stammerheadshark * blog about living with an acquired neurogenic stammer

“It’s not like a normal stutter – it’s different somehow”

Posted on: September 23, 2009

That’s what the letting agent said. She didn’t elaborate.

It did make me think though; what if we all have a different idea of what a stammer should sound like, and what the behaviours and triggers are for a “nomal stutter”?

What’s become an everyday norm for me seems somewhat severe and extreme in some people’s eyes, and for others due to its nature doesn’t qualify as a stammer.

I’ll elucidate this further. Take a friend I hadn’t seen for, well, ages – over a year. For her, having known me in a social and working capacity prior to having the accident that caused this brain injury for her, the change in me outwardly was difficult to manage. She said after some time had gone by, “I expected the stammer because you’d let me know about it, but until I saw you I had no idea how bad it was”.

Juxtapose that against this stranger from an estate agents who couldn’t marry together the preconceptions she had of how a stammerer sounds with the voice she was hearing. For her because there was no nervousness, no anxiety, no stumbling over particular words –  just constant repetitions on every syllable, she just couldn’t get her head around it. As far as she was concerned, it wasn’t a stutter. It was something different.

I must admit, I fall foul of this myself. It’s hard not to judge yourself against others.

The other stammering blogs I read speak of  “coverts” – people who can control their stammers by learning to speak differently, people who learn an entire repertoire of words that they can substitute in an instant in order to prevent stumbling over a particular letter, people who avoid speaking to others and social situations to prevent their cyclical anxiety of stammering publicly.

I have none of these things. I’m not embarrassed by my stutter, I’m only embarrassed by how other respond to it. I cannot cover the stammer, and I envy the control that coverts have in pretending outwarding that they don’t stutter. I can’t substitute or avoid certain letters, or else I would never speak as my speech is affected in every syllable that comes out regardless. And it certainly doesn’t make me avoid speaking or social situations, they do not make me nervous and I have nothing to hide.

It is because of all these things; because my stammer behaves so completely different to the experiences reported by developmental stammerers (those that form in childhood) that it’s so difficult not to judge, to not negatively compare my experience against theirs. And I know I shouldn’t, but I do.

I received an email the other day about  a stammering group I’m to attend next week in Leicester. One woman had missed the previous thread of messages and said she’d like to attend as she was, and I quote,  “a recovering stammerer”.  I felt so angry.

As though it was an illness she could get over.  As though she had some magic cure, for which there is none unfortunately – believe me, I’ve lost count of hours spent searching the web through the mire of con-artists who promise just that.

Part of me just thought, was she being spiteful to rub it in our faces (probably just proud in her own eyes to have overcome adversity), or just delusional that she was recovering when all it was was that she’d learnt to hide the stammer. For her sake, I honestly hope she is recovering – but until I see it for myself, I struggle to accept that that’s the truth.

So really, the stranger trying to sell me a home was right. Mine’s not normal when judged against traditional standards. It is different to other stutters sadly, which makes it an altogether more isolating experience. But it’s normal to me. And honestly, everyone else is just going to have to get used to that because I (unlike others) can’t change its nature.

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2 Responses to "“It’s not like a normal stutter – it’s different somehow”"

I completely emphasize with you situation. I, however, cannot sympathize since I am one of those “covert” stutterers. Your situation is so much different than what I have heard before. Those who I have met who stutter have been, as you said, developmental stutters. Since childhood we have been conditioning ourselves to communicate with the right words ands sounds. But as with all disabilities (I really shouldn’t use that term…), there are different degrees and variations of stuttering. So please don’t hold it against us, it is a life long practice.

With all you’ve been through (with the accident and speech and all), I admire your incredible spirit. Although I have lived with my stutter since, well, birth, I still haven’t found the confidence to totally and completey put it out there. It’s astounding how you’ve already seemed to come to terms with it.

And you make a good point. I always wonder what is “normal stuttering” and what makes a stutterer, a stutterer. When watching a movie or TV show where an actor is stuttering, the dramatization makes me cringe. Nobody can pinpoint what every stutterer is going to sound like. So if you don’t think yours is “normal”, thats okay. No stutter is a normal stutter.

Maybe you’ll find yourself becoming a “covert stutterer” in time.

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