It seems almost odd to call what I have, and will probably continue to have, a disability. However, it has brought me extreme anxiety and has had a toll on my confidence in basic speaking and social interaction. In the fall of fourth grade, I randomly contracted a speech impediment. Completely out of the blue, with no warning and no sign. Suddenly I was stuttering like crazy through the most basic of words—“th-th-thank you” and “wh-wh-wh-who said that?”, for reference—and it was mortifying. I was supposed to be the smart kid, and heaven forbid I look like a fool when asking to go to the bathroom.
On some accounts, I would fail to speak at all. The stuttering would get so violent and painful that I would essentially just stop mid-sentence and go silent. It was embarrassing, and it was obvious that people would get annoyed with me if I took too long to tell a story and answer a simple question. I was forced to become more introverted and less likely to initiate conversation, all because I was not sure if any words would come, much less be coherent.
As I have aged, the severity of the speech problem has significantly decreased, due to practice and knowing how to talk my way around it. I have gained more confidence, learned how to force the words out even when my brain is failing me, and stopped caring if I do stutter a little bit. I still get extremely nervous, however, when I have to order food in a restaurant or read aloud in a class, because in those situations I cannot “talk around” it.
Having this stutter has fundamentally changed me on every level. I am less judgmental of others who do not speak perfectly; I am well-versed in anxiety and depression; I understand how to control my emotions whenever I feel a panic attack coming on; and I am aware of how important it is to ground yourself in the present moment. I have always had a tendency to try and do more in a day than I truly could, and adopting this stress-inducing mentality makes my stutter and mental state even worse. By tackling these concepts myself, I am able to guide my friends and others into a more optimistic and realistic light.
The one way my speaking problem has affected me academically is in my writing. When I could not form thoughts, or even ask simple questions (like asking to go to the bathroom), I turned to paper. My failure to speak allowed me to listen, observe, and then inscribe. This is the main reason why I hold writing so close to my heart–more than drawing or singing or baking or running–since it will always be my most eloquent form of communication. The words I say aloud are never as honest or precise as the ones I type and scribble.
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