Before I begin to write about the past week, I need to offer a few disclaimers and apologies. First, I intend to write part two of "Knowledge of God and Holiness" sometime in the next week. I have not had a lot of free time in the past week and any time I might have had left over has been spent sleeping (exhaustion isn't even an appropriate word for my continual state this week!). Second, I apologize to the few people who commented on my blog this week to whom I have yet to reply. I hope to do so this weekend. Finally, this post is part of my assignment for my speech therapy program. It promises to be incredibly honest so I hope you bear with me as I adjust to this new degree of transparency.
Let's start at the beginning. My name is Kait and I stutter. That is what I have been trained to say this week in my speech therapy program. We call this "advertising." See, I started a speech therapy program this week and it has quite dramatically changed my life. When I began this program, I thought I would simply learn the skills to speak more fluently. Little did I know it would transform how I see myself. Even though most people can't even tell that I stutter, my speech plagues me. I have tremendous difficulty reading in front of people. I am usually unable to say names that begin with vowels. This becomes all the more burdensome when I can't even say the name of my best friend on most days without a tremendous amount of "pushing" and anxious-filled struggling. When I walked through the doors of the speech fluency program in Boston on Monday morning, I was confident that I would be the one person for whom the program would not work. I was the only female in the program out of six males. Throughout the day, my speech therapist pointed out my stutters in places I didn't even notice. Let's just say there were a lot. Would the average person notice them? No. I don't usually repeat the beginning of words but rather use short or long pauses. But my speech therapist can hear and see everything. In her presence, I am totally exposed. It was one of the most difficult days of my life. I left speech therapy that afternoon, called my Mom, and just started weeping. Is this what my parents sacrificed thousands of dollars for, so I could be crushed and feel more hopeless than I already did about my speech? My Mom offered her usual words of encouragement. I calmed down, drove home, and did my homework in hopes that perhaps I wouldn't be the total lost cause that I believed myself to be.
I returned the next day. Little did I know that this day would change my life. My speech therapist told us that morning that it is not a question of if a word will come out, but when. She told us that the difference between a "severe" stutterer and a "mild" stutterer is the amount of time it takes to recover from a moment of disfluency. But you see, this was news to me. My greatest obstacles are vowels. I can remember times in the past where I tried to push out vowels for up to twenty seconds with no success. These moments of failure eventually made me believe that every time I spoke, there was always the possibility that I would not physically be able to say a particular word. But my speech therapist told us that we do have the physical ability to say any word; it is all about minimizing the moment of disfluency. To me, this was like gospel. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. nAt this point, I didn't care HOW long it took me to say any particular word; I realized that I had the ability to say any word at all! It was just a matter of getting there. With her one sentence, one of the greatest lies in my head that made me feel hopeless and helpless was overturned. This is why I am here.
But to be honest, that wasn't even enough for me. While this was a huge moment of breakthrough for me, I still had what seemed like endless fears, questions, and insecurities. At times, it took every ounce of self-control to keep from bursting into tears (I never did, thankfully). Following this life-changing Tuesday morning, I walked to the elevator to go to lunch by myself. Waiting for the elevator, my speech therapist walked up to me and said, "do you want to eat lunch with me?" What I wanted to do was cry and tell her that I would buy her caviar if she would agree to talk to me one-on-one at lunch, but thankfully I just offered a short "yes." As we stepped into the elevator she said to me, "I want you to tell me every fear you have, every question you have, and anything else that is on your mind. I can tell you have so much going on inside your head." There are moments in your life that you can feel the tangible grace of the Lord. This moment might have been in my top three. In that hour, my speech therapist felt like my priest. I confessed everything to her. I told her every fear, question, and insecurity I had about my speech. She answered everything. She encouraged me. She was honest with me. And that hour left a mark on me.
The rest of the week included so many details and events that I don't have the time to tell you about. But day by day, these six other students and myself are slowly learning to accept ourselves as stutterers. As much as I want to change myself, I can't. All the speech therapy in the world is not a cure for the fact that I stutter. But this week has taught me that I am not a victim. This does not have to control me. With patience, perseverance, and a tremendous amount of hard work, I can manage my stutter.
I will be in speech therapy for the next two weeks. I hope to write a blog post at the end of each week of therapy. After that, I will undergo two months of at-home follow-up therapy. I can't say that there won't be days where I will feel defeated. Motor training is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. But one thing I do know: it has to come out. And it will. One word at a time.