1. When did you start stuttering?
When I was 7, I remember distinctly sitting in second grade and trying to say the word “eye” as I told a quick anecdote. I don’t remember any speaking difficulties during kindergarten or first grade. But after second grade, things changed.
2. Are there certain sounds that you always stutter on?
No, not even my name. I mean, that’s the worst, of course, especially during introductions. But I can say it without stuttering now and again. As anybody who stutters knows, this is the most frustrating part.
3. What do you friends/family/colleagues/strangers think of your stuttering?
I don’t know. But I do care. Which is why I’ve never talked about it. Until now.
4. Has your stutter gotten better or worse over the years?
Both. Thinking back, I think there were probably months or years where it wasn’t an issue. And then there are long stretches where it seems I can’t say anything and am frustrated all the time. Right now I think I’m somewhere in the middle. Update — since going to the NSA conference and accepting my stutter more, I am definitely stuttering more. But I’m communicating better. Does that even make sense? Yes, it does — I’m saying what I want to say, when I want to say it. And if it takes a little longer to come out, so be it.
5. What treatments/therapies have you tried?
Not much, just speech therapy during school and then Pagoclone during its trials. I refuse to try anything that I have to pay for up front or that someone says will “cure” stuttering. There is no cure for stuttering, and I have come to grips with that. Until there is a drug or therapy that’s scientifically proven on a large group, I’ll continue to stutter, and I’ll continue to get through life. Some days will be better than others.
6. Do you think stuttering has held you back in any way during your life?
Yes and no. I’m very happy with where I am in life and with my career and choice. But during the past few years as I’ve started to write down more thoughts on stuttering (my own notes) I’ve come to see that many of the decisions I’ve made — big and small — are rooted in my inability to speak at times. That’s what a large part of this blog is centered on — not just talking about speaking situations, but how those add up over time to create the person we are. I think a young person reading this site might identify with my background and subsequent decisions. And be more aware of how much is really dictated by the effects of stuttering.
7. Why this blog now?
For the past half-dozen or more years, I had this idea that I would write a book about my life and stuttering. So I’ve got several hundred handwritten and typed pages already of notes and daily observations. But I was beginning to see that a coherent book was a huge effort and not going to happen. I thought doing a book first and a blog to accompany it would be best. Now I think the other way around is better. That being said, I’ve tried my hand at blogging (other things) before and failed miserably after a few short months. With as many notes as I have on stuttering though, I should be able to power on for longer. Update: Through 150 posts so far, I’ve written about 70,000 words. So that’s nearly half a book anyway.
8. What was your worst day as a stutterer, and your best?
Worst day is easy — I had to get up in front of almost 400 people about four years ago and introduce myself. Everybody at the conference was introducing themselves, and my heart was pounding as the microphone made its way to me. I could barely get my name out, and a woman standing behind me just laughed at me. Not a happy moment. As for the best, it’s hard to say — anytime I can command a small meeting confidently or get through a phone call is a huge win. There are also many times that come up where I feel the need to add commentary in a meeting — and press on even if it means stuttering through it.
9. Are you worried about labeling yourself as someone who stutters?
Well, the funny thing of course is that everybody I know knows I stutter. But we just never talk about it. I guess the concern I have is that I don’t want anybody to treat me any differently because I do. I think that’s been another concern in the back of my mind about starting this blog.
10. Why don’t you have a (specific social media) account?
Since there’s no cure for stuttering, this is a long conversation. I’m more interested in cultivating a community on the site and through very limited social media. I’d rather do a post, get some e-mails or comments on it, and then continue it the following week. I’m not here to respond every time when some celebrity makes a swipe at stuttering or it’s portrayed negatively in the media. Those things shall pass. I also know that stuttering is very, very personal. This approach allows people to engage on their own terms.
11. Why are you posting about things that happened to you years and years ago?
Even if they happened to me years and years ago, they could be happening to someone today. Or they might happen to me tomorrow.
12. Where does the inspiration come from for these posts?
Aside from past experience, I read a lot of articles online that usually inspire me to post. I might wonder out loud about what a certain job would be like, or how I’d deal with a specific situation. I’ve noticed over the years as someone who stutters I spend a lot of time running through conversations in my mind — what might be said, when it could be said, how it will be uttered. Mostly of course this is to chart a course so I can safely navigate through by avoiding words. Or talking. Not always the best approach, of course. And while I’ve gone through a lot myself, I hope that by reaching out I can see and talk about what others deal with on a daily basis.
13. What’s your commenting policy?
If it doesn’t add value to the conversation, it gets deleted. Be nice.