“Growing up, communicating was not an easy task for me. I had so much to say, but often my words were left unsaid. I have a stutter that I was immensely ashamed of.
My speech impediment started as soon as I could talk. When I was very little, I didn’t think much of it. Like all kids, my biggest concern was wondering what I should play with next. I was in speech therapy for a short time in preschool, but I still remember thinking it was just a fun class. As I got older, though, I became more aware my stutter as kids brought it to my attention. I was very confused by this since it was something my family and I never talked about. It was the norm for me, so this was the first time I felt different from everyone else.
I became very nervous in all talking situations. Giving presentations became a nightmare. Whenever I struggled with a word, I wanted to run out of the room. I never wanted to be called on by the teacher as my answer was always “I don’t know,” even if I really did. Dodging the possibility of stuttering was more important to me than giving an answer.
I always hoped my stutter would be gone by the time I entered my adult years. Well, it decided to tag along which left me feeling more anxious than ever. While most adults brushed it off, my mind did not. After a sentence took me longer to get out, my mind immediately went to thinking I was sounding rediculous. “What’s her problem?“ “What a strange woman.” “She doesn’t carry herself well.“
Having these constant thoughts left me with very low self-esteem. My anxiety was out of control where I was starting to worry about every little thing. This included my weight and body image. Sure I had recently gained a few pounds, but it was something I typically wouldn’t dwell on. However, with my confidence at an all-time low, it was a big deal. I started thinking I can’t control my stutter, but damnit I can control my weight and appearance. And so, this was the start of my 10 year food restriction and excessive exercise.
It started out innocent, simply watching what I ate and exercised a few times a week. I was starting to feel confident. It quickly led to cutting out my favorite foods and never missing a workout. Still, I didn’t see this as a problem. I just referred to myself as a health nut.
However, my new confidence didn’t change how I felt when I stuttered. My mind was still beating me up with every stammer and slur. But by this time, I was too deep into my unhealthy habits. The next thing I knew, my friends, family and even strangers were voicing their concerns. I knew it was getting serious, but I couldn’t stop. Soon after I wound up in the hospital with a very low heart rate and severe dehydration. This was my wake-up call.
I checked myself into a treatment facility where I stayed just shy of 6 weeks. The thought of meeting new people and talking in groups freaked me out. I did it though, fighting through the anxiety as much as I could. I didn’t mention my stutter right away, so when I did I was shocked by the responses I received. They barely even noticed…Wait, what?!
This is when I finally learned the truth about my speech impediment. I used to always think of myself as an outgoing person trapped by my voice. But the reality is this… I am an outgoing person who was trapped by MY OWN negative thoughts and assumptions. I always worried about what others were thinking when I stuttered, so I let it silence my voice.
Thanks to my recovery process, I’ve learned so much about the importance of self love and how to find it. We all have flaws, so we just have to own them. They make us uniquely beautiful.
Now I can finally say I love my voice. What I have to say is important. Regardless of its delivery, I will let my voice be heard.”