We had a great support group during the third meeting of our NSA Midtown Chapter. There were eleven of us – ten PWS, six first-timers, and one speech pathologist who came to learn more about stuttering so she can be a more effective therapist for her patients. We’re happy people are continuing to find out about our chapter and that our accessible location is attracting people from all over.
We started off by introducing ourselves and telling the group why we came. Several members expressed gratitude for having this support group, and as a co-leader of this group, it feels great to hear this and to be part of a gathering of such amazing people.
A member started the discussion by explaining how her stuttering is affected when speaking English, a non-native language for her. A few of the bilingual members of the group could relate to this, but it seemed that stuttering was idiosyncratic in this respect. A couple factors that were brought up, in how stuttering could be provoked while speaking a non-native language, was the idea of cognitive overload, where you have to concentrate more on choosing the right words, and also how a different sounding language with more consonants and even longer words can cause challenges. Personally speaking, as a longtime professional covert stutterer, allowing myself to stutter much more openly during these last few months, specifically while speaking Greek to my family, has actually allowed me to become a better communicator. No more tricks to hide my stutter means more energy spent on exactly the appropriate words to use. And a bit to my surprise, it turns out that I can be quite eloquent at times with Greek. Who woulda thunk it?
On another issue, one of our first-timers talked about a phone call he recently made at work, and how it started off perfectly; he didn’t stutter at all and he was on point. But then towards the end of the call things seemed to deteriorate. He lost his cool, got a little derailed and began to stutter and block. Fluency seemed to be very important in order for the call to have been a successful one, especially since it was a sales pitch. And we cannot hide the fact that some people out there may associate stuttering to lying, not knowing what you’re talking about, or not being confident. But our member who made this call is clearly very intelligent and there is no doubt he knew exactly what he was talking about. We can all relate to being judged on how we speak. But one has to wonder, for this specific call, and for any call for that matter, how things could have gone differently if he advertised, and said something like, “Just so you know, I stutter. And it’s not because I’m nervous or anything like that. I’m an expert on [whatever product he was pitching].” Bam! Take that person on the other end of the line!
But maybe this openness cannot apply to everyone. In our group, everyone seemed to be on different paths with their stuttering, people had different goals and the way each of one us stuttered was quite different. We are here to support each other and to learn from one another. With that said…
One member asked how comfortable we were with our stuttering, and most of us agreed that this was really situational. This again led the discussion to the idea of advertising. One member talked about the instinct to always want to hide her stuttering, but also knowing that this was not an option for her. She has several public speaking engagements coming up, and for her advertising is a must. She explained that telling people about her stuttering is something that she does for herself, not necessarily for her listeners. And one of our members who gives presentations regularly at work said he was going to give advertising a shot the next day to see how he felt about it. It will be helpful to hear about his experience the next time we meet, regardless to if he did it or not.
Then the idea came up of how do we stay grounded throughout the day, dealing with our stuttering. A member talked about vipassana and mindfulness meditation, which seemed to really work for him in becoming more self-aware and helping him stay calmer and more focused throughout the day. This could really be a benefit for many of us, regardless if we stutter or not. And considering the importance of our mental well-being, some sort of meditation or yoga could really be beneficial.
Towards the end of our meeting the question was asked, what keeps us motivated at the end of the day to keep at it, in staying strong with dealing with our stuttering. I talked about my experience as a covert stutterer and how shame and fear had paralyzed me for far too long; a little bit of a heavy topic perhaps, but the reality. Acceptance has been a long journey for me, but the awkward moments, the weird stares, the nervous gestures your listener may show from time to time, these little things all pale in comparison to living in fear and in shame. Each one of us has gifts and talents that we must use to make this world a little better, in some sort of way. I think this is part of the reason why we all came and continue to come to these support groups. Together we will figure it out, and we’ll continue to empower one another.