Speaking to people is one of the most uncomfortable, intimidating, and sometimes scary experiences for me. This is because I have a speech impairment, which is a type of stutter that significantly impacts the way that I speak.
Although it may fluctuate at times, thanks to my generalized anxiety disorder which leaves me anxious almost all hours of the day, I constantly struggle to speak.
My speech impairment began in high school, Possibly due to a combination of my anxiety and natural shyness.
Words are swallowed by my tongue before I can complete a sentence. I am out of breath in-between syllables. My vocal cords get tired and worn out quickly. It is aggravating and frustrating. All I want is to be able to speak fluently and easily, but I can’t.
What doesn’t help are the responses I get from others. When I have to interact at a bank or a store, for example, people are quick to impatience and anger. This is something I’ve never understood. If anyone should be frustrated, it should be and is me. Imagine how I feel knowing exactly what I want to say in my mind but failing to communicate it every time. I remember a waitress who asked me if I was okay as she was taking my order. Although it was polite and concerning, it stung and immediately made me feel like my speech impairment meant there was something wrong with me.
My speech impairment influences my behavior. Often, I have just given up on trying to socialize and communicate with others. Which is isolating and lonely. I know that it is in our nature as social beings to need social connection to feel fulfilled. However, for me, that connection to others is severed because I struggle to interact.
There are more understanding individuals who I think may pity me because of my speech impairment. I understand why they would feel sorry for me but I don’t believe my speech impairment should be seen negatively. There are so many difficult days. Days when the only comfort I have are my tears and I wish with all of me that I didn’t have a speech impairment. It has certainly affected my self-esteem and made me more withdrawn from engaging with others.
But as I was writing this, I realized that what has become a big chunk of my identity shouldn’t be viewed with pity. Despite my challenges, my speech impairment made me braver and stronger. It helped to thicken my highly sensitive skin so I can better handle the sometimes cruel world. It has colored my life with obstacles that have only helped me grow as a person.
I am now kinder to others because I know how it feels to desire compassion but never receive it. I listen and observe more which in turn teaches me so much about the world. I struggle with accepting myself, but my speech impairment is a part of me. It deserves love too.
Having a speech impairment, a stutter, a disability or a mental illness shouldn’t warrant pity. Every human being deserves compassion and empathy no matter their circumstances. I think it’s demeaning to pity someone for their challenges. Everyone has their own unique challenges. It doesn’t make us more fragile or incapable. It simply makes us differently-challenged.
So please don’t pity me. Recognize my differences or my challenges but show me the same kindness we all deserve.
I am learning to accept all the parts of me even my speech impairment which I have loathed for years. A lesson I have learned from this experience that I want to share is that I can’t expect compassion from others when I’m not extending it to myself.
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