Good news, I've purchased www.patsstupidmouth.com, so that is officially mine. Look for that over the winter.
This past week I've been thinking about the concept of my accountability for my stuttering. I was at a message board and I posted a question about how nervous I get when I approach someone, and how it just "happens to me." Without even considering that someone would disagree with that thought process, someone responded by asking me why I "choose" to stutter. The person (who does not stutter) brought up how people who stutter are responsible for the way they talk and have somehow brought it into their own lives subconsciously. My immediate reaction was "what does this guy know? he doesn't stutter, he doesn't know how it feels, how dare he..." and so on. I decided not to respond to allow myself to cool off and think about what he was saying before I put my foot in my mouth.
After thinking about it for a couple days, I have realized I am much more accountable for the way I talk than I would like to think. I have said that my stuttering does not necessarily mean that I am nervous, and it hurts when people immediately assume that and write me off as a nervous, bumbling idiot. The more I think about it, that isn't entirely accurate. When I am nervous, I stutter MUCH more than normal, and since there are situations where I always seem to stutter more than others, there is a connection to how nervous I am whether it is conscious or subconscious. I have a lot of trouble approaching someone, male or female (which is why I hate to do it), making phone calls to places I don't know (calls to places I know are much easier), and asking a favor of someone (which I absolutely hate doing. I was having a conversation with my friend Jillian in class and because of my comfort level my fluency was very good, but I wanted to have her call our friend Kate to get me a coffee before our next class, I had a hard time asking that. After she told me to make the call myself with her phone, I cowardly sent a text-message to Kate, because I was nervous about her not realizing it was me calling her from Jillian's phone. However now that Kate has my number I would be alright with calling her myself), approaching an authority figure (boss, teacher, etc), being put "on the spot" (ordering at a restaurant, being called on in class when I don't expect it) and other situations like that. In the past I have described it as an unconscious anxiety when I don't feel any normal nervous feelings like a fast heartbeat or sweating or anything like that, but it is still nervousness. I try to think about the times when I am most fluent, and they have been when I am hanging out with friends talking about sports and life in general (though not always, there are times when I can't get any words out at all with friends sometimes and I don't know where that comes from). Once I reach a comfort zone with someone and we are just talking, I rarely stutter (the person I probably stuttered the least with in my life was Jaylynn. At most, maybe a handful of times.) If there are times when I am expected to talk or in somehow "impress" someone on a minor level (such as telling a good story or a joke with a punchline) it is very hard because there is some amount of pressure on me, but when we're just shooting the shit or talking about the weather or how a local sports team blew a game (or the whole damn franchise, Lucchino...bastard) , I am fine. I have a lot of my problems with new people because I am afraid of how they will react when they are caught off-guard by my head movements and such, but after it happens and they see it, I am more relaxed and the anxiety goes away and so does the stuttering.
So the moral of the story is, if I'm stuttering, I am either nervous or subconsiously nervous, forget all that other "it just happens for no apparant reason" business. I am going to believe that it's not my fault that I have a neurological (and in my opinion, hereditary, though some people claim it's not proven. Hey, I've got a father and a close relative who stutter as well, I'm comfortable saying there is a genetic link in my situation) predisposition to stutter, but I am accountable for how I handle it and how my thoughts and emotions contribute to it, as well as how much effort I really put into correcting it. If I focus my thoughts on "what will this person think of me and how will they react" I am going to get nervous, but if I think "I am in control of this" than I will be. The problem lies in that it's not that simple to actually put into action, and this is where desensitization and voluntary stuttering comes into play.
Voluntary stuttering is a technique used a lot by people who stutter, especially in the first stages of therapy, in order to desensitize his or herself to the shame and hatred of the stuttering. I'll put it this way: STUTTERING SUCKS! There is nothing fun about it, it's embarrassing, it's tiring, and it just plain sucks! END OF STORY! My life has clearly been very affected by it in every possible way. If I let it, it completely controls me, as evidenced by my younger years and some of the residual shame and anxiety that I still have today. The theory behind it is that if WE are controlling the stuttering, not the other way around. WE will make people wait as long as we want by intentionally prolonging what we say and creating repetitions. Once you have gotten over other people's reactions, the nervousness stops coming and you will not stutter as much. What happens with me sometimes is that I know how to control my stuttering, but in the moment of speaking slower and stretching out syllables and taking my time, it almost feels like a hassle to others because I am intentionally making them wait. I find that this entire thought process happens in a split-second and in the heat of the moment I would rather just FORCE it out than apply what I know how to do. Since it happens so fast, it feels like I'm on auto-pilot and have no say in the matter. I think that's why so many people find it difficult to apply techniques in real life because they haven't addressed that. It's easy to say it just happens and you can't control it, but it's a matter of will and practice. If my goal was to completely stop stuttering than I could do that with enough practice, dedication, and direction. The problem is, that's not my goal, and I'm not exactly sure what my goal is. Right now I am trying to walk the line between "being comfortable with myself no matter what" and "I want to improve the way I speak" which is hard, because if am truly comfortable, what drive do I have to change? I have been reading more about voluntary stuttering from yahoo! group message boards and the like, and people say it REALLY helps. I tried it a few times in therapy last year when I would make phone calls, and I didn't really like it. Sure, it did give me a little rush and was not as bad as I thought it would be, but I still didn't really like the feeling of intentionally making someone wait. I hate to make someone wait intentionally. I don't like to be late for dates, class, work, or anything where people are depending on me to get there on time, and this includes talking. I do not mind actually stuttering in front of people because, at least according to my old way of thinking, "there's nothing I can do about it" so I don't worry about it in some situations, but if I have to do it intentionally, I HATE it (have you noticed me CAPITALIZING to show emphasis?). The thing is that this is all about being in control and making people wait, which is a new concept to me. I am going to decide to give it another try--at least on a small level--at first and the more I read about it and if I do have success with it, I'll continue to use it.
In other news, I've decided to get my SpeechEasy fixed, so it's been sent out and I should find out when I get it back and how much it's going to cost me, but the good thing is I'm getting it fixed on my own dime, not my dad's. He has already spent too much money on my stuttering that I haven't put the effort into, so it's on me now to take care of myself (more on that another time). I anticipate being both more willing/able to use it here as opposed to UMass because of the background noise factor and the motivation factor, so I will let you know how that goes.
Enough for now, peace.