Today Lee asked me how long it had been since my last speech-disabled incident. It almost startled me to reply with “I’m not sure.” I hadn’t been giving myself enough credit for how far I had come in my 20-year-long stuttering journey in just the past 7 months. 7 months out of those 20 years is 8%. (I’m a data analyst and this is how I think.) Only 8% of the time I have been stuttering have I truly been able to work on a solution that would rid me of this “blessing”, as Lee calls it. I started this program because I wanted to lose the emotion behind the various embarrassing stuttering memories of my contorted faces, awkward sounds, or complete blocks I’d collected that played on repeat anytime it was my turn to speak in public.
My unique form of stuttering was a bit odd in itself. It caused a series of repeats, tic-tic-tics, almost as if I was chopping words and only uttering their first syllables or, even more strange, only the first letter of the problem word. It was debilitating and incredibly embarrassing. I almost didn’t go to graduate school for the sole reason that I would have to do a lot of talking and presentations. Almost as bad as the debiliating speech incidents was the endless hours that I worried myself sick over the next required “performance” somewhere. It seemed as though my mind was consumed by fears and visualizations of the next disaster for hours of every day. It consumed my life.
Across various counselors and speech therapists throughout my life, I had never met someone that believed stuttering could be cured. Deep down, I knew that it could be. If I can speak fluently some of the time, it should always be possible, right? If I can figure out the trigger that’s going on in my brain to cause the stutter, can’t I prevent the trigger from firing? As a psychology major and avid logical thinker, I believed the answers to be “yes”.
Yet it wasn’t until I came across Lee’s book on Amazon in 2019 that I finally felt I wasn’t alone in this belief. As I read the first few chapters, I felt relieved. There were people who trained themselves to not stutter anymore. If they could do it, I certainly could with my mild stutter.
I showed Lee’s book to my speech therapist in 2019, asking her to help me apply and practice the crutches from Lee’s book. She was not in support of believing I could stop stuttering but that I should instead accept it. I stopped seeing her. I also stopped reading Lee’s book. I felt helpless. Fast-forward to 2020 when after staring at the half-read book on my desk I opened it back up and started re-reading it. I sent him an email, was introduced to SAC, and the rest is history.
Lee provided so much support and made me truly believe I could get through this. I took a little longer than some others in the program at 7 months, (I joke that I messed up his average timeline for program completion), but I had to get here in my own way. General anxiety, occasional self-doubt, and a stubborn and scattered brain all could have been reasons for my success story’s doomed demise… It took a breakthrough thought in a meeting with Lee in January 2022 that activated a switch in my brain and now I know there’s no turning back. “Why am I putting myself through all of this stress for OTHER PEOPLE? To sound perfectly fluent, to appear intelligent enough, to impress? Stuttering only exists out of fear. Why am I subjecting myself to this cruel feeling? No. I’m not going to do it anymore. I’m not going to ever again let someone else control me.” It was a decision that I’ve always had but couldn’t see until that moment. Other things that helped me get to this point were reading aloud (highly recommend the books “The Daily Stoic” and “Nonviolent Communication”), learning about myself and my emotions, consistently meeting with Lee who always inspires, applying my learnings and speech plan to conversations, and focusing on my growing positive speech memory bank, which Lee’s methods made possible.
I can get long-winded so if you skimmed to this part, just read this: Trust yourself. Make the effort. Face and deal with your anxiety. Make the decision that you will stop stressing yourself out for other people and make yourself your #1 priority. Say “I’m not going to do it anymore.” Don’t give up. You can do this, too.
Lex, Ohio, March 2022