Hitting a Fluency Stride

The “beauty” of stuttering is that you never really know what you’re going to get when you wake up in the morning. You could have a day of misery (even though it’s all in your head — and you shouldn’t be discouraged through the whole day anyway … but, yeah, I know, reality) or you could just start with a fluent ‘good morning’ and carry it all the way through an engaging dinner conversation.

I’ve casually noticed now in the last week or so that I’m starting to hit a “more fluent” kind of stride, particularly at work. The funny thing is, I knew this would happen.

It certainly took longer than a few weeks, but hey, it’s under six months. I’m still not perfect every day (never will be, never expect to be), but I’ve been letting it bother me less and less, and I’ve been trying to speak more and more. For whatever reason, it’s producing a bit more fluent speech, and it’s been noticeable to me.

What can be the cause? I’d say more comfort. Same people every day, same level of patience from them on stuttering. Same meetings every week, same types of things to say. Also I’ve gone through meeting most of the people who I’ll have to talk to, so there’s less stress about introductions and small talk.

I’ve also started thinking about my breathing more and more. Like, take a breath, think, relax, speak. Breathe. Breathe! And a moment of fluency in the morning on something I was stuttering on a few weeks ago lends to more confidence later in the afternoon.

Thoughts on the NSA Conference Workshops

As some of you may have seen, the NSA Conference Day at a Glance Calendar is out. I thought I’d take a quick look through it to see what might be interesting. Please note that the Conference Program isn’t out yet, but when it does come out, it’ll have details on the workshops. These are just my thoughts as a second-timer. I may of course change things up as the conference gets closer.

Wednesday, July 1

Icebreaker — Getting to know each other — I’m really curious what this is going to be all about. Kind of like an open session so that we’re forced to meet other people? I’m hoping so. I met a bunch of people last year in the First-Timer’s workshop and then weeks after the conference started wondering how I could meet people at my second conference without such a vehicle.

Understanding the Medical Treatments of Stuttering (Maguire) — One of the big things I don’t talk about on this blog is treatment. That’s mostly because I don’t go to an SLP here in the Kingdom. And even when I was stateside, I wasn’t seeing one either. I’m thinking more about visiting one whenever we move back just to expand my knowledge and see what I can learn as far as techniques and practice.

Genetics in Stuttering (Drayna) — Kind of the same as above — I have a cousin who stutters, and I have three kids. Definitely want to know what the latest is on this.

Thursday, July 2

Stressful Life Events and Stuttering (Dits) — Every few years I have one of these — big move, job change, new office, etc., I’ve only recently been stepping back and seeing how my speech is affected. For example, I know that a new job will result in more anxiety and stuttering, but it’ll wear off and I’ll get more comfortable after a few months.

The 4 Exchanges: What You Have to Trade-in to Win (D Mitchell) — I want to read more about this.

Wait, You want to be an SLP? (Susskind/Markel) — Yes, this is something I’ve been thinking about — and only because I went to my first NSA Conference last year!

Open Microphone (Finstad) — I went to this last year and forced myself to get up and talk. It was a great experience. I’m not sure what I’m more interested in — seeing how my own speech is, or hearing what others have to say. Either way, I’d like to attend at least one open microphone.

Friday, July 3

Stuttering Chef (Molt) — I want to read more about this.

General Session: Professionals Who Inspire! — as I move through my company, things like this are definitely a big help. I need to be reminded occasionally that my stuttering isn’t going to get in my way. If anything does get in my way, it’s my attitude about stuttering.

At 1 p.m., there are a few that look really good — Career Best Practices for PWS (Schuff/Anderson) and The Power of Positive Psychology (Wade). I made friends last year, and what we did was split up and go to different workshops. Then we’d get back together and talk about them. So I hope to do the same this year.

Fluency vs Acceptance (Gore) — As someone who’s gone from trying to be fluent to someone who’s accepted my stuttering (most of the time) I’m interested to see what else is said on this.

Saturday, July 4

Achieving and Maintaining the “Fluency State” (Colombano) — similar to the above.

General Session: Leana Wen

Factors to Consider when choosing an SLP (Plexico/Molt) — As I said before, I’m thinking about seeing an SLP after moving back to the States. So I’d like to hear what is said on this. I remember last year hearing that the SLP makes more of a difference than anything else when it comes to the effectiveness of therapy.

Thank you, Dave

Obviously the big news last week was Dave Letterman’s last show and retirement.

These days I don’t watch Dave at all. In fact, it’s been a few years since I’ve seen a show. But when he first moved to CBS, I was still in junior high school, and I used to tune in every Friday night.

At around the same time, Friends had also just come out. Between Dave and Chandler, my sense of humor grew. More sarcasm, more outlandish statements, and naturally more confidence.

With regards to stuttering, having the sense of humor and the confidence helped a lot. I had a small group of friends who also watched the same shows and had similar interests and senses of humor.

Through Dave’s influence, I also started writing on my own a lot more. I would write Top Ten lists — lots of them. Some generic, some personal, some for friends, and share them whenever I could. It was a nice outlet to get some attention from friends without having to stand up and speak.

As for seeing Dave in person, that dream came true during my freshman year of college. Two guys from the student newspaper and I (I was the photographer) got tickets and stood in the standby line. For whatever reason, I was ahead of them, and the people from the show came out and asked who was next — I was! So I ran inside. I had the last seat in the far corner of the theatre. I was thrilled.

Junior year of high school, and I was still watching Dave on Friday nights. He had a segment with some “Big Ass” products, I think. In school I volunteered in homeroom to read the morning announcements. Usually the teacher did this, and he didn’t mind if I did it once in a while. So I’d set up little props as well — saying the morning’s announcements were sponsored by “The Big Ass Dictionary.” That all went pretty well until I said our homeroom teacher was organizing a coup.

During college my Dave watching (and general television watching, for that matter) faded. I still made the Thanksgiving shows though — since I was at home for those.

But I’ll always be grateful for Dave and his comedy — his sense of humor came into my life at the perfect time.

An 8-Year-Old’s Essay

If you haven’t seen this, go read it now, it’s wonderful. I never thought to articulate my stutter at such a young age, and this kid does it so well. And I can totally relate — I read a ton when I was young.

A brain pond is like a normal pond except there are no fish, there are only words instead. The pond in Bella’s head is very cramped, because she reads a lot.

Stuttering Silence in College

I’d be very interested to hear what others might have to say about this — particularly what you were feeling during your first weeks of college as someone who stutters.

I read this article a few days back about the death of Madison Holleran. I had a really long think about it afterward because parts of it really resonated with me.

When I was a senior in high school, things were very good, and I was really happy. By this time, my stuttering wasn’t bothering me too much — I had a strong support group, good grades, and a clear path to college.

When I entered Pitt in the fall of 1997, e-mail and the Internet were relatively new. AOL instant messenger was a thing, sure, but none of us were obsessed with checking our e-mail every five minutes. That being said, we were still connected to our friends at other colleges. Going home for a weekend or Thanksgiving was a pretty big deal since freshman year you could usually find everybody at home.

Those first few weeks were, at times, pretty dark. I remember distinctly thinking one day while walking back to my dorm that I had gone to too big of a school. I wanted to transfer. There’s the idea that you see about college on television and in movies — red brick dorms, people laughing and playing in the Quad (whatever that was), going to parties and meeting cute girls, and having a lively discussion in small classes.

Brochure? Yes. Reality? Not so much. And it was getting to me.

Of course the stuttering wasn’t helping much. There was no partying for me, nor engaging with professors in class (or in recitation, really, cause those were smaller). And my grades were just slowly drifting downward, which was also having a negative effect.

What did end up helping were two things — a few guys who I met on my floor, and the student newspaper that I had joined. I managed to make strong bonds with people who may have heard but didn’t care about my stuttering. I didn’t advertise or anything, but I wasn’t afraid to lean on them when things started getting bad.

If I had been more tuned in to my stuttering, I think I would have tried to join a group. That’s the advice that I would give to anybody who stutters and is going to college. You’re being thrown in with 20,000 other people, so even the fluent people probably think they’re alone, too.

I think we also need to try a lot harder to communicate. We hate doing it because of the stuttering, but you can’t be alone with 20,000 people, questioning your decisions and not feeling like you’re getting what you paid for and just let it all fester inside.

I understand that depression and suicide are completely different from stuttering. I get that. But my point is that there is a tendency for those of us who stutter to really hold everything in. And when there are a lot of huge changes in your life in a short timeframe, it’s a recipe for disaster if you don’t have the right outlet — and you have to be able to communicate to that outlet.

Stuttering on Lately

It’s amazing how much life gets in the way of trying to do something regular like blog posting.

Anyway! Here we go with another Stuttering on Lately post.

This past Friday night my old boss here in the Kingdom invited a bunch of people out for his going-away since he’s leaving on final exit come June. He’d been my boss for four years (until I moved to Khobar) and was really awesome at it. He had it over in Bahrain, and although I didn’t know everybody he invited on the e-mail (only a dozen or so names) I didn’t think too much about it [in a stuttering sense.]

I got there, and there were a few people who I didn’t know, but it wasn’t a big deal to just latch on with the old boss and two guys he was talking with. It wasn’t a dinner really, just drinks — coke for me. I sort of cheated with my first name by using the Arabic pronunciation — which of course was a little funny given the Western audience — but worked well enough. I only introduced myself to two people anyway.

As per conversations, I’m mostly happy to let others talk. And you know how your office is — there’s always someone there who goes on and on. I could say that the stuttering was holding me back, but really the noisy environment coupled with people I didn’t know all that well held me back. I prefer something more quiet with friends. I did have a chance to talk to the ol’ boss one-on-one, so that was good. When I was talking, I was doing pretty well — maybe all the caffeine and sugar from the coke.

Afterward, I told a friend I’d meet up with him and spend the evening. I didn’t know where he lived, so I gave him a call. He gave me the general vicinity and then started explaining specifics. Like the name of his building. That started with an ‘l.’ And then he said, “you’ll have to tell security…”

The evening was quickly going downhill. I wanted to just drive home instead.

I told him that I’d give him a call as I got closer to get the directions. But the name of his building was still stuck in my head.

I rolled up to the security gate, and put the window down. Well, let’s just get this over with.

Got stuck on ‘l.’ I’m guessing it was for a few hours. The security guy gave a guess. (and of course there were two buildings that started with l, and he guessed the other one.) The thing about people finishing your sentences (other than its rudeness) is that it messes up your stutter. Whatever breathing or pacing you might have is gone. Because then they put you back on their schedule. They asked you something, and now they want an answer. But you don’t have any air. And you’re still trying to say what they suggested to tell them, no, that’s not it.

The guard was smiling by this time (he didn’t really seem to care what building I was going to) and eventually I got the name out. He let me through and told me where to go. I called my buddy again to confirm the apartment number, and that was that. After putting the guardhouse in my rearview, I didn’t think about it anymore. The next morning when I went by them again, I didn’t dwell on it either. I didn’t die, I got to see my friend, and things were, relatively speaking, smooth enough.

Stuttering Link Roundup

A nice big link roundup for Stuttering Awareness Week. Plenty to comment on for the next few days as well.

From the Stuttering Foundation:

Stuttering Awareness Week begins May 11, 2015, and offers an opportunity to focus public attention on a complex disorder that touches 70 million people around the world and more than three million in the U.S. alone.

I like the idea of making t-shirts, actually …

Scroobius Pip and the benefits of a stutter

Pip’s raps include references to his stutter. The song 1000 Words is about how he stood out when growing up. His lyrics, however, show he has always had a positive view of his speech impediment: “Sure, broken stammers of a youth can kind of bring some attention, but the sympathy of a teacher can get you out of detention”.

An article from William Browning, the managing editor of The Dispatch, a Mississippi newspaper.

In short, acceptance is the goal. I am not there, yet. In the company of loved ones my stutter does not trigger an undertow of negativity. In professional settings, though, a stuttering moment has the ability to freeze my marrow. I want to take that power away from my stutter. Unleash the balloon, as it were.

By now you’ve all seen this one about Tiger writing a letter to a kid who was getting bullied by his stutter. Here’s the original article from Golf Digest:

That Tiger responded so quickly was the act of not only someone who knew taunting when he was a child — both because of his stutter and his race — but it was also the act of a father of two who understands how we need to protect our children.

From HuffPo, Stuttering is nobody’s fault. Another great article from Katherine Preston, commenting on the BBC article linked above about Scroobius Pip. I used to think for a long time that my stuttering was somehow karma-related or even from routine childhood falls and bumps and whatever else. Not so much!

These are the facts: stuttering is not caused by psychological trauma, unsupportive parenting or mental neurosis. Rather, stuttering is a genetically influenced, neurological condition.

An article from a Pakistani living in Sweden.

There seems to be no habitual behaviour associated with my stammer. This also goes to show that much of my impediment is uncontrollable. Also, at the same time, just like how people have bad hair days, stutterers also have bad days and good days and sometimes fluent days. According to my experience, stutterers can communicate effectively but they cannot communicate fluently.

The last thought he has in the article is perfect — I go through the exact same thing every time I’m at Subway.

From the American institute of Stuttering — on why we should accept our stuttering.

When people accept their stuttering, they enter situations and use words they might normally avoid. They are willing to tell others that they stutter, and are open to letting others see and hear instances of stuttering without shame or embarrassment. They communicate effectively and also happen to stutter.

Feeling sick …

I’ve not been too well the past few days. Been to the doctor and back. Nothing serious, just the annoying stuffed head, nose and scratchy throat. I suppose it happens once in a while and can be chalked up to not enough sleep and possibly too much exercising.

The one upside of course is practicing talking to total strangers (the doctors/nurses/check-in desk people). I’ve been able to stay pretty calm and collected and fluent. Although I have stuttered when the questions start going on and on (and of course my phone number). I also keep on forgetting to collect my thoughts before opening my mouth. And they’re simple questions! What’s the problem today? Well, my head is all stuffed up, my nose is runny, my throat is scratchy. And yet somehow I bumble through it.

I also had the follow up with my MRI. I was able to ask the doctor a bunch of things I already had pretty good answers too — stuttered a little here and there, but at least I got to practice. And overcome my fear of talking and asking things to somewhat-strangers.

I’ve got some Botox injections slated for this evening. At least it’ll make this annoying eye twitching go away. Lately it’s not only been a discomfort, but as the muscles get tired, it’s a little painful by the end of the day.

I have written out a list for the next few weeks of posts — don’t worry about that. I think the first thing will have to be another link roundup. I’ve been seeing some really good things on Twitter lately.

Stuttering Mentor

As I think back about my stuttering growing up, I think it would have been helpful to have a mentor to navigate stuttering. Someone who actually stuttered and managed to still move through life confidently.

I think someone who could have explained the iceberg to me as well as challenged me to get out and speak more.

Most “discussions” I had about stuttering were with myself — like, I knew that there were groups out there meeting, but I simply talked myself out of it.

I think what held me back about reaching out for help was that if I did that, then I’d admit that I had a problem. And if I’m having to reach out, it must be a pretty big problem. I suppose I equated it to seeing the doctor. Of course now I know that’s not true. We should reach out for help in all facets of our life — work, play and home.

An older mentor would also have known about the NSA Conference and other groups like Toastmasters. He or she would explain the reality of things like college (you only need a small solid core of friends), looking for a job (how to network), and the corporate world (it’s not necessarily as speaking-intensive as some people make it out to be.)

I think if you’re the parent of someone who stutters, finding a mentor is pretty important. And how would you go about it? I’d think that either through your therapist or through your support group. A monthly support group is nice, but you still have to feel comfortable stuttering the other 29 days.

For me, I’d feel comfortable being that mentor to someone. I imagine it’d happen after I move back to the States.

Overthinking Things

Two hundred posts! Finally made it. The past few days were slow due to the fun times at the hospital and the MRI (they didn’t find anything in my head).

I wanted to talk today about how those of us who stutter may end up overthinking things. I know I do this all the time. It’s a well established base — because I stutter, I don’t like to communicate, because I don’t like to communicate, I don’t get the right answers all the time. Because I don’t get the right answers, I have to spend more time and energy finding things out on my own. Because of spending that time and energy, I either get bored or tired and then the overall objective isn’t met. Something along those lines. Then I associate any failure in communication or achievement with my stuttering.

What happened with this MRI thing? Well, when I talked to the doctor, I told him (and stuttered) about my previous MRI experience. It wasn’t pleasant — I had a go in a smaller, older MRI and freaked out. Then I was told about the more “open” MRI. I was able to do that without any kind of sedation. It was fine. The doctor here said the MRI they have is smaller, so it can get a better scan. So I automatically asked about the sedation or anesthesia. This lead to a longer road of testing and waiting and whatever else.

When I finally got the call to go down to the MRI (after waiting in a hospital room all morning) they asked me again if I really wanted or needed the anesthesia. I told them about my concerns. The tech asked if I wanted to see the unit. Sure, why not. (Note that when I got into the MRI suite and realized that this was actually going to happen, my heart starting pounding a bit. Hilariously, I compared this to heart pounding when everybody is “going around the table” doing introductions, and it didn’t even come close.)

And which MRI was I going to go into? It was the bigger one. The one I could deal with without any drugs.

So all this runaround with the sedation or anesthesia — was that because of stuttering? No. Sometimes you just don’t think to ask. There’s no need to be hard on myself at every turn in the road. Now I’ve learned a little more. Ask to see the MRI. Someone’s definition of small or old might not be the same as mine.

I think part of accepting my stuttering is also accepting that if I’m going to get across what I want to get across, things are still not going to be perfect. I still need to work on other parts of my life. I need to continue to learn from experience and grow as a person.

Here’s to another 200 posts — and hopefully many more than that. I can’t believe it’s already May and the NSA Conference is less than two months out. In 60 days from now, I’ll be blogging about workshops and experiences from Baltimore!

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