Fighting Speech Fears
"Time with Tasneem" -
What is the fear? Fear is a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined. The best thing about fear is that it is just a feeling. A feeling we can make disappear assuming we have the right tools.
As people who stutter (PWS) and people who have stopped stuttering (PWSS) alike, we are wired to feel fear in situations that would not cause fear to the average person. Speaking situations, whether mild or high, incorrectly cause the fight or flight response within us throughout our whole lives. I remember being asked questions that had specific answers to them, answers that I could not change. For example, “How old are you? “What is your name?”, “Which area do you live in?”. Of course, now I am able to use a crutch to answer any one of those questions. Does this mean that I do not still feel fear knowing that I can avoid any potential stutter with a crutch? Well if it were that easy, I would not be sitting here writing this.
As I mentioned, PWS and PWSS are programmed to feel fear when speaking, fears which have built over lifetimes in some cases; mine was built over a span of 17 years. I have not stuttered in over 3 years, but that does not mean that I have not had fears in 3 years. It is not that black and white. After I self-cured, I remember thinking to myself “Yeah, I am stutter free!”, and I remember how disappointed I was when days later, I felt fear when somebody asked me how old I was. I thought to myself “Oh no, even though I have not stuttered in weeks, I am going to stutter now”. My heart started pounding, I felt light-headed, I started sweating. I answered, “Well, you know I am so old, would you ever say that I am the big two-seven?”. Ha! I got out of stuttering by using a crutch! I did not focus on the word and inserted an alternative thought. Why then, did I get so nervous? I could not stop thinking about it for the rest of the day.
Now I had two choices, I could either let the fear completely consume me, causing me to start stuttering again, or I could accept fear for just that, fear, and nothing else. I chose the latter. I reminded myself that the fears were built over 17 years and as such, they would not disappear over a couple of weeks. What was important was that I refuse to stutter, concentrate on using the crutches, and hope that eventually just like my stutter, the fears would eventually fade away. As I sit here, 3 years later from that incident, I can honestly say that I have not experienced a speech-related fear in almost 2 years. The key was to keep reminding myself that having fears are completely normal and that as long as I know that I can avoid any potential future stutter with a crutch, then there is nothing to fear but fear itself.
Occasionally I still get a speech threat, they come to every couple of months. What happens in those situations is that for one split second my mind feels that I may struggle on a particular word if I force it, so it grabs for the crutch it feels most comfortable using at the moment. I would hardly call that fear, it is merely a very unmemorable event that occurs once or twice every few months. In fact, I am glad those occasional threats creep up, as I enjoy reveling in the fact that every few months I get to prove to myself that no matter what happens, no matter how tired I am, no matter what situation I am placed in, I will ALWAYS be the boss of my mind!