Something happened in the second grade. I don't know what. We had moved from Boise to Idaho Falls and I remember being taken to the first day of school and asked if I wanted to stay in the second grade and not go on to the third. All I remember is everyone thought it would be best. It's about the time I became aware I had a stuttering problem. The older I got the worse the stuttering became. By the time I was in junior high there were times I could not even say my own name. I could not answer the phone or even say hello. It made my dad furious. I think he thought I was doing it for attention. I remember sitting in the family room watching TV. If I thought really hard about what I wanted to say, and went over it again and again in my mind, sometimes I could get it to come out right. I just wanted to have a conversation with my dad. Not realizing he was engrossed in the TV program and had no way of knowing what was on my mind, I blurted it out. I was so pleased when it came out perfect. Dad just looked up and said, "What?" No way could I ever say it again. All I wanted was to start a conversation. One more missed opportunity. I think that's when I stopped trying.
I remember learning to read in grade school. Each student would read until the teacher said, next. As it would get closer to my turn and I could tell what I was going to be expected to read I would read ahead to find any words I knew I could not say. If I found one of those words in what I new I was going to have to read it would just devastate me. As my turn got closer the anticipation of making a fool of my self was overwhelming. My choices were, to not say the word and have everyone think I was stupid, or try to say it and have everyone laugh.
So many times in school the teacher would ask the class a question. With the raise of hands someone answered. I experienced several times the pain, of being the first student with the answer but not being able to raise my hand because I could not say the words. And there were many times I knew the answer to a question and was able to say the words and was never called on to give the answer. Young people seek so much the approval of the group. Not being able to receive the acceptance of the group is an isolating experience especially when it's only because you can't talk.
I had a newspaper route. One of my most unpleasant things was collecting money at the end of the month. All those people who tried to complete a sentence for me. The worst were people who thought they could help. Just slow down and you can say it. Try again there is no pressure here.
When I was in the fifth grade and it was time for school try-outs for the Christmas Play. I asked one of the teachers if I could have the part of one of the wise men. I asked because I knew it was a singing part and I knew if I could sing I would not stutter. Why is that? I told her just that. I remember to this day the look she gave me. And know why I got the part. When the three of us walked out on stage I was the first to start the song.
The very worst experience I had in grade school was when the so-called Speech Therapist came to class to collect all of us misfits. They always came to the teacher after class had started. Two adults talking and the whole class focused on their conversation. Then the teacher would say in front of the whole class the Speech Therapist would like to see, and your name was called. You try so hard to hide the problem and it was just made public information. If the classes would have helped any maybe it would have been different, but it was a total waste of time for me. It's so sad not much was known about the problem forty-five years ago
I went to school with the same kids year after year. Every year was a horror. Starting off each first day back, with, how was your summer vacation standing in front of the class. Making a fool of myself the first day of every year in school. It still amazes me how cruel children can be. Please, don't ever say to me, or any one else "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never harm me." I would really love to meet the person who made that one up.
Anyway, the summer of my junior year in high school I left home. Funny thing I left most of my stuttering there too. By the time I was eighteen I don't really know how, it went away, or I just got good at hiding it, I don't know. I moved in and out of home a few times and every time the stuttering would get worse. The family moved to Denver my senior year. I tried to stay and finish school but working all-night and then trying to go to school, was too much and I moved to Denver.
Colorado at that time had much higher standards for graduation than Idaho did. I was told I would have to take a speech class to graduate. Get this; I went to school with the same kids every year for eleven years. Every year I made a fool of myself but at least some of them knew me and it was ok. Now I found myself a senior in a new school and had to stand in front of people I had never seen before and give a speech. Needless to say I did not finish high school. I had no idea I could have had any special consideration.
. I don't feel bad about my stuttering, not for one minute. Whatever does not kill you makes you stronger. In fact, most of the good qualities I have are a result from the experience. My only regret from the experience is I found at tender age of eighteen I was socially, very handicapped. I had very few friends in school.
I was too busy learning how to talk or hide the way I talked to be bothered with learning any social graces or how to communicate with people.
I had the highest, widest, toughest, wall built around me you can imagine. This wall could keep anything out. I did not realize until it was too late the same wall was keeping me in. Now that I wanted out I found myself a prisoner. I have been trying to take this most excellent wall down for the last thirty years.
Even though I no longer stutter the affect it has had on my life is far reaching. It is extremely hard for me to engage in meaningful relationships because of the isolation. The wall I spent thirty years building to protect myself has become a real challenge to take down.
If I could choose between having the ability to relate to others and be able to have a meaningful relationship and still stutter, or be alone and not stutter, I would choose stuttering hands down. I have over come the symptoms but I still have the disease.
added with permission April 10, 2001