Blog by James Hayden

Around Christmas, I was going through an extremely rough stretch with my stutter. The pinnacle of it was when the thought, “I wish I didn’t stutter,” crossed my mind. It was an unexpected visitor that my brain was not ready entertain. I initially entertained my visitor by writing about how I was feeling in that moment. When my guest longed for more entertainment, I posted in the NSA Young Adults Facebook group to vent my frustrations about my visitor and how I couldn’t get it to leave. One of my friends, Jaymie, commented on my post to, “Forgive your hard days.” That stopped me in my tracks and slowly allowed my unexpected visitor to be entertained and leave.

It’s been nearly seven months since that advice was given to me and it’s become one of my favorite pieces of advice for not just stuttering, but in life.

In terms of stuttering, “forgive your hard days” means: don’t harp so much on my stuttering moments. During my junior and senior years of college, as well as early in my post-grad life, I would get mad at myself for stuttering. There were many instances when I would practice a class presentation or the readings for Mass in the confines of the therapy room and it would be fluent. Come the day of the presentation or Mass, I would stutter on what seemed like every syllable of every word. What should’ve been a three-minute reading or presentation turned into what felt like a three-hour presentation because my stutter was that bad. Once I finished, I would be pissed at myself because I expected fluency out of myself since that’s what happened during practice. I would be in a terrible mood the rest of the day and unfortunately lashed out at some people during those times (sorry about that y’all).   

As I’ve gotten older, the anger that was living rent free in my mind as since found a new place to live.  I’ve learned that I care more about my stutter than most people. I’ve learned that there are far worse things in life than stuttering. I’ve learned that sometimes half of the battle is just doing it, regardless of fluency. If I use my stutter as an excuse to not do something, then my stutter wins. I’ve learned to celebrate the small victories of stuttering. To see the beauty in stuttering. And when my stutter is so bad to the point where I can’t do that, I forgive myself, my stutter, and my hard days.

The years of learning and self-growth were demonstrated when I gave my TEDx Ochsner talk on June 12.  I didn’t get mad at myself for stuttering, but rather celebrated what I had just accomplished.

In life, the phrase means: not letting self-doubt get to me. This was, is, and most likely will always be a challenge for me. In fact, if this was an Olympic event, I would be a multi-time gold medalist. For my entire life, I’ve felt that there has been a ton of external pressure on me to succeed and in turn I’ve only increased the amount of pressure on myself to fulfill those expectations. Feeling the need to succeed was and is a facet of every aspect of my life. Whenever I felt as if I failed those expectations, I would beat myself up over my perceived failures and question everything and every decision I’ve ever made.  During my perceived failures at work, school or self-growth, I would wonder if what I was doing was good enough. I would harp so much on minor failures that I would doubt my abilities, if I belonged, and if I was good enough at my job or in my degree field. 

Over the few months or so, those self-beatings have decreased significantly. I had to convince myself that I am enough and having self-doubt is part of being human. That those who truly love and care for me value my happiness over my perceived success. That my work is changing so many lives. That I am doing well and doing good in life. That I must forgive my hard days.

Posted Aug. 28, 2019