STA-STA-STA-STA-Stutterers – ACCEPT THEM

I was born with a stuttering defect. The first time I stuttered, my parents noticed me saying “P-P-P-P-Play” and they noticed me stutter few other times. I grew up to go to school. I was teased at school by other kids for stuttering. They called me “A-A-A-A-Anand”. I had the question “Why me”? I would be fiercely angry and I have hit few people and I have cried few times as well.

I have such bad memories in school sitting in the back of a classroom. When the teacher told all students ‘everybody is going to read a paragraph’, I skipped ahead to my paragraph and with the fear of being mortified, I read the paragraph enough number of times so that I wouldn’t stutter and stammer when I am called upon.

My parents encouraged me and really took good care of me so that I don’t lose my confidence by comparing myself with my peers. They took me to the speech therapist and I practiced hard. I got rid of it when I was in 7th or 8th. I used to stutter very very rarely at that point. It just couldn’t be noticed after that in fact. The sense of relief was bigger than anything else at that point. But it just left me to visit me 3 years back. I started noticing it again.

That was the time I was pursuing my passion “Toastmasters” (a forum for public speaking). My aspiration is to become a trainer and toastmasters served as the right platform for me to learn and experiment with public speaking. I was 5 months into it and I found myself doing well. Suddenly I noticed me stuttering few words. I became conscious about it. The more conscious I became, the more I stuttered. I feared if I would feel the same way like when I was a kid after so many years. Now, I tried to elude speaking in Toastmasters. I feared to stutter because people there knew me as someone who could talk fluently. I didn’t want them to know. The more I pretended, the more I became conscious and the more I stuttered. I stuttered in front of my club members. People looked at me bizarrely. “Does Anand Stutter?” was their reaction and “WTF! I didn’t want this” was my reaction. I didn’t like my weakness getting exposed to a larger audience. Slowly I was trying to get over it. I realized that to get over it, I had to accept the fact that I stutter but it was very hard.

Not only here, but in many places I feared stuttering. One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter. Given below is a list of incidents,

  • There were times when I struggled to tell the bus conductor my bus stop’s name “Thirumangalam”. I said Th-Th-Th-Th-THrumangalam” and I felt embarrassed when the co-passengers looked at me.
  • There were times when I ordered carrot juice at office and stated that particular name for 15secs – “Ca-ca-ca-ca-ca-carrot juice”.
  • There were times when I felt inferior in front of people who spoke fluently
  • I have held myself back with the fear that I would not communicate my idea well
  • I felt awkward to speak in front of public. I still remember the day when I stuttered in front of 200 people while giving a presentation in my MBA days. I felt totally out of place.
  • The fear if I will stammer in front of a new person i.e. if he would get to know my weakness
  • Even when I attend interview, this stuttering which is natural to me is taken as a sign of nervousness.
  • When my bride search was on, I had the fear if I will be accepted by my partner. Will she think that our kid will also have the same problem and will she neglect me? Yes I have been accepted and thanks to my wife.
  • Post marriage, I fear how to face my in-laws and talk to them without stuttering. If they get to know that I stutter, they would think that I have ruined the life of their daughter. The only person whom I told about this problem before marriage was my wife and I never told her parents.

Fear, Fear and Fear… I hated it.. Fear was almost eating me..

I came across another story which made me write this blog.. A good friend of mine stutters like I do.. He got married recently. He shared his feelings with me 2 weeks back. This is what he had to tell me,

———-My wife keeps telling me “Talk slowly so that you will not stutter”.

I tried hard but sometimes I did make mistakes. I mean I spoke faster and I stuttered. Sometimes because of the presence of in-laws, or new people around, or some sort of stress, I was nervous and I stuttered more.

I once took my wife to a get-together with my friends.

I was so enthusiastic to meet my friends and with the same enthusiasm, I spoke fast without my knowing and I stuttered more times than usual. Immediately after my friends moved away to take their plates for dinner, my wife questioned me “Now why did you stutter? Did you notice why you are stuttering? It is because you are speaking fast. How many times do I tell you to talk slowly? You just don’t seem to listen.”

From that day onwards, whenever I meet with my friends or her friends especially, I become very cautious and I mostly don’t speak a word. When my close one is so watchful of me stuttering, I am pushed to a situation where I have to be cautious. Becoming more and more cautious is making me feel more inferior and it is making me pretend more in an unnatural way. I somehow feel very depressed about this issue. I wanted to share it with you. I would have felt very happy if my wife would have said “I don’t care if you stutter in front of people. All that matters to me is you expressing your views with all courage and completing your sentences without any inhibitions”.———

He wept in the end. I was able to relate to his emotions completely.

“Watch your stuttering, watch your stuttering.. Why did you stutter now?, Talk slowly etc.” When one asks/says these time and again, it hurts very much. Even if one asks this in a concerned manner, it hurts very much. What many people don’t understand is that the stutterer knows much better about his problem, about what he is doing, about what he has to do than the other people around him/her. There is no use in pointing it to them. It seems to them like someone is pointing out at their limitations. Telling someone to watch it every time only makes them more conscious about their way of expressing. By doing this, expressions seem lifeless. To add life to their expressions, try listening to them without taking note of their stuttering. It gives the stutterer immense confidence to talk to you. When someone is with you and stands by you how much ever you stutter, then confidence just oozes out in no time.

Having said all this, I did try out few things to overcome this.

Firstly I accepted that I stutter and I reiterated that to myself. Secondly, I accepted that I can stutter in front of people. This made me less conscious. Then I figured out some other ways to overcome it. I am not sure if stuttering can be cured but I am very sure that stuttering can be minimized to a larger extent by doing the below mentioned things.

  • First step is to bring your breath under control. Do yoga
  • Take a breath after 6 to 8 words are spoken
  • Talk slowly
  • Try out different pronunciations or accents that make you stutter less or that eliminate that stutter. US accent made me stammer less. I tried it off late. US people place stress on a lot of words and I similarly I tried placing stress on words like “Ifff, areee, orrganizedd” and that helps me cope up with the stutter in an efficient way. But I am still finding a way to cope up with my mother tongue Tamil.
  • Last but not the least, Environment to serve as the greatest support

Guys, when you find anyone who stutters, take time out in listening to him/her. He/she might piss you off sometimes by uttering a word for 10 seconds by stuttering, but you can give him immense confidence by listening to him so keenly. You can make or break him with your actions. Environment plays a major role in grooming stutterers. I hope you will extend support to a stutterer when you meet one next time.

Priyanandhan , my good friend has come a long way in life after he joined toastmasters (A supportive environment where one hones his/her public speaking skills). He was confined to himself. He felt he was neglected because of his stuttering. When he found people who accepted him whole heartedly and provided him the warmth, he grew in confidence from a person who wasn’t able to utter his dad’s name to a person who is inspiring many with his speeches.

To conclude, Breaking words is not a sin, but breaking hearts definitely is.

Please share this blog with your friends to create some amount of awareness.

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