stammerheadshark * blog about living with an acquired neurogenic stammer

The leech that won’t let go…

Posted on: October 13, 2009

I’ve been particularly bothered the past few days by a couple of discrete incidents which upon reflection are part and parcel of the same issue.

The issue being a leech; a succinct definition ascribed by a friend when I rather inadequately tried to explain how I’ve been feeling about my stammer becoming part of my identity without my consent. It’s pretty accurate actually.

On Sunday I went to meet a friend in town, ringing them on the way to arrange a meeting place. Nothing unusual in that, although what was particularly disturbing was that after ending the call I realised that I hadn’t noticed I had stuttered during the course of the conversation.

In a sense I was appalled at the idea that I was no longer noticing how wrong my speech sounds, and disappointed that (internally, at least) I’m losing the self-recognition that my speech isn’t normal. Although that perhaps sounds like the same response, it isn’t I assure you. One is a wholly physical reaction, and the other purely emotional.

By this I mean that I feel like I’m abandoning my true self. My self that doesn’t stammer, my self who doesn’t sound like this and hopes to have normal speech again.

It almost feels as though if I give in and accept it as part of who I am then I’ve lost the battle. It feels like I’m still fighting, but my brain’s waving a white flag in cowardice quite simply because it’s easier to give up than be hopeful my normal speech might return. I’m not ready to give in to that though. I’m not sure that I’ll ever be.

The second incident that left me low was a conversation where the other person (after spending the day with me) said they were surprised that this stutter was a recent development, that they had just assumed I had always stammered from childhood like so many others.

I was crushed by the idea that someone would assume that the stutter had always been there. It sounds ridiculous, but I needed them to know that wasn’t the case.

It’s truly not comparable by scale, but to try and convey emotionally how I felt about it all, here goes; it was almost like how a bereaved parent of a lost child needs strangers to know that the child used to exist because being without such a big part of themselves is too much to adjust to. Acknowledging the loss feels like a betrayal of the truth they need to cling on to.

As I ineloquently struggled to explain to my friend how desperate I was for people to know that I wasn’t always like this, that had they met me a year ago I would have been perceived differently, she summed it up perfectly.

This stammer is a leech. It clings on and refuses to let go. It is a social burden I have no choice but to tolerate. It imposes itself without invitation, and I will be relieved if, and when, it finally releases me from its grasp.

Hopefully the neurologists and speech therapists back home may have more success in prising this leech away from me. Or at least they might in time, but it’s worth waiting for.

1 Response to "The leech that won’t let go…"

This is a fascinating piece, and by the way, I love the way you write it is very easy to read.

I was particularly interested by your comments about how if you almost don’t notice your speech patterns, then it has been become part of you and have therefore lost the battle.

It occurred to me that this could be a significant difference between your stammer which had clearly been caused by a physical event, and mine which in my mind is purely psychological. My stammer has improved by not thinking about, and by being more instinctive in my speech. I know the more I think about it, then the more it controls me. To me, there is no greater feeling of achievement to look back on a week, and say my stammer has not impacted me at all and I have not thought about it at all.

It is amazing how seemingly similar conditions (you and me) could actually be influenced and controlled by such different factors. I’ve always known all stammers are different, and this has re-iterated that.

So much alike but so different as well

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