Sunday, July 15, 2012
Then I remember my 'zone'.
I have been stuttering for over 50 years so it's illogical to believe it will be all gone with two years of speech therapy. Patience is a virtue that don't have and sometimes that lack of patience has created problems for me. Quick to answer without having fully thought about the question; making the impulse purchase on something that could have waited. However, patience is a big part of my ongoing therapy. One of my sessions was observed through the two-way mirror by one of the professors of my student clinician. After a few minutes of observing our discussion she noticed that the times I do stutter is when I'm trying to match the speed of the person I'm speaking with. This may not sound like a big deal but it was like flipping the light switch. I often find myself trying to speak past my speed limit and I end up getting pulled over by the "stutter police." A wave of confidence washed over me as if I had just found my Holy Grail.
The more patient I am in my "return speech" the less inclined I am to stutter. It's because I have taken control of my speech rather than being controlled by my counterpart. The more I am in my 'zone', the more concentration I have, the less I stutter. This is what works for me. Getting there is different for all of us who happen to stutter but don't neglect the practice that have gotten you to this point.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
There is something to be said for practice. It does not make perfect but it makes you focus much better on the task at hand. I now set alarms during the day to concentrate on specific areas of speech while I am talking. For example, while engaging in conversation I must make it a point to use what is known as the “early onset” in which the first word spoken is deliberate so that I do not stutter. Most stuttering, for me at least, happens with the first word but never once I get rolling. Therefore If I could start sentences without a first word or maybe with the second word I would not stutter at all. (Yea, like that wasn’t what you were thinking).
The next alarm is for the slow rate. I notice that when I do stutter (I found this out from a very good therapist) it is when I am not in control of the speed of my speech. It was one of the best revelations ever. So, at that time I deliberately slow my rate of speech to make sure I am in control of my speed limit. You can speak as fast as you want and break the speed limit if you want to, but for that time, I’ll be speaking in the breakdown lane, not so much that it will mimic the slurred speech from the side effects of Thorazine.
Anyway, it takes thirty days to make (or break) a habit. Let’s see where this takes me.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
For the last year and a half I have been involved in a speech fluency class at Boston University, where I am employed. In my previous posts I have detailed everything I knew, or thought I knew about stuttering. But being involved in structured speech therapy program has taught me more that I ever could have learned on my own. Sure, I have had speech therapy in the past, but the treatment was totally based on the physical reasons for stuttering.
In this program, before you ever work with a clinician, you spend a semester with a group of twenty people who fall somewhere along the stuttering spectrum from mild to severe. I have never been around more that one stutterer at one time (including myself) but to be surrounded by a bunch of individuals who could relate to everything I have been through was pure heaven. I was never as relaxed in an environment before in my life. It was then I realized what the fluent speaking world felt like. No pressure to hide my disfluency by substituting words for those I could not say,or making believe I forgot what I was going to say until I could get the word out of my mouth, or the overly excessive facial expressions that would help me to get the word out. I was in my element with my people.
What I learned is that there is nothing wrong with me. I mean that in the sense that I was not psychology damaged at some point in my youth which has caused me to stutter.We discussed everything from the embarrassment of not being able to introduce yourself because you could not say your first name to the comical discussions of ordering something in a restaurant that you didn’t want but it was the easiest to say at the time. For me it was a chance to delve into my own thoughts, and fears related to stuttering. I remember stuttering as far back as I can remember talking so it’s been with me a while. I believe everyone in my group has, at some point, wondered “why me?” That is a question for which I have no answer nor will I ever have an answer except that I stutter because I stutter.
Not many people knew about my stuttering (or so I thought) because I was able to hide it so well. Hanging back in the crowd, never saying much but when I did say something it was very calculated, well thought out. By the time it left my lips I had gone over it many times to make sure I could get the first syllables out of my mouth. The fear of being outed as a stutterer was worse than stuttering itself because everyone would know the secret I had carried with me for lo these many years.
HA! Everyone knew I stutter. I was the only one in denial and thinking I had this big secret. That’s the funny part. Every person who stutters believes no one else knows because we think we are hiding it so well. Even when we say the beginning consonant of a word five or six times. They even know when our faces are contorted and turning blue because the word will not pass through the locked gates that are our lips. Or even when we sound like a heavy breather as we try to recover from words that begin with the letter “H.”
So there you have it. I stutter. Sure, I would rather not have this affliction but I have come to grips with it. So those of you who read this post don’t be afraid to ask me about it because the more I talk about it, believe it or not, the less I tend to stutter because the secret is out and I am not afraid to confront it.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
In my prior post I wrote about how stuttering has affected my life. I discussed it in my stuttering therapy class and after it was over, I crushed that paper it into a tidy ball and threw it away. It was symbolic of letting go of that past and creating a new future, to give me what I want.
Since coming to the speech therapy class I have learned a great deal about myself and how I am perceived in the eyes of others. That was always important to me. I would rise and fall with every look, smirk, furrowed brow, etc. I had speech therapy classes in the past but for the most part that was dealing with the physical; the breathing, the air flow technique, etc. Now, I am forced to deal with the psychological that, for me, is unchartered territory. I am learning to tear away the layers from years of embarrassment and shame and finding I have nothing to apologize for. This is who I am.
So now begins my life of creating the outcome I want to see. I am not predicting one hundred percent control because there will be times in which I will lapse into the old me because I have years of comfort there and it has always been a safe haven. But I feel that allowing myself the freedom to listen and heed that inner voice would be good in the long run. I know that I will stutter for the rest of my life but that does not have to be a bad outcome. This is who I am.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
In the past I have felt that my stuttering was an imposition to anyone listening to me and I would have given anything to avoid getting into the infamous block. Stuttering has been hard for me and it is something that I have really struggled with and have felt ashamed about. Only in the past two or three years have I taken the stance that despite my stuttering speaking is my primary way of communicating with the world. My world is one of presentations, face to face meetings and endless phone calls. This does not mean that I am so comfortable with it that I run out and admit to the world that I stutter. Even though the people to whom I speak know that I stutter, I still have a hard time admitting it to myself.
Maybe I don’t want to be seen as being less than perfect even though none of us will ever achieve that designation. But stuttering is something that, unlike an outwardly physical malady, no one knows until we communicate through our primary mode. After a block, be it mild or severe, I try to collect my words like the shards from a broken glass, hoping I can put them back together again without anyone noticing.
Reading a couple of the chapters from Marty Jezer’s Book “Stuttering: A Life Bound Up In Words” I learned we shared the same habit of picking the right spots in which to join into a conversation. Also, the never ending vocabulary of substitute words I can call on in a moments notice. I am very good at crossword puzzles.
But all this is to say that I know that something happens between the thought in my brain to the time I form my lips, tongue and breath. That’s all I can explain. But even though I know people are understanding about stuttering I am not as patient with myself but I am working on that.