The Power of Mindful Breathing

I have found comfort in my breath. Inhaling and exhaling are often done without thought. The body knows how to breathe without the mind getting involved. But there is something about getting my mind involved with my breathing that has helped calm my thoughts and body. Learning how to belly breathe can change the body’s way of pushing air in and out of the lungs. Whenever I need to settle my overactive thoughts, I will belly breathe until I feel my thoughts settle. I used to cope with these thoughts by avoiding them entirely. I’d distract my mind with useless thoughts to push out the overwhelming ones. Now I’m working with them by learning how to calm them down. Filling my stomach up with air through my nose and releasing it slowing out of my mouth. 

Saturday Drive

I go on a drive looking for my old self.
I listen to old music and sing along. Dixie Chicks and Bob Dylan,
Songs from my childhood that have bled into my young adult years.
The leaves have barely changed
As the season of summer is about to leave for the year.
Saturday, 79 degrees, and endless blue skies
Guide my way as I drive a route
I once swore I'd never return to.
Too many loops, too scary, too many unknowns.
This is my second time on this road this month
I got lost the first time and made the experience less than thrilling,
Trying to navigate a road by memory without second guessing
Myself takes serious concentration.
Now, I'm going back and forth up a hill,
Reminding myself that this is where I first felt car sickness.
I didn't find my old self, she's no longer around.
Instead, I was reminded of how much I've grown
Since I've been on this road and how much
I'm still scared of the great unknown.

Outside of the Box

 Society has a standard for everyone.
If you’re outside of the cookie cutter
Example, then you’re deemed as different.
As we grow up, we realize we all have our
Struggles and strides, we're all different in
Some shape or form. Though, those who
Are capable of protecting what makes them
Different are lucky. Those who are able to blend
In to the normal and can pass don’t have to worry
About discrimination.
 
As Pride Month comes to a close, I was to highlight
Those who celebrate in the month of June:
Lesbians. Gays. Bisexual. Trans. Queer. +.
Those who choose to live out and proud as well as
Those who cannot embrace who they are because
Of the circumstances they’re in.
 
People of the LGBTQ+ community
live outside of the box of societal norms.  
While they’re embraced by many,
They’re also scorned for loving someone
Of the same sex or for embracing who
They really are.
 
Living inside the box is boring.
Being a cookie cutter version of everyone
Else isn’t fun or unique.
Embracing who you are, even to yourself,
And accepting your differences is beautiful.
 
There’s no shame in being who you are,
It’s everyone else who can’t understand you
Who has it wrong.

Before I Say Hello

Before I say hello,
I acknowledge
to myself
what will happen. 
I will stutter. 
Sometime throughout 
the string of words 
that will flow
out of my mouth, 
there will be a bump.
It’s inevitable. 
This is okay. 
A bump 
or two 
of three
won’t kill my flow. 
A big bump 
that causes me 
to use a trick 
won’t stop me 
from speaking. 
What’s important 
is that I share 
my thoughts. 
I speak for
my voice,
my voice
does not 
speak for me.
I continue to learn 
how to navigate 
the strong waters 
when there’s an uptick 
in my stutter. 
How I approach 
conversations has shifted.
I have gained
an awareness
I never could 
have predicted.
I still say 
what I want 
but I may not 
ramble on the way 
I once did 
when I was comfortable 
with the stutter I knew.
For things have shifted
and that’s okay,
It’s apart of stuttering,
nothing is certain.

A Letter to Myself at 15

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.

Love,

25-year-old Kelly

AIS: Speak Freely Live Fearlessly

This week at the American Institute for Stuttering has been amazing. I went in with a few ideas of what I wanted to work on and I’m leaving having learned a lot about myself and my stutter with the tools to navigate this lifelong journey of stuttering. I learned little things I have known about myself but never acknowledged.  How I need to work on my eye contact when I speak with people. How I use filler words to make it easier for me to communicate. How my past dictates my present. How I have options to choose how I want to communicate.  How the anticipation leading up to something is always worse than the actual event. How being vulnerable isn’t as scary as I thought. How I can have control over my voice instead of it controlling me. How I have more to work through and willing to take on working on myself to become to best human I can be. This week, I met some incredible people who have been so supportive along the way. I’m so lucky to have experienced this program with all of them and I’m sure we will keep in contact as we apply what we have learned here in our daily lives. When you interact with fluent people on a daily basis, you can often feel like you’re the only one. It’s inspiring to be reminded that I’m not alone, that there other people out there who stutter too.