To My Stutter

An open letter to a lifelong friend

By James Hayden

For most of my life, you’ve been the friend I didn’t want, but couldn’t see my life without. The majority of our friendship has been filled with anxiety, nervousness, hate, self-doubt, and insecurity; however, those negatives have since turned into beauty, acceptance, and ultimately self-confidence.  

When we first became friends I was five. You filled me with a sense of doubt and made me wonder if I was the only person you were friends with. I went to speech therapy for seven years and as the years progressed our friendship weakened.  When I went to high school, I thought you were a childhood friend that I would never see again, but wouldn’t forgot. Boy, was I wrong.

We became friends again when I was a senior in high school and we’ve been friends ever since. Our re-newed friendship was difficult for me to accept. My senior year of high school and most of my college career was filled with a mix of self-doubt, nerves, anxiousness, and insecurities. During those years, you were winning.  I didn’t participate in class because I was afraid you would make an untimely visit. I had to write a script every time I wanted to talk on the phone in case it was a three way conversation between you, me, and the person on the other end. I wouldn’t order through a drive thru in case you ordered something I didn’t want.

My last two years of college were a time of transition for us. We went back to therapy and worked on our issues. I still didn’t want you present in my life, but I began accepting our friendship. I learned ways to avoid you, but more importantly I learned how to not allow you to dictate what I could and couldn’t do. I talked on the phone without a script, I started to participate in class, I volunteered for public speaking opportunities. I was allowing myself to say we are friends and not be embarrassed by our friendship.   

After I graduated college and moved to a new city, you were one of the few friends I had in my new city. I still didn’t want anything to do with you, but I was becoming more accepting of our friendship. Shortly after moving to my new city, we went to our first NSA meeting and it was there where I met some of your other friends. That was the best thing I’ve ever done because it showed me I am not the only person you are friends with, a great thing for my younger self to know. Those meetings have allowed us to be better friends and be more open about our friendship. I now openly talk about our friendship with anyone who will listen. I write about our friendship regularly and share it with whoever wants to read our story. That’s something I would not have when we re-newed our friendship.        

Two years have passed since we went to our first NSA meeting and our friendship has only strengthened because of it. I’ve accepted that we will be friends for the rest of my life and I’m okay with that. Yes, I still struggle to keep eye contact with people because I want them to look at me and not you. Your visits still cause me to wonder what the other person I am talking to is thinking about your visit. At times, I need to assure them that you’re no big deal and they should ignore you.

However, our stronger friendship has also made me see the good in you. Because of you I am a better person and more confident. I see people for who they are, not what they sound or look like. I am mentally stronger and I know who I am and what I want because of you. Although at times I wish we weren’t friends, I’m glad we are. I don’t know where I would be without you. I guess that means I won because I see your beauty and not your ugliness.  

Better luck next time,    

James

Published in the Winter 2018 Newsletter