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Confessions from a Stutterer

I sit here with my finger over the publish button.

Do I, Don’t I?

….

I Do.

Hi, my name is Lauren, and I am a stutterer.

Why the big announcement, I hear you ask? Well, I stutter and I will probably never be cured, but if I acknowledge that I stutter, the pressure is off then and I don’t have to try and hide it when I talk to you. It helps me compartmentalize that part of myself, so it doesn’t end up ruling my life.

And why is it a big deal, you ask? Well, being a stutterer is hard. Or for a more appropriate ‘H’ word, humiliating.

I am a covert stutterer, as opposed to an overt one. Basically this means I preempt when I am going to stutter and replace the word with another regardless of whether my sentence then makes any sense, or, I get stuck on the first letter of words or the second/third syllable.

I have had this…. infliction… all my life.For as along as I can remember. Even in school. Can you imagine what is is like growing up in school with a stutter? It sucks. I was teased, mocked, mimicked, laughed at.

My grade four teacher tried to help me once. She made every student in the class read out loud and record them. Then she made me, just me, sit in her office and listen to my recorded reading. It was awful. So awful in fact I blocked it from my memory. Only several years ago did it resurface. All I can remember was crying.

But, while it was hard as a child, do you know what is is like being an adult with a stutter?

It’s worse.

Lauren, with straight hair!

Don’t think for one minute the teasing, mocking, mimicking stops. Because it doesn’t. And the reason it doesn’t is because people don’t actually realise they have just bagged out someone with a disability. Most people I meet for the first time think that I’ve just stumbled over a few words. That is until I continue talking and you see their face drop as if it has suddenly dawned on them that they haven’t just laughed at someone struggling to say their name, they have laughed at someone struggle to say everything. I hardly ever pull people up when they laugh at me though, I would rather be the person feeling like crap than make another person feel ashamed of their actions. My friend’s have spoken up for me and most of the time the other person is mortified and they apologise.

But the damage is already done. A bit of my self-esteem was already chipped away the moment they laughed.

Like many stutterers, by far the hardest word for me to say is my own name. But we hardly ever say our own names, I hear you ask? Well, you’re wrong. You only ever say your name when you introduce yourself to new people, or when you answer the phone, or make a call, or when you order a coffee, or when need to identify yourself to organisations such as banks, gyms, power companies, phone companies etc. Yeah, you don’t say your name much at all.

But as well as those situations, I can pretty much guarantee I will stutter on any words or names starting with a vowel or an ‘H’. This basically rules out half or more of my vocabulary. I can’t tell you how much I loved having a maidan name that started with a vowel. I ended up starting my surname with the ‘n’ off Lauren to make it one big long name, but this usually resulted in a “can you spell that?” response. I’ll come back to that in a sec. Not being able to say names with vowels is a bigger issue than you may you think. It has meant that my child, and any future children for that matter, won’t have names such as Oliver, Edward, Ava, Ada, Aphrodite (okay I probably wouldn’t have gone there on that one anyway!) but you get the idea. I know you’re thinking, ‘oh how sad, you should just name them whatever you want, your child will love you anyway‘. But when my child is 15 years old and they’ve invited their friends over and their mother can’t even pronounce their name, imagine how they are going to feel. Or if they’re in trouble and I want to use their name in the grouchy cross mummy voice, I can’t. I won’t have any influence, I won’t have any respect, but worse of all, I may embarrass them in front of their friends.

So apart from those situations the only other times I stutter is when I am tired, stressed, when I have even one sip of alcohol, when I have to spell out my name (!), read out my address, phone numbers, credit card numbers (any numbers really), when I am in big groups or one-on-one, when I’m nervous, when I’m telling a punch line of a joke, when I talk to people who talk really fast and at any other random time. So apart from all those situations no, I really don’t stutter at all.

As an adult stutterer I have had the following things happen to me: I have been mimicked and laughed at in social group situations over 100 times. I have had a police officer and many other strangers ask me if I know my own name. I once had an ex-boyfriend and his friends mock me stuttering with a swear word. I have had a poorly timed stutter when trying to say the word ‘country’. Gah!! I have had many, MANY professionals who I liaise with my in line of work laugh, mock and mimic me. These people include police officers, psychologists, teachers and seniors in my office. It is disgusting. It is appalling. It makes me feel irrelevant and insignificant. And it happens about once a week.

By far the hardest situation for me, however, and one that I almost always avoid, occurs with groups of girls. You know when a group of girls get together they end up talking a million miles an hour over the top of each other and jumping from subject to subject? Well, if there was ever a situation that I can’t handle it is this one. I just cannot talk. Plus, I am almost always knocking back a couple of glasses of wine. I sit there stuttering away, trying to hide my blocks as best I can, but I see eyes glaze over, they look away and new conversations start up. And it’s over. I usually just cut the story short or just stop talking mid-sentence – they generally don’t notice.

Some people who think they know me try and help. For example, they finish my sentences for me [insert raised eyebrow here – Yes, this does bother me, I would like to be able to get my own words out thank you very much]. But to be honest, if I’m really struggling to get a word out, just say it for me already. Please! When I’m really struggling and talking with my closest friends I roll my eyes, they say ‘spit it out’ and we genuinely can laugh about it. But that’s reserved for my close friends!

Like I said before, stuttering is hard. It is particularly hard as a an adult. As a child you can almost be forgiven for having a stutter as it is seen as ‘cute’, but as an adult you are simply just laughed at or looked at as if you have the intelligence of a wooden plank. And every time this happens, every time someone laughs at you, mocks you, mimics you, a bit of your soul chips away. I really cannot describe it.

It sounds quite depressing really. I have never written about this part of my life and I write a lot on my blog. Maybe because it’s too confronting. Definitely too confronting. I have in the making my first video series called the 30 by 30 Challenge where I am challenging myself to run 30km by my 30’th birthday. And, if I may, I am running really well, today I ran 13kms! Hooray for me! But my videos will ever see the light of day. I can barely bring myself to watch them, let alone have other people watch them. My friend and life coach tells me that people will watch them because I ‘make it real’, but I don’t believe her. Correct me if I’m wrong, but would you want to watch a video of someone stuttering?

Maybe this is why I enjoy blogging so much. I can present myself how I want to present myself – as an intelligent, dignified and witty woman. Not some stammering, blubbering fool. If there ever was an argument for creating your own online identity, it is this. I make my own rules in my blogging world to the extent that I deliberately don’t use correct grammar and punctuation(!) because I can… because unlike stuttering I am in control of it!!!

But to be honest, while my stuttering story does sound depressing, I am very fortunate.

I once sought out some treatment. It was hugely challenging and confronting and I spent the first day crying. But I graduated being able to speak more fluently and eloquently than I ever had before. Plus I could finally say everything I wanted to say – you couldn’t shut me up!

I also learnt that my stuttering isn’t so bad. I don’t have the big head shaking stutter that some overt stutterers have. I merely blink and twist my lips a little. And I don’t let my stuttering hold me back – well not with many things anyway. I still have a very successful career, I have a loving husband, a beautifully supportive family and small but loyal friendship group. Plus the majority of my work experience to date has been in highly communicative roles such as waitressing, a lecturer and a case worker in the  community. Plus I have participated in a debating team, theatre productions and countless public speaking events.

However, a large number of my fellow stutterers are not living fulfilled lives solely because of their stuttering and associated anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Many people aren’t seeking the careers they want, they are in unhappy relationships to scared to leave or not in relationships at all, and many have a very, very small social network. I recall on my last day of the programme, this 40 something year old man came up to me. He was sweating, shaking, and could barely look at me. He said he wanted to come and introduce himself as he hadn’t spoken to a female in years as he feared he would stutter in front of her. I was honoured to be the female he chose. He only said his name and me asked how I was, but that was enough for him to achieve his goal! Just for one second, imagine being in his shoes.

So if you’re reading this and you are a stutterer, first of all contact me(!) and secondly, do yourself a favour and look up some treatment. Get help. Achieve your life goals – God knows you deserve the best life after what you’ve gone through.

And, if you’re reading this and you are not a stutterer, then for goodness sake don’t laugh at someone who stumbles over their name, vowels, or any words for that matter. You may not know it, but they could be a stutterer and your reaction could be chipping away at what little self-esteem they have left.

That is it from me – peace out my brother’s and sisters. I hope I have portrayed myself in the way I have intended !!…!!….!!!

Click here for the sequel of this piece

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About Lauren Jackman (159 Articles)
Lauren Jackman is the author of Canberra Mummy. A self-confessed perfectionist, Lauren writes about the truth about pregnancy and parenting for perfectionist mummies. Lauren is a mum, wife, author, runner and a not a bad cook

40 Comments on Confessions from a Stutterer

  1. What a thoughtful post! Thanks so much for opening your heart and helping me understand how to show kindness to both children and adults who stutter. I hope this post will help many more people!

  2. Great article Lauren! It’s nice to read such an open and honest piece – well done! And as for ‘adults’ that find a disability something to mock – well, all I can say is that it says more about them than anything else!

    • Thanks Carla. It means a lot to me that you took the time to comment. And yes you are right, it does say more about them. It is just a shame that it has to happen in the first place I guess.

  3. Well written article thanks for educating more people on this subject!

  4. Great post, Lauren! I cannot imagine your daily struggles, but I appreciate you sharing your story so that others can understand how difficult stuttering can be for people, especially as a grown adult. I applaud you for sharing your story.

  5. Thanks so much for bringing awareness to speech issues in adults, it’s a topic close to my heart 🙂 Sharing next Saturday on my blog!

  6. First of all congratulations on writing a fantastic and heartfelt post. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to write it and open your heart out. Thank you for educating the masses on the subject. I have taught a child who stuttered and I always wondered what life as an adult who stuttered would be like.
    Although I don’t stutter I do mix up my words mid sentence which is extremely frustrating. I know what I want to say but the words just come out wrong. Tiredness, stress and new situations certainly makes it worse. I probably hide from social situations as a result.
    Thank you for being so open.

  7. I can’t believe that adults would make fun of you! How rude!

  8. Kate Ellerton // August 3, 2014 at 11:05 pm //

    I cant begin to tell you how proud I am of this blog. I hope it helps to heal some of the torment you have had to endure in your life as a stutterer. You have an always will be a beautiful soul, loved unconditionally by all your family. Keep blogging Lauren … Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass but about learning to dance in the rain … and that is something you do very well. Love mum x

  9. Hi Lauren, thank you so much for this post.I know it’s really hard to put yourself “out there”, but I think this will be so helpful to a lot of people! I think sometimes (but certainly not always) people react badly when they just don’t know what they should be doing. Your post really touched my heart and I really appreciate you sharing something so personal. You rock!!!

  10. Great post, I can relate to all you have written. We have to celebrate every successful speaking situation no matter how small. I can remember saying my name on the phone for the first time and after that call I was dancing around the room big style. Take your knocks on the chin and bounce back stronger and louder than before. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Kim Gardiner // August 4, 2014 at 7:45 pm //

    Hi Lauren, I just wanted to say I don’t notice your stutter. You are so inspiring, beautiful, talented, driven, a wonderful mum and wife and best of all you have the best sense of humor. I was teased throughout high school, unfortunately some adults never grow up.

  12. Hey Lauren, I am an adult stutterer too and I have many of the same painful memories from childhood as you do…kids making fun, teachers losing patience, etc and not being able to say your own name is it’s own particular type of torture(mine starts with a B and I have trouble with hard consonant sounds, D, K, etc). I am in a professional position and often have to introduce myself in front of groups and I found it helpful to run words together like you do (himynameis….). Since I’ve been a teenager though, I’ve always tried to remind myself that what matters is what you say, not how you say it, so if you are intelligent and have something important to say, the message should trump the delivery. Not always true by any means, but it helps me get by in tough situations. You are a great example of someone who has worked with their affliction to maintain a positive attitude, and by opening up to the world, you are making all us stutterers feel a little better and someone out there is going to read your post and make a decision, today, that stuttering will not hold them back from everything that life has to offer. Thanks you for your post.

    • Hi Bill, Thank you for sharing your story. What a lovely response! I didn’t even think that I could be influencing people, to be honest I wrote the piece as a sort of therapy. Like all my writing, I write about things that are important to me.

  13. I’m a stutterer. You should be proud of yourself for writing this piece. Any step towards being open about stuttering, no matter how small it may appear, makes a big difference. What I would suggest is to create a better support system for yourself. (I attend a support group affiliated with the National Stuttering Association.) All those people who laugh at you when you stutter are either embarrassed and don’t know how else to react, or they are simply immature. I get angry now when people react stupidly to my stutter. ( I used to think I deserved it.) Everybody has something about themselves they’re unhappy about and would rather keep secret; it’s useful to remind yourself of that, and maybe gently remind them of it too. Let’s try to be kinder to each other; we are all imperfect.

    • I 100% agree with you. I don’t think there is any malice in them laughing, which is why I don’t like to confront them about it. Thank you for taking the time to post.

  14. I also am a stutterer. You did a fantastic job of telling it like it
    is! Thank you.

  15. Thank you for your post. I’m a stutterer, too. Reading aloud in class was always a terror. I may not stutter often anymore, but it’s always a part of who I am.

  16. Thank you for the great article. I to am a PWS. It is much better now that I am OLD! Still there but not as much.
    Suffered all the same problems. Saying my name,PANIC. Called on to read in class, PANIC. Phone calls , PANIC. etc etc.
    Worst was not applying or even trying for certain jobs I knew I would be good at because of stuttering. Thanks again, Mike

  17. Chughtai // August 8, 2014 at 7:38 am //

    Very Impressive.. But has ANY ONE FIND THE YET BEST CURE FOT STUTTERING OR STAMMERING ?

  18. Hey, I’m 17 years old. I’ve struggled with a stutter all my life as well! Got speech therapy in 6-7th gradeish for 2 years and it helped so much. As for the mocking thing to me at least, I’ve become numb to it. People don’t get that it’s a legitimate thing people have. So they mock me and I give them a look and walk away and barely even remember the interaction. It’s just so common it’s not even worth my time. In fact my best friend didn’t know I had it back before we were friends and mocked me for it. As soon as I left his friends were like “Dude! She has a stutter!” And he felt so bad, he tells me this story now and I just laugh.

    Although weird thing I’ve found about my stutter, the more familiar I am with people the less I stutter. If I make friendships the closer I get with someone the less I stutter. But then I just got a job at a sandwich shop and working register I’m fine if I stick to the dialogue, but if I have to deviate THEN I have a problem. Lucky for me the management is amazing and don’t make me answer phones – that’s always a nightmare.

    • Hi Riley, Thanks for your comments. I am exactly the same – the more comfortable I am around people the less I stutter too – maybe because the pressure is off?? Not sure. Best of luck with everything 🙂

  19. Hi! While I was reading your article all I could think was “this is exactly how I feel and do.” I am pre-med student applying to medical schools these days. I am writing my personal statement these days, and it has a lot to do with my stuttering problem.
    I might be asking a lot from you, but I was wondering if you glimpse through it and give me your feedback. I will really appreciate it.

  20. rkaupp1@cox.net // December 1, 2014 at 7:34 pm //

    Hi Lauren, I just happened upon this article looking up stuttering issues & news via google. I am a lifelong stutter and I’m twice your age. I guess the thing that stunned me in your blog was how things never change over the decades!! I would have thought by now younger people would be much more informed about stuttering, the issues and “humiliation”. Evolution is such a long thing !!! Many of your stories I have felt & being older…..I’ve got a million experience that hurt!! However I get a break from stuttering when I talk to myself….I could go on for hours! I sing in a little band & don’t stutter when singing and, talking on stage I rarely stutter (cause the rock image-person on stage is not a stutter). The older I get I have found …people make me stutter. If you would all just go away or put me on an island…….I would never stutter again!!!! Funny, yes…..impossible, yes ~but a bit true. I once met “Stuttering John” & talked to Howard stern….but thats another story !!
    Cheer,
    Rick

  21. Brenda Petersen // January 19, 2015 at 7:42 am //

    Thank you for your eloquent and gut wrenching honesty. I have been married 19 years to an adult stutterer and I am still awed whenever I read an article like yours. My husband is a great guy – great husband, great dad, good co-worker, good friend and pretty much all around good guy. I know him so well and yet I found myself reading your article and re-remembering that he and all other adult stutterers are brave souls who face challenges the rest of us don’t even think about. Hats off to you all! But blogs like this one are great – it’s important to gently remind people to stop and think, and maybe most important of all, to treat others with kindness and dignity at all times. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story. Like a pebble thrown into a puddle, you never know how far the ripples travel and who might be touched by your story and your bravery. Best regards, Brenda

  22. Thanks for linking this up Lauren. I am not a stutterer so cannot begin to imagine how this has affected you throughout your life but I am horrifed that you still face rudeness today. I am stunned at the behaviour of people who think it is appropriate to make comment when someone doesn’t meet society’s expectations of “normal”. I have kids with autism plus my son has albinism so I have seen this inconsideration first hand myself – it’s just plain rude.

  23. Hey. Loved reading this article and honestly I think its awesome you stutter and own it. I stuttered for 35 years, ended up becoming the lead singer for a band and the stuttering for me is now a thing of the past. It was tough. I have felt exactly how you feel. I too was made fun of and bullied in school and even in adulthood and seen how the leftovers still affect me. I would love to talk to you because I have just written a book about stuttering. No medical stuff , its all based off of living as a severe stutterer. Maybe I can help you. Maybe you can help me as well. Hope to hear from you. Adam Dayton Gibson , Atlanta, 770 203 7574.

  24. What a great post. People can be so thoughtless and cruel. Thanks for sharing and raising awareness. I don’t stutter but I speak very softly, and I have a condition that can make me shake a lot. It’s worse when I am stressed, tired or hungry and the number of people who point it out, or think I am nervous (although sometimes I am ..) is incredible. Yes, I know I’m shaking, I don’t need it pointed out all the time. But my voice also gets very shaky, particularly if I’m nervous or stressed, and I find that embarrassing too. So I can only imagine what you go through on a daily basis.

  25. Hi Lauren, this is an older post but I am seeing it now for the first time. I am a 50 year old male who has stuttered all of my life. Even though I have been in law enforcement, (support role) for the last 28 years, I feel like I have let my disability dictate a large portion of my life, (I don’t feel like I have, I know I have). I barely graduated from high school, (refused to take a required public speaking class) and didn’t enroll in college due to fear of the unknown. I applied for my current position on a whim, (had a friend call for me to inquire about the job and set up the interview) and I haven’t looked back.

    While reading your blog, all I could do was smile and nod my head, having been in so many of the exact same situations as you.

    Non-stutterers can’t even begin to comprehend our world, but I thank you for taking the time to offer a rare glimpse into our reality.

    • Hi Tim, Firstly thank you for taking the time to write back to me. It’s nice to know that my thoughts are shared by many and we are all in the same boat. It’s hard to explain and hard to understand, but I think with more awareness, people can get the idea.

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