|About the author: McKenzie Jemmett M.S., CCC-SLP is an individual who stutters and currently works as a Pediatric Speech Language Pathologist in Pocatello, Idaho. Her graduate thesis focused on covert aspects of stuttering and how holistic therapy affects these aspects. Her interests include autism spectrum disorder, sign language and fluency disorders. She is also an active member of the National Stuttering Association and serves as co-chair of her local chapter. This is her second year helping with the International Stuttering Awareness Day.|
Recently, I had an opportunity to have a candid conversation with my friends about stuttering and my preference with how they treat me. Many things were discussed but the bottom line was, what I prefer may not be what someone else prefers. We are all individuals who stutter and therein lies the beauty. Individuality. We are all individuals and the impact of stuttering will be different for each of us. This experience with my friends was the birth of a mind blowing revelation… that I had finally come to understand who I was and I wasn’t afraid of it!
To give this revelation some perspective, let me rewind to 3 years ago. At that time, I was a 1st year graduate student in Speech Language Pathology at Idaho State University, just surviving life. More specifically, I would describe myself as a quiet firecracker hiding in the corner. Quiet because I only spoke when spoken to and firecracker because once a spark struck, I would explode on whoever and whatever I was around. The explosion would come out as forming unhealthy relationships marked by improbable attachment requirements, crying over the smallest things, contemplating suicide, and overall not seeing a purpose in life other than ‘getting by’. I did it all. It was in that year that my journey to understanding myself and my individual stuttering began. It was a long and difficult path but worth it (in hindsight) all the hardships along the way. It all began with awareness of the one thing I had ran from my entire life: stuttering.
This awareness felt like an insult to my intelligence. After all I was a college student studying speech language pathology. I should know what stuttering is. I mean, I had been in therapy for it as a child and had to become a master of my own speech so I should know right? I remember using slow stretching speech and feeling weird doing it but that I was just something I did when I was young… In my mind it had no relevance to what I was doing now. It wasn’t until that first year of graduate school that someone lit a spark and wasn’t afraid of the blow back for me to really see who and what I was. And to be honest, I didn’t like what I saw. I saw a frail weak individual who had been pushed around her whole life and told what to be and how to act. On top of that, I had no idea how to fix the horrific image in front of me.
Few saw awareness mirror but those who did can testify that I was a mess. I describe it as my stuttering zipper had been pulled down and all the pain, suffering and emotion that I had kept inside for 22 years came rushing out. And the best I could do was to try to zip it back up while getting all sorts of things caught in the picture. This prompted me (more like a best friend pushing me) to find a path to change my vision. And man oh man was it fun to find that path. After a few broken friendships and restless nights, I found my way to resources that could at least help me see the mirror with different eyes and begin that process of understanding what stuttering is to me.
That happened 3 years ago and today where I sit, I have a better understanding of myself and how stuttering has shaped me. My path of change included many different things but the beautiful part about it is that it was my path. My own individual path. I had a million suggestions coming at me but in the end, it was my decision and my road. If I have learned anything about stuttering, it is that we are all individuals and each one of us has our own stutter that can’t be defined by anyone else other than us. That being said, every day I learn something new or understand a different aspect of myself. Just as I am learning every day, so does the world. They learn as we as individuals who stutter express and share that side of us that we might rather keep hidden. And by extension, when we as individuals of planet earth break down the barriers that keep us from sharing our ‘dark’ side, that is when we become united in our understanding of each other as the amazing wonderful complex individuals that we are.
In that conversation with my friends, I did not expect to come off as an equal but in the end, I realized that just as I share myself with them, they share themselves with me. As a group we come closer as we strive to understand each other and our respective stories. So I urge you, keep sharing! Keep learning! Remember the wonderful person you are and share that light with the world! When we share, others share, and that is the birth of a bright new future.
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