About the presenter: Anita Scharis Blom was born and raised in the Netherlands, but is now married and living in Sweden. She works as a secretary and as the IT support/teacher assistant in school. Besides that, she is a member of the local disability committee, board member of the local stuttering chapter (SSF), chairperson of the Swedish stuttering association (SSR), vice chair of the European League of Stuttering Associations (ELSA) and a member of the advisory board for the International Stuttering Association (ISA). She states, "I have stuttered since I was 9 and had a troublesome youth, but this helped me to now work with and give advice to people who stutter of all ages and help them to break down their barriers and show them the world is at their feet."

You can post Questions/comments about the following paper to the author before October 22, 2009.

Dealing with Fear: Training Exercises and Persistence

by Anita Blom
from Sweden

Fear? Is there anyone who stutters who hasn't felt fear? How do you deal with fear? Will you let it become a part of your daily life and narrow your world? Will you fight it? Or will you just ignore it and pretend it's not there? Fear is very personal. Some people fear spiders, others fear death, the next one fears the upcoming test. It is sometimes difficult to make others understand that anyone can be afraid of something so "normal" to others as saying your own name.

My father always taught us: don't be afraid, be careful. When you're afraid, you lose your judgment. You just KNOW something bad IS going to happen. And since you "know" this, you're going to be afraid 24-7. When you're careful, you know that something MIGHT happen. So you prepare IN CASE something happens and then you MOVE ON. So when it happens, you're ready. And when it doesn't, you've been doing other things besides worrying.

In spite of my father's good advice, I've been afraid of stuttering for (way too) many years -- afraid of speaking, afraid of bullies, afraid of the phone, or even afraid of saying my name. And I've also been been hiding, even pretending to be mute for years until I finally got angry.

Training and Exercise: It was then that I started training to get rid of my fear, which had become the worst part of my stuttering because it had made me seem like something I was not -- a person who was quiet and shy. I love to talk!

So, my training exercises began, just like I started training at the gym to stabilize my damaged back: first carefully, comparing myself to others with the "perfect" bodies, but later on realizing that what I do is just as important. My training exercise was to start talking and stop hiding my stutter, andI kept on training by expanding my comfort zones until my love for talking was greater than the fear of stuttering. And from that moment on, I didn't stop talking. Of course, I have my lazy days, busy days, days in mental and physical pain, just as in training, but today I can see results.

Persistence: Sometimes it's good to be afraid, because it keeps you from getting hurt so persistence is also important. How many times did we fall off that bike, until we finally managed to stay on? Of course you are afraid of falling: it hurts, but wasn't the joy of finally saying "Look at me, I can do it" an amazing feeling?

I also cannot count the diets I've tried and most of them made me gain weight. But I plan to keep on trying as I know that, even if I won't loose 10 pounds per week, I might at least stop gaining weight, with a good reason AND good friends to stand by my side.

An important lesson I have learned about training and persistence - support of family and friends (perhaps in a stuttering support group) can make a big difference. It has for me. "Share fears and problems and you diminish them, share friendship and successes and you double them." And if nothing works, at least I'm proud of myself for having tried.

Life is the greatest gift we can give and are given. Why waste time to live life in fear? Will life end when we stutter? Or will it start when we manage to leave the fear behind? Training and persistence can help us move beyond the fear.

"Courage is not the absence of fear but the decision there is something more important than fear."

Keep talking.

You can post Questions/comments about the above paper to the author before October 22, 2009.

SUBMITTED: September 28, 2009
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