My name is Eric and I am a stutterer.

My name is Eric and I am a stutterer. Wow, I have to look again at that sentence to really believe I wrote that! I'm saying this because for all these years, I have been so ashamed of my speech that I have tried to "hide" it in ANY way I could, whether it was by literally forcing the words out and nearly passing out or just by refusing to speak at all, making other people believe I'm either mute or anti- social.

I have not stuttered all my life. It actually began when I was around 8 years old. And to be honest, I cannot really recall my speech patterns prior to that when I was "fluent." It's as if my stuttering erased all that and took over. Being someone who stutters has always confused me, since nobody knows the true reason why people stutter. So does that make me a freak? Should I be in the circus, where other people can observe me with curiosity and scorn? These are questions I've often asked myself. We live in a society where just one imperfection places you in a totally different category of person than the rest. All it takes is one "flaw." I would love to say that other people are all kind souls who would never think of someone who stutters as "not one of them." But if I did, I would be lying. I've noticed that that's not the way the world works. So what I (along with other stutterers) have to do is try to find an inner peace with ourselves, and not try to find a peace with the outside world, because not many people will accept it. I've spent a tremendous amount of money, time, and energy on all kinds of speech therapy programs. And I still stutter. Just recently I realized that fixing my speech is not my priority...fixing the way I think is my priority. Yes, it would be a dream come true if I was fluent. I'm not saying I don't wish for that. Of course I do. But for the time being, that dream is not coming true. So I must find a way to cope with the way I talk. I don't know if any of you other stutterers share that philosophy, but I thought I'd put it out in the open anyway.

Now, as for my experiences with stuttering. Well, it would take me forever to share all of them, so I'll share one that had the biggest impact on me. One day several years ago, I had to meet a friend in Boston for dinner. He gave me the name of the restaurant and the location, so I knew where to go, or so I thought. I ended up getting lost. Really lost. So I decided to do something I dread as a stutterer: ask for directions. I noticed that a woman was approaching me, so I stopped her and asked. I did fine until I got to the name of the restaurant. My lips sealed up and I struggled to get the sound out. I wish I had had a camera and taken a picture of the look on her face. She looked like she had just seen an alien from Mars. She ran across the street and almost got run over by a bus doing so. At first, I was hurt and angry as can be. I was like that for the rest of the day, even when I was eating with a friend later on that day. But then I realized something that forever changed my view on stuttering. That woman was not running away from me. She was running away from her own fears, which were brought out when she saw me stutter. She was projecting her own flaws on me because I reminded her that she has them too. When people see other people who have flaws, they are reminded that they have them too, and they don't like that. So they panic. That's the lesson I learned that day, and I never forget that.

So here's a message to other stutterers: when others laugh at you or turn their heads, they are laughing and turning their heads at themselves. We are all born with a set of cards to play with. Some of us have very good cards and are all set. And some of us get not so good cards. But the good news is, we're all given several opportunities to put some back and draw others from the deck. And who knows, someday, we'll end up with a royal flush and win the game they call life. :)

added November 26, 1998