What it's like to stutter

Breath passes through your throat as you talk. It happens every time we speak, and it is seldom actually thought about. Suddenly and inexplicably, perhaps on a word beginning with a "k" sound, this breath cannot move through your throat anymore due to a clenching in your voicebox. Since you can't seen to let that muscle relax without giving up on the sentence you are trying to speak, you repeat the last word you said over and over again, in essence attempting to make your voicebox stay open. If that doesn't work, you try to "shake it out", twisting and nodding your head, clenching your eyes, putting enormous exhale strain on your spasmatic throat. Finally the word you want to say is said in frantic desperation.

Then it happens all over again.

I've stuttered since I was approximately 5 years old. I've taken years of speech therapy and read several books on the subject. I have a very good understanding of most of the subjects in sloebertje's writeup. My only record of speaking like a normal person was a tape recording my parents made when I was three years old of me reading a short story about ducks in a pond. When I hear that tape, I think of the person I could have been, a charismatic young man with a big social life and lots of friends; teachers in school who wouldn't stop me mid-sentence when answering a question, not having to explain to people that I'm not brain damaged.

What happens when I stutter has transitioned over time. It seems that the popular belief that a mere repetition of the word is all that happens; that for some reason I say the word twice and it's beyond my control. This is not the case. What actually occurs is that when I attempt a sentence, sometimes I cannot say the next word, so I repeat the previous word until I am able to continue, or I pause, breathe, and allow my vocal chords to open up.

In the same way that words might be repeated, this "frustration" of not being able to say the next word also manifests itself in muscular spasms and contractions. My eyes invariably close and clench shut for an instant, my head bobs up and down, and a clicking, choking sound emanates from my throat. These occurrences are most embarrassing, since it makes me look like I have some sort of palsy or mental disorder. It was my biggest problem socially: I couldn't keep a flowing sentence.

It is *so maddening* wanting to get your point across and not being able to do so, or even worse having someone finish words and sentences for you from his own annoyance, or worse still: having the teacher shut you up and go on to the next student.

People are always talking about me behind my back. At my college, I once conversed with a group of professors who were friendly enough, smiling and giving me respect, but after I shut the thick door behind me, and I got a drink of water from the fountain next to the door, I could here them chatting. "Is he all-right-in-here?" I could picture the man speaking was pointing to his head. "I think he might have Tourettes or something," a different voice responded, "I don't know why he's here, maybe it's some sort of autism." "Kind of creepy, isn't it?" the voice replied.

At other times I've had other such encounters. Stuttering is one of those things that everybody interprets as a lie or dishonesty, or perhaps someone who is unsure of himself. I've had plenty of awkward looks and hidden grins at job interviews, and I've had to explain my speech disorder. Needless to say, I've never gotten placed in a job I've really enjoyed. I currently depend on contracting agencies to place me in positions since I loathe interviews.

If only people could hear what I was saying in my mind, they would realize that I'm a normal person just trying to have a conversation. I wish that I didn't have this malady. It's scarred me but at the same time I think it's made me stronger. Going to Redneck High School for four years of hell made me emotionally strong and resilient to the taunts of others. But I'm still sometimes unnaturally paranoid that people are talking ill of be behind my back. Nonetheless I haven't allowed my disorder to limit my social freedoms. Courage is experiencing fear but having the willpower to continue. I'm always afraid that the person I've just met will think I'm a freak if I speak to them, but I'll still greet them, say hello, shoot the breeze, and let them make their own decisions.