I am a person who stutters. I’ve stuttered my entire life. I’ve been in speech therapy. I’ve taken medication to help reduce my stutter. I’ve lied to myself, saying that I don’t have a stutter.
My stutter hasn’t gone away. I’m now 25 and I still stutter. Some people grow out of their stutter. I’m not one of those people. Stuttering isn’t curable. I don’t stutter because I’m anticipating a word. I’m focused on what I’m saying, not how I say it. Repeating words in my mind three times before I say it out loud is unrealistic. There are too many conversations in a day to repeat everything I say in my head three times before speaking. I avoided eye contact for years because I was scared of seeing how people may react to my stutter. That fear is real but taking back the power allows me to determine how I feel about myself and not anyone else.
For those of you who don’t know, I’m referring to the advice Steve Harvey gave a woman who stutters on his show a couple of weeks ago. I find this video from an article posted by the American Institute for Stuttering that highlights the dangers of Mr. Harvey’s advice. While a lot of the speech therapy I had as a kid wasn’t helpful, this was partly because I wasn’t willing to acknowledge my stutter. As an adult, I have begun to accept my stutter and with the help of AIS, I see my stutter in a new light.
Everyone who stutters has a different relationship to their stutter because no two people stutter the same. Many of the people who stutter as a kid grows out of it by the time they reach adulthood. It’s not uncommon for a person to stutter as a kid and not as an adult. I know that for me, my stutter can shift within a moment. Heightened emotions and situations certainly play a part in how I stutter. I know that my story is a little bit different because I took medication as a teenager to have my stutter “go away.” I spent the majority of my high school and early college years not worrying about my speech. At one point, I even thought I had grown out of it. But when I went off the medication, my stutter came back within a couple of months.
There’s no cure for stuttering. Techniques such as repeating the word in your head before you say it can easily fail. Talking to yourself in a mirror is like talking to yourself any time of the day, you don’t stutter because there’s no stress. It’s not all in your head because stuttering can be caused by much more than just anticipation and sometimes anticipation causes the stutter to go away. It’s not about how much confidence you do or don’t have. It’s not about what you do or don’t tell yourself to get through the day.
Again, this is only from my perspective. There’s no one size fits all for stuttering because everyone who stutters, stutters differently than the person next to them who stutters. Applying a one size fits all method, especially from someone who’s stutter went away, is dangerous because many people stutter their entire lives. And that’s okay.
I’ve been blogging for a few years now. And if I’m being honest, some weeks I don’t know what I should write about. I used to plan out what I would say but now I just wing it the day of. I know I should be better at planning things and get back into the habit of knowing what I want to say before I say it.
This isn’t a post about a struggle of blogging or writer’s block. It’s about feeling exhausted and tired after a long day and you choose not to write or post anything on the designated day. It’s about realizing that planning to do something doesn’t always work in your favor. Sometimes, life has a funny way of changing your plans with unexpected detours.
Two weeks ago, I woke up experiencing double vision. Tuesday I was feeling fine. Wednesday morning, I was seeing double and having eye pain. For the last two weeks, I’ve either had eye double or strain in one or both of my eyes. I’ve gone to multiple doctors, had an MRI, and been poked more times than I prefer. And I still don’t have a definite answer.
I think the most frustrating part about it is being told different things by different doctors. The neurologist ophthalmologist says one thing, the endocrinologist says another. It’s a lot of back and forth. Right now, the thinking is this could be caused by my thyroid. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s back in February. The neurologist ophthalmologist is pretty certain that my eye problem is caused by Graves’. I got a blood test to see if this is the case. It’s strange because the blood test I got last month and last week for my Hashimoto’s didn’t show any signs of Graves’.
Right now, I don’t know what’s causing this. The endocrinologist says Hashimoto’s can cause eye problems while the neurologist ophthalmologist says it’s very rare for Hashimoto’s to cause eye problems. Until I get the results of my blood test results, I have no way of knowing one way or the other. On Monday, I was at the neurologist ophthalmologist for a good three hours, which pretty much exhausted me for the day, hence why I didn’t post on Monday.
Writing is therapy for me. It allows me to write the thoughts that have been circling in my head for the last two weeks. I’ve been reading a lot more, both books and articles. I’ve been leaning on what makes me happy. Playing with my cat, watching Friends and This Is Us. I know I will be okay. If this is indeed thyroid related, it can take six months or longer for this to go away. That’s a long time but I’ve learned that time moves faster the older I get.
One year ago, I was in a hotel room in New York City, about to leave and take the N train from 42nd street to 23rd street to see the Flatiron building, when I got a notification on my phone from CNN. There was a breaking story on Harvey Weinstein in the New Yorker. The story was by Ronan Farrow and it broke down many tricks and avenues he would take to manipulate and take advantage of women. I showed my mom the headline and she shrugged, continuing to get ready for the day. I sat down on the bed and scrolled through the story, getting chills on my arm from every account I read.
One year ago, I didn’t know the magnitude this story would have on our society. No one did. After so many years in power of Hollywood, no one knew the significant impact the fall of Harvey Weinstein would have our society. No one had seen a man fall from grace this hard and this fast. No one realized that he was the first of many who would follow in his footsteps. I was too preoccupied with seeing the Flatiron building before the remnants of Hurricane Nate rolling through New York to focus on our society breaking into two. A few hours after receiving the notification, I became overly preoccupied with trying to get home through the shitty weather.
It wasn’t until the next day when I was sitting in the hallway, waiting to go into my last class of the day that I understood how this Weinstein story hit a spark in the universe, creating an explosion of women sharing their stories. I was seeing people using the #MeToo on Twitter and Facebook. The more stories I read, the more I felt less alone while at the same time becoming angry by the fact of how common this is and how it took a hashtag for so many women to share their stories public. I was hesitant about sharing my story and after lots of trepidation, I wrote two poems about how the actions of careless boys have impacted my life.
One year has passed since #MeToo spoke to the zeitgeist in a way no one could have ever predicted. We have opened a door we can never close again. One year later, we’re listening to women’s stories and believing what they share, yet we don’t believe them enough to change the old patterns of human history.
I’ve been trying to think about how to write this post all day. Last week, this country went through a roller coaster of emotions with the Senate Hearings. Watching Dr. Ford give her testimony and answer questions was emotional for me and many women around the country. She’s an amazing woman for being brave and sharing her story. I cried several times because I, along with a lot of America, could see how the traumatic events she suffered many years ago has impacted her life. It was evident that she did experience a tragic event, whether or not it was by the man she claims is decided from whatever “side” you’re on. I believe what Dr. Ford said. I believe any woman or man who comes forward because it’s a very difficult thing to reveal. It’s not easy and everyone who has experienced a sexual assault or harassment gets to decide whether or not they want to share their stories. The fact that women are being heard and beginning to be taken seriously is a baby step on the long road we still have to go on. Believe women when they speak out. Believe survivors when they speak up. They deserve to be heard and believed.
It’s been fall for two days and I can already feel
the crisp in the air. It makes the hair on my arms
stand up. I breathe in deep breaths to take as much
as this magic in as I can. This is my favorite time of
year because it’s gone in a blink of an eye. It’s delicate,
for this beauty comes from the change of leaving the
earth. Orange leaves stay on the grass until they
get raked up on the weekend.
Walking through the woods, I admire the changing leaves
on the aspen trees. It looks like fall but feels like summer.
I take off my sweater and look at the view that’s similar to
the moon. Wide open space with very little human life
equates to the feeling of being on another planet. The leaves
look like their on fire as the orange color burns the naked
eye. When I reach the top, I look out to see hills and mountains
filled with fire leaves. The hills are alive with the sound of
music plays in my head while I catch my breath.
(This photo was taken at 6:30pm, 70° F.)
I’m sitting on my back deck, something I rarely do voluntarily these days, catching up on a few New Yorker magazines I’ve been ignoring for too long. It’s early evening, almost 6:00 pm and the warm breeze is blowing. I can feel the end of summer nearing as I look up to the changing leaves in my yard. One dog is lounging near me on the deck while the other is by the fence, munching on grass. The deck is in the shade facing east. A diet coke is on the glass table, my second of the day because of a lingering migraine. A dragonfly stops on the wood beneath my feet before continuing on his way. The dog by me comes up and licks my chin. My favorite time of year is approaching faster than I realize. The only thing missing is the crisp in the air.
Nebraska feels longer than Iowa
and Iowa felt like forever
while I was fast asleep.
I watch the miles drop
as I fly by green signs on the
highway traveling west.
Listening to a podcast,
my father sleeping in the passenger seat,
I wonder how long it will take
until I see something new.
Green fields and pastures filled
with cows, semi trucks too large
to fit on the road.
75 mph for almost two hours,
no stopping or terrible weather,
I watch the low clouds drift east as
I slowly wish to be lost in a dream.
Dear 15-year-old Kelly,
Ten years from now, you’ll be finishing up your bachelor’s degree in English after years of trying to figure out what you want to do. You will be a published writer. You don’t realize this now but writing will become one of the most important parts of your life. Writing will help you grapple with your stutter. Writing will help you stop running away from the parts of yourself that you don’t like and refuse to accept now. Writing will help you figure out feelings you’re currently pushing down.
You’re about to embark on a journey that will last until you’re 20. Its already begun but you don’t know how it will skyrocket when you choose not to encounter your authentic self, your stutter, your sexuality, and other things. You unknowingly decide to run away from yourself because your scared of being more different than you already feel you are. You’re already feeling anxiety linger beneath the surface of your skin. When you begin running away from yourself, your anxiety will increase to an overwhelming level. You will wake up every morning, terrified to face the day. Your heightened anxiety will stay with you for the remainder for your teenage years. You know you’re different but you choose to see yourself as normal in aspects that you’re now experiencing because of medication. You still stutter even though you’re fluent. Just because you decide to look the other way doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. But it’s how you’re coping with all that has happened to you.
The stories you choose to tell yourself now will shift as you get older. It’s only when you begin to tell yourself stories with truth in them five years from now will you stop running away yourself. You will realize how tired you are jumping from one thing to another and running around in circles for so many years. You will also realize how much of your teenage years you were mentally absent because of fear and anxiety. Fear to embrace all the parts of yourself that aren’t considered normal by societal standards. But your normal always has been and always will be a little different from everyone else’s normal.
You will be okay. I promise.
On Saturday, the 25th of August, I will be turning 25 years old. My golden birthday. For those of you who don’t know my story, I’ll give the short version. I was supposed to be born on November 25th. My mom had a liver transplant when she was 20 weeks pregnant with me on July 1st. I was born at 27 weeks on August 25th, 1993. I weighed 2 lbs 2oz when I was born and dropped to 1 lb 7 oz shortly after. I had to spend the first five months of my lifein the hospital and I was on oxygen for the first two years of my life.
Everyone who I have told this story to over the years has responded by saying I am a Miracle Baby. I’ve known this my entire life. It’s a weird thing to live my life knowing all that of this traumatic and scary events happened that I have no recollection of. How I spent the first five months in an incubator. How it must have been for my parents to see me so helpless. How nerve-wracking it must have been to have a child who was going to have challenges beyond their control. How worried my parents were about my later development of both walking and speech. There were so many things that could have gone wrong.
I know how lucky I am to be here. I know that had it been just a few years earlier, I would not have survived. I arrived at just the right moment where medical technology knew how to help premature babies have a good chance of surviving. Though I’ve developed later than most people throughout my entire life and I have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that began as bronchopulmonary dysplasia when I was an infant, I’m so fortunate to not have any serious problems that have stuck with me from being born three months early.
We all have stories and events that define our lives. Miracle Baby was put on me long before I could comprehend anything about life. It’s been a part of who I am. I don’t know what life is like without this story that’s still mindblowing to understand. Every so often, I will stop and think, that really happened. It’s crazy to think about. I’ve been given a unique perspective from what happened to me when I was a baby. Every year on November 25th, I give a little moment to the day that seems so far away from my actual birthday. I think about the person I could have been had I been born on that date. But I’m also thankful for the person I am and for the life I’m so fortunate to live.
On my birthday, I always watch the news broadcast that was done on my early arrival. My mom and dad had a news story on them a month earlier to talk about my mother’s liver transplant while being pregnant. The first few years I would watch the news broadcast, I would think I was looking at someone else’s life because that’s the only way my young mind could comprehend this incredible story. It was only when I turned 12 that I began to process the fact that this story is mine, that little baby that looks like a tiny baby doll is me. This year on my golden birthday, I’m reflecting on how far I’ve come in the last twenty-five years and how all that I’ve gone through has only made me stronger.