It was so nice to see everyone on Monday night. There were 26 of us, including six newcomers, one SLP, and three SLP students. We are excited that our co-leader Marc has returned from his voyage upon the high seas. We split up into three smaller groups, and here is some of what we discussed:
We observed how sometimes we stutter more simply because we are putting ourselves out there more. We explored the relationships between negative self-talk, internal chatter, and rational fears emerging from stuttering. We tried to put stuttering in perspective, comparing it to other difficulties people face. We discussed the portrayal of stuttering in the media and how it might foster misconceptions.
Responding to an unsympathetic family
Some of us have family members who don’t want us to attend support groups, even if doing so might help us to live skillfully and happily as people who stutter. They want us only to “overcome” or “cure” stuttering, as they put it. One woman told us how her family members chastise her for embarrassing them in public. We spoke of the liberation—if sometimes incomplete—that comes from telling our families that the problem lies not with our ability to speak, but rather with their ability to accept us; from saying that we wish to be treated with the respect we deserve, and not as disobedient children.
What is helpful?
One newcomer who hadn’t spoken to a group of stutterers in decades was excited to get caught up on recent approaches to speech therapy. We discussed fluency shaping, acceptance, and avoidance reduction. We took turns sharing what each of us are finding to be most helpful these days: slowing down, paying attention to breathing, pushing words out, meeting other people who stutter, building confidence through affirmations, practicing acceptance, and more.
Suffering, hope, resilience, and gratitude
Another newcomer who hadn’t been involved in the stuttering community for many years spoke movingly about how he feels that stuttering has hurt him and weakened him, and of how he feels defeated. He discussed job promotions missed out on and opportunities not taken. All of us share his pain and loss, having ourselves lived lives with so much fear and disappointment. These shared feelings and experiences are part of what brings us together.
But we are brought together also by the hope and perspective we provide each other. One member reflected on how she recently felt so small when she advertised to a superior in a new job setting. After all these years of progress cultivating acceptance and comfort with her speech, she feels she took a step backward and now wants to reclaim her voice. And we know she will. Accepting oneself is an ongoing process, a life’s work. Other members discussed how they feel that stuttering has actually strengthened them more than it has weakened them. The discouraged newcomer said he felt fortunate to be speaking to us. We are delighted to hear that, and hope to see him and everyone else again soon. It can be a slow and challenging journey, but we help each other so much along the way. We are grateful to have one another, to connect with and to grow alongside.
Gabriel | www.nycstutters.org