By Lissa McManus Lange
I stutter. I stammer. I have a speech impediment. Whatever you want to call it, it’s part of me, and helped make me who I am today.
And I had been challenged with it for what felt like forever.
I had spent years hiding from people and shying away from speaking, especially public speaking. Speaking and reading aloud in class as a kid, whether it was answering questions in front of the class, reading aloud from a novel, or even worse – oral presentations — were all sheer torture. I sweated, quaked and cried myself through school, the teasing from kids compounding it all. Although I had been taught many different techniques through different speech therapy sessions, no one ever taught me how to cope with it. Not only with the stutter itself and with other peoples’ attitudes, but also how to sort out and manage my tumultuous feelings, and nurture my fragile self-esteem.
As an adult, unfortunately, those feelings of shame, embarrassment, and avoidance of situations never went away. I shied away from jobs that would have me constantly talking. Jobs requiring much talking on the phone were a definite “no.” Service industry/retail jobs proved equally stressing. The looks and reactions from customers when I was having a “bad day” while I struggled to say a word, never mind a sentence, had my face flaming in embarrassment and sweat trickling down my neck. Even as an adult, I felt like I was always back on the playground.
But then, eventually, I learned to thankful for it.
But how can that be? How can I be grateful for something that gave me a lifetime of heartache and grief? In turning it into something positive that I could be thankful for, I was able to realize if it weren’t for my speech impediment, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
Without my stutter, and all the emotions and experiences accompanying it, I wouldn’t be as compassionate, patient, and understanding of other people with challenges. I wouldn’t be as tough, or as sensitive, as I am. I often wonder who I would be — what type of person I would be — if I didn’t have the fortune of stuttering.
It wasn’t until I was able to be grateful for my stutter, and able to accept it, that I was then able to move on with my life — and be happy. I spent years fighting it, resisting the acceptance of this challenge, and letting it control my life. I let it get in the way of my own happiness and peace. But as soon as I let it go, I relaxed, and in doing so, I took control of it, often forgetting about it — finally.
Being able to turn it into something positive and constructive in my life, and be thankful for it, was a great release. It was the first step towards my happiness.
I had this epiphany in my early thirties, and with that big four-oh milestone just around the corner as I write this, I am still happy, still grateful.
I sometimes wish I knew then what I know now. If I did, I wouldn’t have wasted away years of being miserable, quaking in fear, and shying away from opportunities. But all the wishing in the world won’t change things. I am happy now, and I don’t intend to let anything change that.
Those “bad days” with my stutter are just single moments in a whole lifetime, and I don’t let them get me down. I have a whole future of good days, of being happy and grateful, ahead of me. Gone are those years of crying and shame. Ahead are the years of happiness, gratitude and being — me.
Reprinted with permission from Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness (October 2011).
Lisa McManus Lange is from Victoria, BC, Canada. Her work can be found in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Stress. Contact her at email@example.com , and visit her at www.lisamcmanuslange.blogspot.com .
From the 2012 Fall Newsletter