I have been stuttering for as long as I can remember. For years, I thought that meant living a life of loneliness because no one would understand my struggles.
During school, I had the best bunch of friends. They helped me out in particularly “sticky” situations, which sometimes involved boys.
Decades ago, I realized that I was speaking my own tongue. I was both fast while talking, AND I stuttered. I felt alone in the world because I believed no one understood the language I was speaking since my childhood.
It took me over two decades, but I did find a bunch of people from various walks of life, just like me.
How Did Finding A Stuttering Community Help Me?
I was a smart kid. My parents took me to speech therapy early. I quickly learned that stuttering is not my fault.
I also learned that around 1% of the world’s population stutters.
However, I was the only kid in middle school with a pronounced stutter. If others had one, they did a marvelous job of hiding it!
At the end of the day, it was just me. That kept me wondering where all the other 70 million lived. Surely, none of them went to my school or lived on my block!
And it kept me thinking if I was ever going to meet anyone else who stutters. Would we become friends over our shared disfluency? Would s/he think that I’m trying to mock them when I reply to their questions?
Only after I became an active member of not one but several Facebook stuttering support groups, WhatsApp communities, and local chapters of stuttering associations did I realize that the bond runs deeper than friendship.
When I first attended a meeting cum gala held by a registered stuttering association for people who stutter (PWS), it was the first time I found myself surrounded by hundreds of men, women, teens, and children who spoke my language.
I would be lying if I said that I felt confident immediately. Or that I found a community where I didn’t feel the need to hide my speech disfluency.
However, finding a community told me that I finally belonged somewhere.
Why Should You Speak To Others Who Stutter?
For many, staying in touch with friends and making virtual friends over social media apps is no big deal.
For me, it was always a big deal. I always felt like I was deceiving people because they had no idea what I sound like in real life.
Only after I began attending the stuttering foundation galas and meets did I realize that I wasn’t the only one who thought like that.
My feeling comes from a deep-seated sense of guilt and shame.
Even though I know stuttering isn’t something I cannot control, I felt guilty while “talking” fluently on messengers and text.
Talking to others who stutter has helped me find my identity. I finally stopped ignoring everything related to my stuttering.
I began confronting feelings I had been suppressing for decades.
I attend meetings and seminars. Listen to people share their stories and share when I’m ready to talk.
It is an intense setting, where for the first time in a long time, I saw people wait patiently as a person who stutters finished speaking.
That once again reminded me that our opinions are important.
You don’t choose to stutter. However, you can choose to surround yourself with people who stutter, understand your speech disfluency, and support you.
You Are Never Alone
You may have felt alone, just like I did while growing up. But, you don’t have to feel that way forever.
I have learned through years of therapy, attending support group meetings, stuttering group video calls, and chats that we are as alone as we choose to be.
It is incredibly difficult, especially, if none of your family members or friends stutter. It feels almost impossible to talk about our daily struggles.
However, that doesn’t have to be your reality forever.
There’s always at least one stuttering support group or community near you, just waiting for you to find them.