We were five people at this meeting, including a new member, Catherine DePalma, who moved recently from Memphis. She had been in the area for the last few months and had not met any people who stuttered yet. She stutters more in a new place and she feels that she needs to stutter more in order to get more comfortable around new people again. Catherine uses disclosure frequently and she knows how to make people around her comfortable when she stutters. Welcome to Philly, Catherine!
During our checking introductions Marissa mentioned that she has been very fluent recently despite all the stress and chaos on other parts of her life. She is going through transitions at work and at a personal level and she thinks she has transplanted stuttering anxiety to other life events, resulting into increased fluency. We all agreed that removing focus from our stuttering has a similar effect for all of us.
We talked about feeling shame when we stutter. Rather than focusing on our stuttering (or fluency), removing the shame we feel about stuttering is as important or more. When we feel ashamed, we are transmitting that feeling to our listeners and it feels like they are ashamed for us. “How can I expect others to do something different if I don’t do it myself?” “Why waste your time adding shame to something that is part of me? ” Those are very important questions to which each of us must find an answer in our own way. Catherine suggested that holding people’s eyes briefly instead of looking away is a good way to project confidence to your listener.
Our resident poets came out at this meeting. Jim read a poem that it is not about stuttering and yet it describes his journey through stuttering. The poem is called “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” by Portia Nelson. It describes five phases from the moment you discover something (stuttering), through rejection, dealing with it on your own, avoidance, and acceptance. Mitch also graced us with a recitation of “The Bridge Builder” by Will Allen Dromgoole. Both poems reflect on the need to overcome obstacles either for ourselves or to help those that come behind us. This is something that all of us as stutterers are very familiar with.