. A thousand thoughts race through my head every second while my voice is not coming out. Whenever I ever have a bad block, I look down and my heart races. This story is what goes on in my head during a bad block.

It was Friday, October 30, 2015. It was employee appreciation day at my job, a job I had only been at for roughly six weeks. Outside of the people I worked with on a daily basis, very few people knew I stuttered. That all changed on that fall day.

A raffle was held that day, and being one of the new hires, I was “lucky” enough to pull some of the winning tickets and announce the winner’s name. When I realized I had to call names and had only seconds to mentally prepare for it, my first thought was, “Oh ****.”  Being put on the spot to speak is something most people don’t like. Factor in the fact that I stutter and this is something I did not want any part of. As I made my way to the center of the crowd to announce the names, my heart was beating as if it were Usain Bolt in the Olympics.  My mind was racing with thoughts of, “Why couldn’t I have gotten a heads up? This is going to suck. Damn. What will the people I don’t work with think about me? Will this change their view of me? Damn. Damn. Will they understand me?” All of those thoughts occurred within seconds of being told I was doing this and when I drew the first name.

I drew the first name and stuttered hard on it. The thoughts of “When will this end” and “Just get through this” were racing through my mind. My heart was still racing like Usain, and I was looking everywhere, except at the crowd.

The fact that all of my co-workers, roughly 100 people, were looking at me and waiting on me to announce the winner only made my nerves worse, and in turn I stuttered more on every additional name. After what seemed like hours, all of the winners were announced and I quickly ran inside. I went inside, punched the water fountain, yelled a few choice words, and went to my desk pissed off. I was pissed not because I stuttered, but because that was some people’s first introduction to me. I was afraid they would now see me as “the new guy who stutters” or “the stutterer” and not James. I hated that my stutter was able to introduce itself to them before I could introduce myself to them.

After a few minutes, I calmed down and was able to enjoy the rest of the day. However, the thoughts of “That sucked,” “Do they now see me as the stutterer?” and “Do they care that I stutter” were still present.

I’ve been at that same job for nearly two years now and I can say with confidence that no cared nor cares that I stutter.

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Thinkstock image by g-stockstudio

Originally published: July 18, 2017
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