My name is M-m-m-adison. That has always been a particularlydifficult word for my lips to form, especially on unexpected occasions. In my mind I know exactlywhat I want to say and when and how I want to say it, but every now and then my words stumble outin repetitive prolonged syllables accompanied by grimacing and pursed lips in a futile attempt to“push” the words out.
I have coped with stuttering my entire life, a problemthat often goes unnoticed by those around me since I possess this speech impediment to a verylimited degree and experience it only in certain situations. However, it has wielded the sameimpact on my life as if I had it to its full extent. There have been times when I have wanted torip my vocal cords from my throat in frustration, not understanding why I cannot speak with easelike those around me.
For many years I have worn a mask, one giving the appearance offluency and normalcy. I’ve made a relatively successful attempt to hide my stutter, assumingthe world had no desire to hear flawed or imperfect speech. I’ve kept it hidden by avoidingsituations where I run the risk of stuttering. I have always striven for perfection in all otherareas of my life, futilely attempting to compensate for my problem.
I exhausted myself.The obsessive drive that fueled my determination to shut out and ignore a festering disabilitystarted to corrode me from the inside out. The lies and deception usually strangled and suffocatedme more than my stuttering ever did during a block or period of disfluency. Denial was the crutchupon which I rested, an unstable one that finally gave way this past year. I reached a breakingpoint, unable to withstand the pressure of pretending to be somebody I was not. After years ofrefusing to seek help, I was forced to acknowledge that there was in fact, a problem.
Myspeech therapist extended her hand to me, hoisting me up. She is a woman who stutters severelyherself but is unashamed and unapologetic when speaking at her achingly slow pace. She stumblesover certain words and at times experiences difficulties, yet perseveres through eachsentence.
Entering her office that first time, we watched a videotape of her giving a speechin a college class, neck craned and grimacing, stuttering uncontrollably for ten minutes straight.It reminded me of me. I had never identified with anyone like I did with her in that moment. Idiscovered that I really wasn’t alone after all.
Her office is a sanctuary, a placewhere I will not be judged for my imperfect speech. It’s a safe haven where I won’treceive curious or impolite stares from those who don’t understand what it’s like tostruggle with the simplest daily task - a place where I can stutter to my heart’s content.
I’ve finally found my way. I accept that I have this disability and consider myselfblessed to be a stutterer. I feel privileged to be among those who are disabled because we are ableto appreciate certain abilities normally taken for granted. We know what it’s like at timesto find ourselves without them.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.