Day 9: Therapy II, All About the Stuttering
I’m now looking forward to my therapy. Looking forward to that elevator ride to the 10th floor.
I can’t wait to share all the progress I’ve made in the past week.
Our rapport is improving and she seems a little surprised and a little impressed with my progress. I mean, 40 years of no movement, then something a little bigger than baby steps. Toddler steps?
I realize I need to help her to understand how I’m wired.
So I tell her about my stuttering.
You see, I grew up with two secrets. The second you know. The first was that I stuttered. And stuttering in grade school does not a good school experience make. I got into a lot of fights. But there’s not a lot you can do to combat that when your nickname becomes J-j-j-j-joel.
But I was a smart kid. So I figured out which words I stuttered on and created a vocabulary to circumvent them.
Problem solved right? Not really.
Speaking became an adventure in literally running every word, every sentence through my head before I said it to scan for the danger words of the day. But I soon got the hang of it and everyone thought my stutter went away.
Fast forward 20 years, and my oldest son develops a stutter. And I am devastated.
I did this to him. My genes did this to him, and I can’t hide it anymore. So I take him to a speech pathologist who asks about family history, and my secret comes out. My son quickly improves with a series of games like blowing through a straw to develop better speech control, but she tells me I need to confront my stuttering. I need to face my fear.
The first step is to put up a poster in my office at work about stuttering. The second is to tell people that I stutter. These steps serve to reduce the fear of people discovering my secret, my lifelong shame. Sound familiar?
The final step is to use any word I avoid in the next sentence. This prevents me from building up fear around single words or sounds. It’s terrifying at first and at times my dialogue circles round and round until I spit out danger words like “editor” and “Guinness.”
Fast forward another 10 years and you can’t shut me up. Seriously. Ask anyone I know, especially my kids. I am a chatterbox, usually the first person to offer an opinion in a meeting because I don’t need to filter myself anymore. Perhaps I should, but, god, it is so liberating to speak without fear.
This is a long way of saying that I decided to take the same approach with my transgendering.
And step one is the poster, or in my case, the hair ties around my wrist.
Step two? Telling people. And that little bit of terror starts this week.