Expectations met

Well, just as I thought, I didn’t follow up and expand further on the post below. But I wanted to get on here though to say Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends, and I hope your stuttering is going well during the holiday season.

I have had a chance to think about hobbies and how I want to spend the extra hours of my week. After considering the impact on family time and work time, I think in 2022 I want to renew my interest in this site.

So what I’m looking for is encouragement and accountability from you, dear reader. I’m on twitter occasionally with this blog, so if you follow me on there, please send me a little something to know you’re waiting for the next post. That should make sure I keep things going. I thought I could stay motivated, but there are so many other distractions these days.

One thing I have done to help myself is get off of facebook. I know there’s a growing stuttering community on there, so I’m thinking about going back just for that. But for now I’m no longer spending time scrolling through.

Talk to you again soon.


I was asked by The Indian Stammering Association, TISA, to give a talk about acceptance and stuttering. I put down a few hundred words and had some specific ideas about stuttering and acceptance. And now, given that National Stuttering Awareness Day is only three weeks away, I thought I’d share a few bullet points and then expand on them as the days go on.

(Keep in mind that I’ve promised things before during the month of October, and I’ve not done them. Hopefully this will be very different since I’ve got a lot of the notes down, and I’m off next week as I transition to a new job. Which, of course, is a whole other discussion and series (hopefully, again) of posts.)

So here are the eight things that I said during the talk that I’ve accepted. I’m sure over the next few months I’ll realize a few more, consolidate some of these, and then have a new list. But until then, here we go:

  • I have accepted that there is no cure for stuttering.
  • I have accepted that I am not perfect.
  • I have accepted that I can still communicate when I am not fluent.
  • I have accepted that stuttering is unpredictable.
  • I have accepted that there are tools and techniques to use when I feel like I’m having a bad day.
  • I have accepted that some people will not react to my stuttering in a positive way.
  • I have accepted that I do not know what others are thinking, and that they may not know what I am thinking.
  • Lastly, I have accepted that stuttering is not all of who I am.

Over the next few days I’ll expand on each of these ideas. What they mean to me, and the work I put in to get to this point of acceptance.

School Starts

I’ve not been thinking about my stuttering too much lately. Summer has been fun. Lots of time at the beach with family, and a few trips when and where possible. I knew it would go by fast, and it did. Stuttering-wise, not a lot stood out. Maybe because we were still sort of isolating and not talking to too many new folks.

Well, of course that had to end. School has started for the kids. Which means strolling on down to the bus stop with the kids in the morning and standing around until the bus shows up. I’ve not met all my neighbors.

On the first day my wife and I went down and saw a couple who live three houses down. My wife introduced herself to the mother, and I … did not. I just wasn’t feeling it. There was enough other noise and whatnot happening with the kids that maybe it wasn’t noticeable. Maybe I thought she’d introduce me as well? I don’t know. What I do know is that even though I’m more comfortable with my stutter than ever before, I still have days where I don’t want to talk, and where I don’t want to hear myself stutter.

Of course I had to make up for that. Because I was feeling bad inside about it. I get on this blog and tell people it’ll be ok, and it’s ok to stutter, and now here I am not even opening my mouth.

This morning another stroll down to the bus stop, and a neighbor who I hadn’t talked to. My wife introduced herself. I jumped in after, stuttering really hard on my first name. Eyes closed, starting, stopping, starting, stopping, breathing all out of whack. Ugh. Finally got it out.

He stood there, patiently waiting.

When he heard my name, all he asked was, “Rehan with an R-E, or an R-A?”

I said “R-E.”

He replied that he was going to a wedding this weekend for a friend who was named Rayhan.

And that was it. I got my name out. I learned his name. We made a connection. Life didn’t end. My brain got back on board with introducing myself and not freaking out about how things may turn out.

Office chit chat

During Covid, I spent all my time at home working. Call after call, meeting after meeting. I rarely made any kind of small talk unless it was the two minutes before everybody else joined.

I’ve been going back into the office lately (well, the plant) and it’s been … different. I still keep booking meetings hour after hour, so unless there’s something that ends early, I’m still busy all day. But during those times when I have had to just talk to people, I’ve enjoyed it. A lot.

I am fortunate to have a short commute to my home plant, so staying at home for work didn’t really make an impact on that. But being able to see people in person and practice my speech has been really good. I think the confidence I gained from all of those calls is carrying over nicely to the “real” world.

I am curious how others have been faring in all of this. Do you prefer to be at home and talk to people on your own terms, or do you miss when there were conversational possibilities all day?

I know for me a few years ago I would dread the office talk to some extent. It was exhausting. Trying to stay fluent, trying to stay competent, interesting, whatever. Now it seems there’s more to talk about, more to catch up on. I wonder if it’ll fade away again when we’re all back for a few months?

Surprise Stutter

It’s been a while now since I thought a lot about stuttering. And I think it’s been even longer that I’ve noticed it in my speech. I’d say my fluency has been relatively high lately. To the point where a casual observer would say I don’t stutter. I’m not avoiding, I’m not staying quiet, I’m just feeling good, and that’s helping with my confidence and thus my speech.

I’m sure I am stuttering a little bit here and there. Stumbling on words, but now it doesn’t sound any different than what my fluent friends put forth.

So the other day I was on a call for work, and I got stuck. Hard. And had to really stutter through it. It totally caught me off guard. I’m past the point of dwelling on these things for very long, but wow, it was pretty jarring. In my mind I hadn’t been stuttering for weeks, and here I was again, reminded that this will never go away.

I don’t think it was anything specific with the content or the environment. I think, as we all know, it just … happens. When it happens. We don’t get to decide.

What I wanted to think more about is why have I felt so good lately? I think it’s definitely getting into a nice groove at work, spending a lot more time with family (I am working from home most of the week) and having the summer with my family to look forward to. Finances are sound, and there aren’t any external worries weighing down on me.

Now I need to work on keeping this going. It feels good. It sounds good. It builds and builds. Yes, there are minor road bumps, but it’s pretty great. I’m wondering though as things open up, what will it be like to interact with others more. People who I haven’t seen in months. New neighbors (I moved into this house at the start of the lockdowns). Making small talk. Giving life updates on the past 12 months in a few minutes without sounding boring or blathering.

Terrible at goals

Well, I had fun reading through this again:


That’s right — I set a bunch of goals for 2020, and … didn’t reach many of them.

Let’s see how badly I missed — the fact that I was supposed to do a quarterly check-in not withstanding …

  1. Reduce body fat by 7% – at one point, I think I had this done. I joined an online fitness program, and it really helped me for about 4 months. Then when I got married in October, that was it. I didn’t feel like I could focus on weight loss (because I needed another physical goal) since Covid was preventing me from really seeing that far out. I wanted to get in shape for something like a half marathon or long bike ride, but then didn’t have the ambition to find something this coming summer.
  2. Read 6 fiction and 6 nonfiction books – I read some this year, but not as much as I’d like. I continued to read a lot online (newspapers) and some magazines as well. I continue to buy new and used books, so this goal will just roll over.
  3. 25 blog posts – 22! That’s the worst. And the one I could have just knocked out in six months. Roll this one over again.
  4. 30,000 meters of rowing per month – well, I set this before joining Future in mid-June. But up until that point the workouts were pretty hit and miss. This year will be tough again. I need to find a decent place to work out (the garage is cold during the winter!) and the basement is stuffed with other things.
  5. Run a November 5k in under 30 minutes – they were all cancelled! I think this one was out of my control. Although I could have just done it on the treadmill. What fun would that be, though?
  6. Keep library fines to under $30 annually – I managed to miss this goal before the libraries closed, and then again after they opened up. I’m the worst.
  7. Reduce ten items per month from the house – maybe? I know I haven’t added too many things, but whether or not I tossed 120 items … probably not.

So what about this year? I think I need to keep them simple again. And focus on adding to this blog and any other writing endeavors that I have. Writing doesn’t cost me anything, and I can do it during slow moments during the day. I have a long list of topics about stuttering and not stuttering that I want to get to.

What about you? What non-stuttering goals did you have for this past year, and what got done or didn’t?

The end of 2020

There’s been so much written about this year. It was a Dumpster fire, it was terrible, let’s move on. I suppose I would have a lot to say about it, but I wanted to focus on my stuttering. Since this is supposed to be a stuttering blog. And how stuttering affected me this year, and how I was able to navigate this pandemic because of it.

I can’t recall making a huge stuttering mess out of anything this year. There’s not a time that I can look back and say, wow, I had a really hard time, and that was really embarrassing. That’s got as much to do with my attitude toward stuttering as using my techniques more and more.

I didn’t finish a lot of things on this blog. I was going to measure some goals, and that lasted a few months. I’m not even sure where they are right now. I know I lost some weight. I gained some back. I got rid of some possessions, and I added many more. I moved out of my apartment, bought a new house, and got married again. We traveled very little, posted on social media a lot, and read when I could.

Work consumed me a lot more than I thought it would. Working at a food company means having to keep the plants open and safe. When you’re doing projects, that means making sure the contractors coming in are following the rules. It also means deciding what’s really important for the plant and what can wait. And the goalposts moved every few days as areas became more and less restrictive.

I definitely talked a lot more this year than any other year of my life. Of that I am certain. At one point I was participating in 30 or more conference calls per week. And in most of them I had to either lead or heavily contribute. More than anything, that intensity helped me build up acceptance of my stuttering. I literally didn’t have time to dwell on a word that was getting stuck.

So what’s next for 2021? I think more writing. Here and a newsletter I’m thinking about. I’m not sure if a stuttering newsletter is necessarily in the cards, but I’d consider it. I wanted to do something for young engineers — passing on all the fun things I’ve learned over the years. I think there is a lot out there about software engineering, but not a ton about field engineering. What’s done out in factories. What that life is actually like, the kinds of things you should know, and what mistakes I made — so others don’t have to repeat them.

I know following this blog hasn’t always been easy with the sporadic publishing schedule, but I do appreciate everybody who has read in the last year, the last half-decade. I see the numbers (they are small) but hopefully someone out there is getting something positive out of this.

Secrets to Fulfilled Life, Part 3

Another post about the Secrets to a Fulfilled Life … inspired by this article from Oliver Burkeman.

One of his secrets is simply:

The capacity to tolerate minor discomfort is a superpower.

He says, “It’s shocking to realise how readily we set aside even our greatest ambitions in life, merely to avoid easily tolerable levels of unpleasantness.”

My, my. Doesn’t that just sum up stuttering and being covert perfectly? I think back occasionally to a lot of things I wish I had done. Or decisions I had made solely based on stuttering. It’s impacted so many formative years for me. And why? Because I didn’t want to be laughed at, made uncomfortable. Or didn’t want to feel so small.

Things now are very different. Advertising my stutter. Putting my disfluency out there all the time — conference calls, meetings, inquiries at Home Depot. And what have I learned?

As he puts it, “You already know it won’t kill you to endure the mild agitation of getting back to work on an important creative project; initiating a difficult conversation with a colleague; asking someone out; or checking your bank balance – but you can waste years in avoidance nonetheless.”

So yes, I will continue to quote his entire paragraph on the matter. He then adds (which, again, is something I’ve been able to do over many, many years…)

It’s possible, instead, to make a game of gradually increasing your capacity for discomfort, like weight training at the gym. When you expect that an action will be accompanied by feelings of irritability, anxiety or boredom, it’s usually possible to let that feeling arise and fade, while doing the action anyway. The rewards come so quickly, in terms of what you’ll accomplish, that it soon becomes the more appealing way to live.

I really wish I had read this while a teenager, but I also wish I had someone to explain it to me simply. I probably wouldn’t have been able to make the connection to stuttering like I do so easily now. I think it would have been very helpful during my formative years to have a mentor or coach to help me with my stuttering journey. Someone who could ask and probe. Suggest a new way, a slightly uncomfortable way, but a way that would yield a lot of results.

The way my life is now is certainly more appealing. Even comparing it to 5 or 10 years ago. I no longer measure in weeks and months. I’m old enough now to realize change takes a lot longer than that.

Secrets to Fulfilled Life, Part 2

I wrote previously about Oliver Burkeman’s piece in the Guardian. Today I wanted to expand on another point he’s made:

When stumped by a life choice, choose “enlargement” over happiness.

The idea, according to Burkeman, is that we don’t ultimately know what will make us happy — so we should be choosing the approach that favor growth. In my mind, with growth comes new opportunities, and then maybe one among those will provide us with happiness.

About ten years ago, I was two years into a job with Jacobs Engineering in Omaha, NE. By this time I had gotten to know everybody in the office, at our client’s corporate headquarters, and at several plants. My speech was steady and fine. I wasn’t overly confident about just throwing myself out there, but I was less worried about what others thought.

An opportunity then came up to go overseas and work for Jacobs in Saudi.

What would this mean? The stress of packing up our house and moving. Moving to a foreign country. New laws, new politics. New coworkers, a client relationship that wasn’t very old.

Basically leaving all the comforts of home for a lot of unknowns.

It would have been so easy to stay at home, but I knew in speaking with my boss that I needed international experience to move up in the company. And I had that drive to do so.

So I chose growth.

I went into that adventure with the mindset of, “ok, I’m going to make this work.” And it did. Very well. I knew ahead of time that my speech might be rough at the beginning. It was. But then it smoothed out considerably, and I started feeling more confident about what I was doing, and why I was there. I started writing more, and cranked out this blog. I went to the NSA conference.

The chance to go overseas could have been seen as “maybe” happiness. Maybe things will work out. Maybe I’ll enjoy the sun and the sand. If I had made the decision purely based on potential happiness, I would not have gone. But instead I looked around as often as I could while there and took stock of a lot more of the world and what it had to offer.

Life changed a lot in those 5.5 years, but there was certainly no shortage of opportunities.

Secrets to Fulfilled Life, Part 1

I recently read this great article from Oliver Burkeman regarding secrets to a fulfilled life. I wanted to comment on each item over the next few days and how I think they relate to what I’ve experienced with regards to stuttering.

My thoughts have some overlap between them, but here we go … these aren’t in any particular order from the original article.

The advice you don’t want to hear is usually the advice you need.

He goes on to say about this, “so the advice that could really help is likely to make you uncomfortable.”

When I think back to my younger years in school, what would have made me very, very, very uncomfortable would have been having someone say, “you should call this person up on the phone, just to try to talk to them.”

Or, “you should go up to that person and try to have a conversation.”

Or, “you should attend an NSA conference and be surrounded by other people who stutter.”

Or … so many things.

But nobody ever did. Since I was covert, and since I didn’t like to talk about my stuttering, my friends never brought it up. So they could never challenge me to get out of my comfort zone.

He goes on to say:

“One good question to ask is what kind of practices strike you as intolerably cheesy or self-indulgent: gratitude journals, mindfulness meditation, seeing a therapist? That might mean they are worth pursuing.”

I spent a few years journaling about stuttering. I’d put down my thoughts from when I first started stuttering through college. While I was doing that, I realized a lot of things about myself, my reactions, and what motivated a lot of my decisions. Nobody specifically asked me to try it, but I certainly wish someone would have done it earlier.

Through all that writing, I had plenty of things to blog about here which went really well. And then all that introspection finally gave me the strength to sign up for my first NSA Conference. And that changed everything for me.

So I would strongly support what Burkeman suggested — getting advice you need is definitely uncomfortable. But it’s also completely worth it to help with your stuttering journey.

No more nightmares

The other day I took my daughter to the pediatrician for her annual checkup. (All is good). During the visit I asked about something specific, and about getting a referral. So before leaving, I was handed a paper, the referral. I asked the person at the front desk what I should do with it (I don’t do this often). So she said to call the number on the top, and they’d be able to help me. Seems reasonable.

The next day I called the number and asked about the specific service I needed. There was some confusion. And then some transferring. And then a bit more confusion. Then I was told that I should call the doctor’s office back, and that they should make the referral call. So I called the doctor’s office back, and … nobody picked up. So I left a message with all the details. After a bit, they called me back and explained to me how what I was told at the front desk was wrong, that they’d handle all the calls, and then call me once it’s all done.

Which made more sense.

Basically I made a bunch of phone calls that I didn’t have to. And I gave a bunch of information that I stuttered hard on that I didn’t have to. And I was a bit confused which I also didn’t have to be.

That evening I told the story to my wife, and she said, “they made you call which they didn’t know was your worst nightmare.”

And I thought about this for a while afterward. (My wife knows all about my stuttering and the journey I’ve been on. She knows my feelings toward the phone and its challenges. She’s been very supportive throughout.)

I thought about how a few years ago, yes, it was a nightmare. Calling on the phone was something I would completely avoid at all costs. I’d put things off due to having to call. I’d e-mail or text or whatever else.

When I had to make the calls to the doctor, I knew I’d stutter. Maybe on my name, my date of birth, whatever. I always do. But I’m finally well past the point that it bothers me. Or brings me down before and after the call. Right now it’s just an annoyance more than anything. I want to get on with the call, get on with giving information, and get back to doing what I want to do.

Years ago after calls like that I’d be mentally wiped out. I’d feel like garbage, and get really down on myself. I’d sink back into a hole and avoid the phone all over again. I’d let it cloud my thoughts for hours and hours.

These days I make calls when I need to make calls. I’ll stutter. I sure will. Sometimes I advertise it, sometimes I don’t.

But the nightmares are over.

What’s not stuttering

When I was growing up, one of the hardest things to come to terms with regarding my stutter was watching fluent people just initiate random conversations. I think back to things like car shows or garage sales or other places where you’re walking among strangers. And as you walk and see something that interests you, you find the person who’s probably the owner, and just blurt out your comment.

Sees a right-hand-drive BMW

“Wow, that’s nice, how’d you get that car in this country?”

No thanks.

My approach was to look at something, appreciate it, and then if someone came up to me, I’d engage. Lightly.

But just putting it out there? Are you nuts? I’d stutter! Of course I would. And in the off chance that I didn’t, I’d say something in that exact moment that someone else would — and then be faced with having to repeat myself. Or maybe I’d not say something loudly enough. Then be asked to repeat myself. Or maybe the stranger would hear me, would answer back, and then introduce themselves. Say my name to a stranger? Nope!

So the world of pure spontaneous utterances was always off limits to me. Oh, but how I wished I could. I wanted to engage. I wanted to talk, I wanted to find out more. But the cost was too high.

When I lived in Saudi, I had a friend who would talk to every stranger he saw. I’m only slightly exaggerating. Yes, it was his personality (as a business owner) but I was always in awe of how easy it was for him. How he just …made small talk wherever he went.

I’ve been getting better at this though. The amount of time it takes to get the nerve up to say something is getting shorter for sure.

With all that said, I’ve been thinking about getting a new car. A Jeep. This has been fun to research, of course. And my Instagram-browsing has lead me down the path of larger wheels and lift kits. A few days ago I was driving home, with my windows down, the sunroof open, and I saw a pair of black lifted Jeeps up ahead.

I liked the way that they looked. Larger wheels and tires. Lifted. Enjoying all the things that Jeep pushes in their marketing.

They stopped at the light, going straight. I was going left. I stopped alongside one of them, shoved my stuttering aside, leaned way over (I have a very low car) and shouted out —

“Are those thhhhhrty ffffffffives, or thirty sevens?”

“They’re thirty seven.”

“And is that a two inch lift, or-“

“It’s a three inch.”


So yes, I physically stuttered a little. But the huge wins were:

  1. Asking exactly what I wanted to
  2. Being completely spontaneous

I’m going to continue to focus on my wins, not losses. And by adding them here, I hope you can all change your mindset as well to think about how over many, many months you can also slowly go from being afraid to fearlessly putting yourself out there.

More and more normal

So I’m sure a lot of you saw this clip at the US Democratic National Convention.

As someone who has been stuttering for many decades, this is quite incredible to me. For those who don’t stutter, let help explain this.

When you’re a young person who stutters and don’t have anybody to look up to, you’re going to spend your early years in your own world. That means avoiding, changing out words, making excuses, and not living a full life. You’re not going to make decisions based on what’s best for your life and your future — you’re going to make them based on what you can say, right now, and what you’re comfortable saying. It’s extraordinarily restrictive.

By having Biden come out and help this young man, he’s normalizing what millions of us have been hiding for so long. Yes, there will be people who still make fun of us. Who don’t understand. Who interrupt us. Who talk over us. But history will soon forget them as our voices get louder and louder.

I never had anybody when I was younger to look up to for stuttering. Nobody in a position of leadership or power who normalized stuttering. It’s taken me many, many years to get to where I am now. I advertise my stuttering whenever I can. It’s more and more. And by doing that in front of strangers, I hope that I can normalize it for them. To let people know that I am not the mechanics of my voice, but rather the content of my speech.

I hope that in a few years the media checks back in with Brayden to see how he’s getting on. For almost all of us, there is no “overcoming” of the stuttering, but there is acceptance of who we really are. I think having more people who are openly stuttering on tv will continue to normalize all of us, and allow us to seek self-acceptance instead of banging our heads against the walls of absolute fluency.

Stuttering and Shaking

I was out for a walk the other night with my partner, and we saw some neighbors heading our way. I didn’t know them, but they were nice enough to stop and say hello. They then asked about us — being new to the neighborhood and all that.

And then he approached me, wanting to shake my hand.

Are we doing this? I don’t think we’re doing this still.

But I wanted to be friendly! We’re neighbors! Having a little chat.

At the same time of the handshake approach, he introduced himself, and I had to say my name.

I honestly don’t recall if I shook his hand or not. Because my eyes were closed, and I was trying really hard to say my name. A lot harder than I should have, yes. It took me a few tries, and I got stuck, and I didn’t say anything for a little bit, and then dragged out the r, and then … who knows what else. You know how it is.

I finally said my name, and then retreated back a step. The conversation went from there (no mention of the stutter, nor did I bother advertising). Sometimes, well, sometimes it doesn’t feel right in the moment.

So we chatted for a while and then went our separate ways. I didn’t think about it much after that other than making a note that it was a notable stutter in recent memory. I’m still stuttering obviously, but with COVID and everything else, there aren’t as many in-person introductoins to worry about.

I think years ago I would have beat myself up over it and felt bad about it for hours afterward. I got over this within minutes. I think the next time I see these people I may bring it up. And my feeling to bring it up isn’t so much about me and my situation. I’ve learned that generally speaking, people don’t know about us. About stuttering. So if I can education another couple about it — that it’s just who I am and will always be — that should be the goal.

Your name or your question

I moved into a new house a few months back, and have been slowly doing projects here and there. Of course that means a lot of trips to the big box home improvement stores. During COVID, of course, it’s a little easier — you can basically fill your shopping cart from the comfort of your couch and then go to the store and pick it all up.

One of the options for pickup has been to park your car and then wait while they bring your stuff.

The other option is to go inside and stand in line and wait for your stuff.

And what might be the problems with these if you’re someone who stutters? Oh yeah, you usually have to say your name — first or last. There’s the off chance that they may just ask you for your order number, but hey, it’s still a bunch of numbers and letters that you’re going to be put on the spot to read.

So I ask — what’s better? This system, or our stuttering favorite workaround of meandering the aisles for an hour since we sure as heck ain’t gonna ask someone for help?

As someone who’s come to accept my stuttering, I’m fine with the new way. I actually like it a lot more. I’m focused on the big picture here — staying away from people, spending the least amount of time in the store, and getting exactly what I’ve already spent some time scrolling and trying to find.

I think even if it was a few years ago what I would have done is just shown the clerk my phone with the order number on it. The information they need is there, and they usually ask for it anyway. I could have avoided giving a name if I really had to.

But this way does make me basically confront my biggest challenge — saying my name in public — in exchange for convenience, which is always fun to try.

Free Ice

A few weeks ago we had a chance to finally get away for a few days. We stayed at a house near the beach and decided to have groceries delivered. Our week would be house, beach, and nothing more. The kids were on board. I wanted to keep doing my part as far as the pandemic was concerned.

So I’m in the parking lot at the rental house, and another gentlemen is loading up his car. I stayed a few feet back, and then said hello. We struck up a conversation about where they were visiting from, what they’d done while down at the beach, and how it’s nice to get away. Small talk.

As you can imagine, small talk isn’t something that comes easy for someone who stutters. I am always, always, always worried about the next thing to say, the right body language to put forth, intonation, a laugh here, a smile there, and to come across as … normal.

I definitely feel like I’m getting better at it the more that I do it.

After our discussion, I went back into the house for a bit. I then had to go back outside to grab something out of the car. The same guy was there, and he asked if I’d like a bag of ice since they were leaving and obviously wouldn’t need it. Of course I would — we have a bunch of kids who are pretty hot and like cold drinks!

I realized that this is how it’s supposed to be — and how it is for many, many people. And a lot of what I missed growing up being afraid to talk to people randomly. Random acts of kindness. Serendipities. Offers of help or goods. Or maybe I could help or give directions or advice.

I didn’t ask for the ice. I didn’t ask for anything. Just being myself was enough. Not being afraid of my stuttering and stumbling through a small conversation. Every time something like this happens I do like to stop and write it down. And then go back and look at all of those times when being someone who stutters didn’t have any kind of negative impact.

Howdy, neighbor

Still at home, working away. These days I’d say I spend the majority of the working day on phone calls. That’s right, the guy who used to hate the phone now is on it for nearly 7 hours a day.

Ok, not exactly the phone, but Webex. You get it. Sometimes I turn the video on, sometimes not. Sometimes I have run the meeting, sometimes I just listen in. Including this week, my average weekly meeting total is about 32. That’s a lot of listening and talking.

I’m doing pretty well with it all, I’d say. There are so many familiar faces and voices, so I feel comfortable speaking up whenever I need to.

Early on during COVID I did have to set up some get-to-know meetings when I was given more plants to cover for engineering. I had three of these, and I advertised during all three of them. Within the first two minutes I told them that I was someone who stutters. None of them had any issues with it, and they all thanked me for letting them know. Those kinds of wins have been helping me greatly on the phone as well.

Yesterday I was outside on my driveway faffing about with my cargo bike and saw my neighbor. We’d not met formally yet. He was looking at the bike from afar and then came closer. We started up a chat, and before too long I was also telling him (and his wife who also was outside) that I stuttered.

Advertising is definitely one of those huge barriers that seems insurmountable at first. But the more you do it, the more you want to do it. The better it makes you feel in the moment, and the better it makes your speech and stress as the conversation goes on.

Once the restrictions are lifted, I know I’ll have to travel more to visit my new plants. I am definitely looking forward to practicing even more advertising then. Stay tuned.

2020 Q1 Goals Update

Well, here it is. Something I’m not quite excited about doing as I should be. A goals update. As a reminder, here’s what I wanted to achieve this year:

  1. Reduce body fat by 7%
  2. Read 6 fiction and 6 nonfiction books
  3. 25 blog posts
  4. 30,000 meters of rowing per month
  5. Run a November 5k in under 30 minutes
  6. Keep library fines to under $30 annually
  7. Reduce ten items per month from the house

Let’s go through them one by one. I’m not going to lie and say I have beautiful data. I have some good guesses. But I’ll be brutally honest at the end at least.

  1. Reduce body fat by 7% – Nope, and not on track. No change this first quarter. No fundamental changes to diet or exercise.
  2. Read 6 fiction and 6 nonfiction books – Yes! I did complete two of each. While that leaves me slightly behind, I can easily make this up. I’ll put together a list of the books at my next update.
  3. 25 blog posts – Q1 had 9 posts. So I’m on track to beat this goal.
  4. 30,000 meters of rowing per month – Big no on that one.
  5. Run a November 5k in under 30 minutes – It’s not November yet! Although I did move at the end of March and still haven’t put the treadmill back together.
  6. Keep library fines to under $30 annually – Yes! But only because the library is closed. I think I had $23 in Q1 (I know, I know).
  7. Reduce ten items per month from the house – Maybe? I moved, and definitely threw a lot of crap out.

So let’s see … 7 goals, 3.5 on track, 3.5 not on track. I’d give myself a solid C for 2020 Q1.

Here comes the best part though — the list of excuses! That’s right. I have … reasons … for my shortcomings. Mainly they’re around the stress of COVID, being at home all the time and constantly on work calls through the day. I also got promoted in early March, so the past few weeks have been even busier. Then of course there was the house move in the background all the time. And if that would even happen — we ended up closing in the parking lot behind the title company’s office.

Progress on the “mental” goals more than the physical. But with warmer months coming up, I should be able to tighten things up. I am considering getting some sort of online trainer set up so I have more accountability. Working through the finances of that first.

Stuttering and COVID-19

Just a few weeks ago I was writing about attending a trade show and what that felt like. Don’t worry, I’ll finish up that short series this month. But first, of course, the pandemic. I count myself very lucky to be working in the food industry at this time. We’ve been tasked with producing as much as possible for the next few months, so there’s plenty to keep me busy. And as a corporate engineer, I’m able to work from home. I’m on calls pretty much all day with some breaks — enough to go for a walk or check in on the kids. The kids will start online school next week, so that’ll give them something to focus on for a few hours a day.

What I wanted to address today is how being someone who stutters is helping me deal with the pandemic mentally. None of these three reasons is earth-shattering or new — you can find them on memes or motivational posters or whatever. But I wanted to tie my experiences to each of them.

I will certainly say that it’s taken me years to get to this point. I had to do a lot of work and go through a lot of pain and heartache. It’s still not easy every day, but it’s certainly better than it was five or ten years ago.

1. I can only control so much in my life. For everything else, I must accept what happens

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve stuttered. This will never change, and that’s something I’ve come to accept. There are some days that are a lot better than others, and that randomness is part of the angst of stuttering. I have no idea what the day will hold for me when I wake up. There are some things I can control — my breathing (using my techniques) and techniques like advertising to get the attention focused on my message versus my delivery.

With Covid, I can control my comings and goings, who I go to see (nobody) and wearing a mask if I have to go in public. I can make a grocery list and hurry through the grocery store, making sure to socially distance myself from everybody. I’ve come to accept that this will go on for months. I can’t control that or what others do. I have to focus on doing my part and maintaining control for myself and my children.

In many ways this ties into the item below:

2. My response to stress is up to me

When I’m stressed out and having to speak, it’s always a disaster. This used to happen if I was upset and yelling. Or if I had to give answers on the spot about something I wasn’t prepared for. If I had a lot to do in a short period of time at work and was asked about other things. I’ve learned in these instances that I’m stressed not because of a singular event, but because I’m carrying the burden of several things. And this additional stress has put me over the edge. After many years I realized what I was doing and learned to compartmentalize my stresses. Then dealing with a smaller stress became easier because I could use familiar tools — take a long pause and try to slow my breathing. Calm myself down. Think clearly, and prepare just a few words.

In dealing with Covid, it’s an ongoing stress that wasn’t there even a month ago. It permeates everything — tv, work, friends, family. The uncertainty of it means that everybody is always on edge. It’s hard to prepare and plan for anything because the news changes every 12 hours. Some news is inherently more stressful than others — and not only does the pandemic create stress, but there’s the daily stresses of work and family to pile on as well.

Occasionally I feel the stress of Covid on top of family, friends and work will go past my breaking point. I want to get upset, I want to rant on about how terrible everything is. But I’ve learned that that response won’t do anything for me. So I slow down and focus on just one stress at a time. When I do that, I calm down a lot faster. I don’t “stack” stresses up. If Covid has got me upset and my kid forgets to put away the dishes, I won’t lash out.

3. Focus on the positives, and don’t dwell on the negatives

Stuttering is inherently filled with perceived negatives. Not being fluent. Getting flummoxed. Not wanting to say anything at all. Not being able to make a joke fast enough. Not getting through on the phone. Every day, every hour, you can find something negative about stuttering. Rarely do we focus on the positives. Over the past few years, I’ve been trying to change that.

The news these days is mostly negative as well. How fast the pandemic is traveling, how many are infected, what more is to come, and how long we must stay isolated to get ahead of the virus. It can be hard to even think of something positive, but I know that by doing so I can get through the days, weeks and months ahead. I think about how fortunate I am to still have my job and something to do all day to keep me occupied. I think about lunchtime walks and being able to get some exercise and sun. I think about the tools we do have to connect with one another — texting, calling, e-mailing — that make it more bearable. I think about being able to spend more time with the kids — seeing them between conference calls and having more meals with them.

I know that Covid won’t go away for many months, but I’m also counting myself fortunate that I’ll be able to blog more and talk about all the conference calls I have to do and the ways I’m getting through them.




Attending a Trade Show

I went to a trade show earlier this month. Pack Expo in Philly. This was an easy trip for me since I’m really close to Philly and could just take the train. Also I’ve somehow managed to work for nearly two decades and not ever go to a show. The last trade show I went to was in college, and that was for a newspaper conference in NYC. I wanted to write a few posts on my feelings toward doing this. At the end of the month it’ll also be the end of the first quarter, so I get to be honest about my goals for 2020 as well. It’s a mixed bag …

Today I’ll talk about my feelings before the show and then in the first hour. The next post will be about the show itself followed by a post on my feelings after some reflection. Here goes.

Before the show, I honestly didn’t think about my stuttering. I didn’t think about having to talk to a bunch of strangers and what I’d say to them, or ask them, or tell them about myself. The reason for this was because based on the projects that I knew were coming up for my company, I just wanted to go and see some solutions. I thought about standing at a booth looking at some equipment in operation, or picking up a brochure, or taking some photos.

I think a lot of this had to do with never having been to a show before. I knew about networking events (never done that, either), and this was not that. Some of what was on the show’s web site talked about before and after networking events, but at this time I wasn’t interested in that at all.

As far as introducing myself, I didn’t think much about that either — I figured there would be a name tag and lanyard. So they could just see my name. That took out a lot of the stress.

When I got to the show, it was not too chaotic. I got my badge and strolled on in. This is a smaller version of a show they have out west in the fall. I have been trying to go to that one for a while with no luck due to work. I didn’t have a “floor strategy” or anything. I could have studied the map on the train, but figured what’s the point, I can just walk around. I was planning on being there for two days.

During my first hour, I was pleasantly surprised at how open to talking people were. I figured out after a while this was because a.) these are sales people and b.) I am a customer. There were plenty of other people there without money to spend. But that was not me. I was on a mission.

For whatever reason, I still don’t have business cards yet. I was concerned about this somewhat, but then thought, well, I’ll just get their card, and if I need their stuff, I’ll reach out to them. Oh no. This show was better than that. They put a QR code right on your badge and then gave all the vendors an app to scan. No need for me to carry around a card!

In the next post, I’ll talk about what a typical conversation was like. And how the show got easier and easier as the hours went on.



What to do when you have to talk

I’m a member of a few groups on Facebook for stuttering. Frequently on there I’ll see someone saying something along the lines of, “I have a speech tomorrow, and I’m so nervous, I don’t know what to do!” For whatever reason people are reaching out for help hours before they need to go up on stage or whatever to address an audience.

Now I think that the requesters probably skew young — you have a speech for class, or a presentation or whatever for a grade. I get that. Students aren’t the best at … planning.

But here’s the thing. You stutter. You knew when you started high school or college or whatever that you might have to speak. It’s been in the syllabus since Day 1. So what needs to happen is instead of looking at the syllabus and freaking out, preparations need to be made.

I know for me early on I’d see such a requirement and block it out of my mind. I’d freak out, but not in a constructive way. Since then, I’ve been able to slowly change my mindset. And I’d hope others could as well. What you should be doing before practicing any breathing exercises or pre-speaking mouth rituals, is making sure you’re head is in the right place. Instead of dismissing it like a long-term paper or other big project until the last minute, you have to accept that you’re different. You stutter. Your preparation for this is different than it is for others. Your friends can “be so nervous in front of crowds” and still pull off what looks like a nice fluent speech. You can’t. You never have, and that’s fine. But you need to make an exception to your preparation and go above and beyond.

Once you get it into your head that you can and will do this, it’s time to start getting ready. Let’s say it’s an oral book report. Here’s what I’d recommend — and what I’ve done before that’s worked for me.

  1. Read the book. Like, really read it. Don’t just skim it, don’t just read summaries, read it. Know it. Inside and out. Read some criticism of it if you can.
  2. Read parts of it out loud in private. Start to feel the flow of the words and how the author has strung the story together. Practice your breathing while doing this. Take a deep breath before every sentence, and then let it slowly out as the sentence unfolds.
  3. Prepare your report. Write it out, type it out, edit it. Scribble, revise. All of it.
  4. Read your report out loud. One paragraph at a time. Pay attention to your breathing, your pacing, your shoulders. Relax your shoulders! If you’ve been to therapy, practice what you learned there.
  5. Bonus: practice in front of a friend. I know, I know. It’s really hard. You’re covert, and you don’t want your friends to know.
  6. Bonus: practice in front of a few friends.

That’s what I’d say for doing a speech — you need to make time for it. Otherwise you’ll be up against it, barely having said a word of it, and barely being able to finish.

Remember that the idea here is to make better memories of your stuttering. If you do nothing, you’ll make the same memory. And as you grow older, your connection to a speech will be negative. If you put in the time to make the speech a little better, you’ll make that mental connection that preparation equals comfort, and comfort equals less stuttering.

Two years at the new job

Wow. It’s been two years since I started this new job. It’s not new anymore!

Compared to the last company I was with for about 13 years, I’ve advertised to more people in a shorter amount of time. I’ll call that significant progress. I’ve also been less and less stressed about speaking on the phone. Cold calls, answering, calling quickly to people I know for information, all of that.

Just the other day I had to make two cold calls basically back to back to get some information from a vendor. One of them was there, the other I left a message for. I used my tools — thinking about what I wanted to say first, then taking a deep breath and speaking at the pace I wanted — not the one dictated by the other person. In both instances it worked out very well.

In addition to paying attention to breathing, another tactic I’ve used a lot is to just … get it over with. Don’t overthink it. Don’t give the Negativity any time to seep in there and start causing doubt. That doesn’t do anybody any good. This of course takes a lot more practice. You can start with “easier” calls that aren’t mission critical to your home life or job.

The beauty of doing a few good phone calls is that you can remember them — and start forgetting about all the misery you’ve had previously on the phone. The last few thoughts of calls will be of communication and expedient resolution. So why not keep picking that option?

Nuances of the phone

So one thing I’m not the best at is … putting people’s phone numbers into my phone. I know, it’s really simple. Just get a phone number, or read a phone number, or have someone text, and then take the few seconds to whip up a contact.

I wanted to open this one up a little. I have a feeling it goes back to stuttering. Hear me out. For the longest time, I hated talking on the phone. Hated. Didn’t want to pick it up, didn’t want to call anybody, didn’t want to be involved in any way shape or form.

I’m also bad at asking someone for their number — people who I will probably have to call. Or people who I would need to contact in case of an urgent matter at the plant. Or have their number to call them to ask them where they are if we’re meeting in a few days. I should have their number because somebody else might ask for it, and why should I spend fifteen minutes sifting through e-mails like a moron?

I think what this disconnect is for me is this subconscious saying, “you’re going to stutter when you call someone, so you’re not calling this person, so no need to remember this number.”

Unfortunately society has gotten to the point where I don’t have to call anybody. I can just text when I want. Or e-mail. Or schedule a meeting.

Sporadically over the past few years I’ve had phone calls with people. Phone calls that went really well. Short. Long. But what they all had in common was getting something straightened out or done in a really short amount of time. Not sure about something? Think it’ll be confusing over text? Too long to text? The person doesn’t check e-mail regularly? Call. Within two minutes, the issue is resolved.

So I need to get better at using the phone as a tool to quickly address things. Calling just to have a chat … I may learn something! I worked for a long time on this idea that if I stuttered I wouldn’t die (and it worked.) Now this is the next thing to work on — associating all the positive effects of the phone and ignoring my fears.


Struggling the Most

I’ve said recently that my stuttering hasn’t been too bad the past two years since the new job began. But I do still stutter. I always will. I’ve come to accept this.

So what am I stuttering on lately? Or what conditions seem to make it worse? I’d say unpreparedness.

I had to think for a while about this since things move slow enough — or maybe I’ve just figured out better how to control them — so that I’m rarely unprepared. This mostly happens in a meeting when I’m asked about something completely off-topic. The good news is that I work with people who are patient. So if I need to take a moment to say, “let me think,” they usually do. And then I can look something up on the computer or rack my brain trying to recall what the issue was.

I’d say it only gets worse if there’s a peppering of questions by others for me. Then usually what happens is that I’ll stumble for answers as I’m trying to think. Then while I’m thinking and speaking and stuttering, I’m also forgetting the other thing that they need to know. So a few questions in, and I’m already trying to backtrack and fix a mistake I said two minutes ago.

Just writing about this is making me feel stressed! I can feel it unfolding on the phone on a conference call or in a room with a lot of hard stares.

Adding to the stress is usually the slow realization, during questioning, that I may have completely missed something or screwed something up royally. Or that forgetting about something that has now come back to bite me. Stress goes up, my breathing gets way out of whack, and I’m stuttering all over the place.


But like I said. I usually try to stay organized and prepared so that I don’t have to go through an ambush interrogation. The stress stays at a nice low level. I can breathe. I can let my words out slowly. I can focus on the content versus whatever small stutter I do encounter.

Morning Meetings

Since I work at a manufacturing plant, there’s a need to make sure everybody is aligned every day on what’s going on with production. To that end, there’s a morning meeting. I usually try to sit in on these, just to listen what’s going on, if there’s any issues I can help with (my responsibilities are more long-term, not daily) or if there’s a problem that keeps happening that I can try to wrap a project around.

I’ll often need to talk about project work or something we are trying to do, engineering-wise, during the upcoming year to address long-standing issues.

My usual approach is to listen to the first half of the meeting and then think if there’s something I should add. Oddly, I don’t rehearse this in my head. I just think of what it is, and that’s about it. The last part of the meeting the supervisor will go around the room and ask if the participants have anything to add.

When I was a kid, this was obviously the worst part. Knowing they’d come to me, and I’d have to say yes or no or whatever. But during these meetings, after having done them for so long, I’m not afraid. There’s a feeling that I have to share what I know. I’m comfortable with the group. Everybody is patient with me. We usually laugh during these meetings, so nobody is too uptight.

When they call my name, I always — always — remember to take a deep breath. Then I take another shorter break and start talking. I try not to think about saying the words. I focus on the content. Make sure that I’m being clear and specific with my comments. Because usually if I have to add something, it means that it’ll impact a few people in the room, on the floor, or with regards to production going out to customers.

If there a few items, I’ll have written them down in my notebook. Then after each is brought up, I’ll just continue down the list.

Have I stuttered before during this meeting? Oh, heavens yes. It happens fairly often. But nobody is bothered by it. I’m not, either. I either just power through the word, or take a quick break and try again, making sure to take a breath. I have found that focusing on breathing really helps me not only relax, but with speech in general.

2020 Goals in Detail

Last week I talked about my goals for this year. I’d like to explain them a little further, and maybe they can help motivate you to think of some goals for yourself.

Reduce body fat by 7%

To me this is about eating better, not necessarily working out a lot more. I need to start making better choices about eating food and reducing the amount of refined sugar. I also need to get more disciplined about carrying out speech experiments with regards to intake — does gluten affect my speech? Soy? (I have a soy allergy which is another post altogether). If I ate clean for a week, would I feel more calm and stutter less?

Read 6 fiction and 6 nonfiction books

I have a habit of reading too much nonfiction. When I do read fiction, I tend it whip through it in 2-3 days. This reminds me of childhood when I’d just lie on my bed for hours devouring everything that I could. In this goal will also be stuttering-related books so that I can post some thoughts/reviews on the blog.

25 blog posts

The past few years have not been the best for this blog despite the fact that I … still stutter. I was looking back at my notebooks from 2014 the other day, and on almost every page was something stuttering related. (These are notebooks that I keep for work-related scribbling). So when I launched the blog, my mind was completely filled with stuttering. It’s also when I went to my first NSA conference.

30,000 meters of rowing per month

This has more to do with daily discipline. I have a rowing machine in my bedroom. When I wake up, I should be rowing 500 meters to warm up, and then 2,000 meters as exercise. This would take less than 15 minutes altogether and get the day off to a great start. By doing 2,500, I’d only have to get on the rower three times a week.

Run a November 5k in under 30 minutes

I hate running. I’m a big guy (245 lbs) and it’s hard on … everything. But I also know it’s good for me, and I know it’s good to set goals. I originally had a November goal, but I may have to pull that up to a 10k in March. I’m trying to get some friends to come along with me. With regards to stuttering, the constant aerobic demand should do me well for breathing. And the longer-term nature of this goal will help me to stay patient and focus on the big picture.

Keep library fines to under $30 annually

This one has nothing to do with me stuttering and everything to do with me needing to stay on top of the little things around the house. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, I think.

Reduce ten items per month from the house

I had read somewhere regarding living more simply that the items in your house weight you down to some extent. You have to see them every day, think about them, take care of them, and move them when you move. Although I’ve moved a few times and have trimmed down items each time, it always seems to creep back up. As I look around my bedroom, I can already see a few things that I just have … to have. This should help me clear my mind and thus reduce my overall stress. Surely that’ll also help with my stuttering, right?

Slowly updating

Along with a renewed vigor for posting to the site, I’m working through all the static pages and updating them. Today I refreshed the About page. It had been three years! I’m not 37 anymore …

I also updated the e-mail address at the bottom of the About page, but you can also always just comment on any post as well.

Also, at the end of this month, I’ll have been at my new job for two years. Hard to believe that I was just sitting in on several interviews. It’s the first job where I advertised from the start — screening phone call, hiring manager, plant folks on site, and then when I got the job, introducing myself to all the other managers.

I would definitely say it’s made life a lot easier. There have been some new folks at the plant and elsewhere, but the advertising to them has been very straightforward as well. My stress is reduced — when I do stumble on words, I don’t even think about the stutter. I just think, ok, let me regroup and get some words together. I also don’t swap out words — ok, maybe once in a while. Can’t lie. Sometimes I just don’t want to stop the speech!

I think that since the stuttering isn’t at the front of my everyday speech anymore, I’ve let the blog slide. But going through twitter and reading updates on Facebook groups, I realize there are still thousands of people out there who stutter who are on the same journey.

A new year of stuttering

Happy New Year, everybody! I hope everybody’s holidays went well. I had a very relaxing end of year. There was a lot of work at the plant (gotta spend money or you’ll lose it for next year) so that was a good kind of busy.

I also had a lot of time to reflect on my stuttering and also this blog. Where I want it to go in the next decade. I’ve written a lot on here, but there’s still plenty to be said. For instance, I usually don’t comment on Facebook stuttering group posts. I think I’ll start to do that — by posting my response on here. It’ll allow for a longer response that will be more easily searchable. The other nice aspect is that it should give me a steady stream of content through the year.

Speaking of goals, I have a few for 2020. All of them are measurable (they’re SMART goals if you’re into that sort of thing). Here we go:

  1. Reduce body fat by 7%
  2. Read 6 fiction and 6 nonfiction books
  3. 25 blog posts
  4. 30,000 meters of rowing per month
  5. Run a November 5k in under 30 minutes
  6. Keep library fines to under $30 annually
  7. Reduce ten items per month from the house

There you have it. I’ll go into further details on the next post what each of them accomplish. And yes, the library fines one is a bit ridiculous, but I have this silly habit of getting out a bunch of books (as do my kids) and then forgetting about them. I feel like two weeks is pretty short checkout time, but then again, I could just set myself a reminder to either renew and/or go to the library.

I may up the 25 blog posts depending on some other ideas that I have for this blog. But that will take a serious renewed commitment to writing. At the moment 25 would represent two per month. Certainly doable. One on how my stuttering is going, and one on answering Facebook questions that I find. I just feel that I can do a whole lot more, so I’m trying to work out what that level of engagement should be.

So! I hope you all have some goals lined up for 2020. I will be checking in on my here on the blog on a monthly basis. Y’all can help keep me accountable.


Fourth Quarter

I’m trying not to be so lazy with regards to this blog. International Stuttering Awareness Day is going to help with that!

I think in the past I’ve mentioned wanting to do something more this month with regards to stuttering. And every time I have not. So instead this month I’m going to just reflect on how my stuttering has been for the past few months.

It’s been good.

I would say that I’ve been more fluent in the past few months than I have been in many years. I think this may be in part due to the new job finally not being new anymore. The city I grew up in and moving back to being the city I … now just live in. The school year going steadily for the kids.

And frankly during the fourth quarter of the year with work, I haven’t had much time to think about stuttering on a daily basis. There’s a crush of work to be done (spend money!) and it’s to the point where I just make phone calls or schedule meetings or speak up at meetings because if I don’t, things won’t keep moving.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still stuttering. The good news is that it’s not avoidance though. (Remember, if you avoided a word and ended up being fluent … it’s still stuttering. Your audience may not know it, but you do.) Occasionally I will stutter (mostly getting stuck on a word) and it’ll be kind of jarring to me. Like, oh yeah, I still do this from time to time. But the frequency is so low, and the trauma so light that I don’t even keep track of them anymore.

If you asked me right now what the last thing I stuttered on was, I couldn’t tell you. I think that’s a good place to be.

I know if you’re just finding this blog and reading this, it may not help much. But what I would say is that — I’m forty. This was a journey that I didn’t even start on until I was nearly 30. And even then it took over 7 years to feel this way. It won’t happen overnight. I certainly wish I had started on the journey a lot sooner, of course. But I am where I am, and I’m happy where I am. I know looking back with regret won’t achieve anything, so I don’t.

If you’re just finding this blog, I would encourage you to go through the archives. See what those years were like. Before and after I started down the road of acceptance. It was long, it was painful, but it was ultimately what I needed to do. And that journey has helped me in many other areas of life as well. I’m far more patient than I ever was. I listen more. I want to understand what’s going on underneath. None of that could have been possible without a stutter.

Brain Surgery

I had brain surgery back in late May. No, it’s not why I haven’t posted since April. That’s because I’m lazy.

I had what’s called a hemifacial spasm. Basically there’s a nerve in your brain that controls one half of your face. It was rubbing up against a blood vessel. Whenever it happened, my face would twitch. Sometimes it was my eye, sometimes my mouth, sometimes both, just … annoying.

I had this condition for years. Probably about 5. Before they would just treat it with Botox injections. This required going to see my neurologist four times a year. And having needles stuck into my face. Including my eyelid. That was the worst. But the Botox was over in a matter of minutes, and I was somewhat good to go for another three months.

Eventually my doctor pointed out that well, I have to do this for the rest of my life. And that as I got older, one side of my face would start to look different than the other.

In case you’re curious, this is probably not a stuttering story. It’s just a story about me and what I went through this year.

I guess as far as stuttering is concerned, I never felt afraid to ask my neurosurgeon any questions. Although with something like this, I did read up heavily on it beforehand, so I knew what he’d say.

I had the surgery at Johns Hopkins. I live on the East Coast, and my surgeon has done hundreds of these before.

Of course I did make a joke about fixing my stuttering. Well, when I woke up, it wasn’t “fixed,” so, ha, ha. I still stutter.

My family came to support me during the surgery which was great. I also had several friends come by. I will say that the old me would have relied more on me telling my family (quietly) if I had a problem with the care. I’m at the point now where I’m comfortable speaking directly to the nurses, doctors or whoever comes into the room checking up on me. And there were questions every day — what should I do or not do, can I go for a walk, where’d that doctor go, who are you, can you turn off that computer screen so I can sleep, and so on.

Another thing that helped me reduce stress during this whole ordeal was going through FMLA with work. I completely disconnected for over a month. No calls, no e-mails, no texts. And I had to keep telling myself, look, they’re fine, just focus on taking it easy and getting better. Completely better. Having those feelings wash over me indirectly helped my speech, I’m sure.

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